International Women’s Day, which will be marked worldwide on Wednesday, March 8, is of paramount significance and impact to all women.
On this day, we should celebrate the growing presence of women in key positions, as well as stress the fact that, like many systems and organizations, the Israel Defense Forces has made a huge leap in integrating women into its ranks and promoting gender equality, and it does not seem to be slowing down.
The army is opening roles that were previously closed to women out of an essential need to maintain its strength and preserve its values. Even before Israeli independence and the establishment of the IDF, women were an integral part of the collective effort to defend the Jewish community.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said, “The army is the supreme symbol of duty, and as long as women are not equal to men in performing this duty, they have not yet obtained true equality.” I agree completely. The army places women in critical positions where they serve their country and fulfill their duties equally with men.
I am proud to see women wearing military uniforms, honored to serve their country, in the headquarters or in the field, in the air, at sea or on land, knowing they are inspirations and role models for other women, both inside and outside the army. There is no limit to what women can do or the places they can reach — and the growing number of women in regular service or active duty proves that every single day.
During my military service, I was considered a trailblazer in several areas and positions, some of which I performed as the first woman in the IDF’s history. I am proud to say that throughout this long journey, I have managed to maintain my femininity and have never attempted to emulate the men beside me, but instead have remained who I am — a woman and a fighter.
I believe that a woman should not fear remaining a woman, regardless of the role she performs. It is pivotal for her to maintain her character wherever she goes, because in the end, it is character and not gender that constitutes the deciding factor.
These days, the IDF is working on opening the fourth mixed-gender combat battalion, joining Caracal, Arayot Hayarden, and Bardelas. The demand for combat positions among female recruits is tremendous, and for that purpose, the army decided to establish new platforms for female combat soldiers and expand the contributions they can make.
This is reflected in the growing number of women in the mixed Homefront Command battalions patrolling in Judea and Samaria, in the Oketz K-9 special forces unit, and in the Air Defense Command, which is tasked with manning the missile defense batteries and protecting the people of Israel.
As a career soldier, a sense of pride and duty accompanies me each day. I call on you, dear women, those who already serve in the army and those who are awaiting conscription, who have a deep sense of calling mixed with a touch of fear — I am calling on you to believe. Believe in your way and in yourselves; believe that you are good and capable on your own merits. There is no doubt in my mind that you can make it big — it is up to you.
Lt. Col. Oshrat Bachar is the deputy women’s affairs adviser to the IDF chief of staff.