Starting late next year, women will be allowed to try out for combat positions in the prestigious General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), the Israeli Defense Forces announced on Tuesday.
As part of the pilot program, two other elite combat units will also be opened up to females, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said, provided enough women pass the screening tests.
The decision was made in light of a petition four female recruits filed with the Supreme Court, demanding the right to try out for combat units that are open to men only.
“As a result of petitions filed to the High Court of Justice regarding the expansion of combat roles open to women, the IDF conducted thorough and comprehensive examination processes,” Halevi said on Tuesday.
“Following these processes, it was decided that the selection process for women would be the same as the selection process for men, thereby expanding the opportunities for women to participate in combat role selections,” continued the statement.
Israel is one of the few countries where military service is obligatory for women. From age 18-26, women must serve two years in the military—with some exceptions, such as if they are pregnant. Women already serve in most combat roles in the IDF, often alongside men.
Based on an ongoing pilot that allowed women to serve in Unit 669—the air force’s heliborne combat search and rescue extraction unit—and the Yahalom special operations combat engineering unit, the IDF believes enough female recruits will pass the tests for the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit and Unit 5515, which specializes in transportation and rescue of special forces through extreme terrain and live combat zones.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his two brothers, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi all served in Sayeret Matkal.