newsIsrael at War

Record IDF combat enlistment among women after Oct. 7

The IDF could have decided not to recruit girls for combat roles beyond the allowed figures, but the IDF chose to embrace the high motivation.

Women in the armored forces of the Israel Defense Forces at a staging area near the border with Gaza, Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Women in the armored forces of the Israel Defense Forces at a staging area near the border with Gaza, Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the Gaza war has brought major changes to Israeli society and inevitably also greatly impacted the military. The intense fighting with hundreds of casualties and heroic battle stories, has brought the Israel Defense Forces back to the center of public discourse—the immediate effect of which was evident in the recent March-April military draft.

The events of Oct. 7, led to record enlistment of female fighters in the IDF, very high levels of male recruitment levels, and unprecedented high demand for joining the Combat Engineering Corps. The Armored Corps also reaped the fruits of the battles that heightened motivation to serve in it to an unprecedented degree—with nearly a doubling of recruits in the latest draft. The corps informed the IDF that it was overwhelmed with recruits and wanted to find other units to host them during basic training.

After the IDF’s female fighters proved their bravery and importance during the war imposed on Israel, displaying supreme courage amid the Oct. 7 massacre, the March-April draft saw an unprecedented enlistment of girls for combat roles, with hundreds more drafted to combat positions.

Girls enlisted en masse to the light infantry battalions the Border Police, and the Artillery Corps. There was also an exceptionally large enlistment of girls to the Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue battalions, which performed exceptionally during the war.

The IDF could have decided not to recruit girls for combat roles beyond the allowed figures, but the IDF chose to embrace the high motivation of women and increase the number of female fighters in various units.

As part of the operational need to increase the IDF’s force structure to deal with the new security situation and surplus of missions, the military is considering opening an additional mixed-gender light infantry battalion of men and women. However, while female motivation to join such battalions is skyrocketing, the role is seen as less combat-oriented among men, making it difficult to place enough men in these battalions. The issue is currently under review.

Before the war, particularly due to petitions filed by women seeking to open more combat roles, the IDF announced a pilot program to examine integrating women into the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, the Air Force’s 669 Search and Rescue Unit, and the Engineering Corps’ Special Operations Engineering Unit (Yahalom). The army also said it would open a unit for women in one of the infantry brigades and examine expanding the integration of women in the Armored Corps not just as part of the Border Defense Array, but also in the regular corps.

However, the military initially set unreasonable criteria for accepting women into elite units, with only a handful passing the initial screening so far. To the IDF’s credit, the criteria were somewhat relaxed to give the pilot a chance of success without compromising the women’s ability to meet the missions and physical demands required of fighters in these units, while minimizing potential health hazards.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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