"Chen" Women's Corps
"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.
If the daughters of Israel are absent from the army,
then the character of the Yishuv will be distorted."
The Defense Service Law of 1959 defines
and regulates the obligation of service in the Israel
Defense Forces. According to the Law, all citizens
and permanent residents of the State of Israel are required
to perform military service. All women between the ages
of 18 and 26, who are physically fit, unmarried, have
not borne children, and have not objected on religious
grounds or grounds of conscience must fulfill their
Women currently perform compulsory
military service in the IDF for a period of two years, as opposed to three years for males. In 2001, eligibility for women
in the military reserves was extended until the age of 38, with
an exemption for pregnant women or mothers.
- Structure & Objectives
- Women's Service in the IDF
- The Corps Disbands
The role of women in Israel's defense
has a long tradition reaching back to the biblical days
of Yael and Deborah.
Women played a vital role in the underground struggle
for Israel's independence, including participation in
signals and combat roles in the prestate military
cadres: Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi.
In 1948, the IDF began to reorganize its frontline
brigades, and the issue was raised as to whether women
should be integrated into men's units, or whether separate
battalions of women should be formed that would serve
in the brigade while remaining independent of it.
The second option was decided upon, and the Women's
Corps was thus founded on May 16, 1948. Within a year,
however, the Women's Corps was restructured, and female
soldiers were dispersed throughout various units. From
then and until the corps disbandment in 2001, servicewomen come under the direct
command of the commander of the unit to which they are
assigned, but the Women's Corps constituted a professional
support system for women in the IDF.
Structure and Objectives
Recognizing the uniqueness of women's service, the
IDF established the Women's Corps as a parallel administrative
system to the command system. Its main tasks were to
formulate policy relating to the service of female recruits,
to advise commanders on the issue of women's service,
and to command the Women's Corps units. The objectives
of the Women's Corps were:
- To help realize the potential of women in the IDF,
in accordance with the needs of the IDF and policies
of General Staff.
- To advise commanders and servicewomen on specific
issues pertaining to the military service of female
- To be responsible for the instruction and training
of female recruits, NCOs and officers.
The Women's Corps was commanded by a Brigadier General. The network established by the Womens Corps performed a large number
of functions ranging from advising at the General Staff
level to handling matters of individual servicewomen
at the personal level, establishing guiding principles
for the service of female soldiers, professional training,
terms of service, integration of various professions
and duties, intersex tension and women's health
Women's Service in the IDF
From 1948 until the 1990's, women were prohibited from engaging in actual combat but were allowed to serve in support
and combat-support roles in the IDF. The rationale for this policy was that should a woman
be captured by the enemy, the effect on national morale
would be devastating. This situation changed following a number of Supreme Court ruling in the 1990's and early 2000's.
All young women with Israeli citizenship are sent
their first draft notice at age 17. During the year
preceding their induction, they are classified and processed.
The initial selection process includes the preparation
of a medical profile, a psychotechnical examination
and verification of formal education and personal background.
As a result of improvements in the selection process,
a large percentage of female candidates for military
service are assigned postings before their actual conscription.
A considerable number of women volunteer for premilitary
courses, taken on their own time (as civilians) before
their induction. These courses prepare candidates for
military service in specific military occupational specialties.
These options are important to both the needs of the
IDF, which is interested in making maximum use of the
ability of its recruits, and to the recruit, who is
personally involved in establishing the course that
her military service will take.
Over the course of the years, the number of military
occupational specialties open to women in the IDF has
expanded and today 92% of all positions within ther IDF are open to women. Women
have long served in technological positions, intelligence,
operations and training. Likewise, women can be found
servicing IDF computerized systems, working as computer
programmers, smart weapons systems operators and electronics
In 1997, a Supreme Court ruling upheld
the petition of a servicewoman, Alice Miller, to be allowed to apply
for Flight School. The Defense Service Law was thus amended to enable
servicewomen to attend Flight School and for woman recruits to serve in
units outside the IDF. In 2001, the first
female fighter pilot graduated the Israel
Air Force flight school and in 2003, the first female combat helicopter
finished the arduous course.
All women have the opportunity to participate in an
officers course, providing they have met stiff criteria
and have demonstrated their ability while in the ranks.
Becoming an officer is voluntary, and those who successfully
complete the officers course must sign up for an additional
nine months of career service. Today, 57% of all officers in the IDF are women.
On August 1, 2001, the existing Women's Corps was
incorporated into the General Staff rather than acting as an independent
unit. Changes in the IDF are supposed to give female soldiers new opportunities
and allow them to be part of all units, including combat
units. The Commander of the Women's Corps, Brig.-Gen. Suzy Yogev,
was appointed to serve as Advisor on Women's Issues to the Chief of