When two young IDF soldiers were killed on the Egyptian border last week it sparked fresh debate over women in combat roles.
The two soldiers – Lia Ben Nun (19) and Ori Izhak Ilouz (20) – belonged to one of two mixed-gender combat units that guard the Israel-Egypt border and combat rampant drug smuggling there.
Religious eyebrows were raised over the fact that a young man and a young woman had been deployed together, alone, at a remote guard station for a long over-night shift.
Some publicly suggested that it was entirely inappropriate, and that the two might have been engaged in amorous activities that made them less alert to the terrorist’s infiltration. And that even if that wasn’t true in this particular case, it was a risk that had to be considered every time young male and female soldiers were put on guard duty together.
That of course set off liberal movements pushing for full gender equality in the IDF. They insisted that gender should be ignored in all operational decisions.
On Monday another report surfaced adding fuel to this fire.
According to The Jewish Voice, Col. Eliav Elbaz, who commands the Binyamin Brigade that defends the territory of the biblical Tribe of Benjamin in Samaria, told his troops three weeks ago that they must address any weak spots that could be exploited by terrorists.
Elbaz explained that during interrogations of captured terrorists it was revealed that they routinely avoid areas where IDF soldiers appear to be more professional and alert, and seek out “weak spots” where Israeli troops might be slacking or less attentive.
He then seemed to suggest that one of the “weak spots” that Palestinian terrorists look for is the deployment of female combat soldiers.
To be fair, Elbaz was not commenting on the combat effectiveness of female Israeli soldiers, but rather on how Palestinian jihadists view them.
But that simple fact didn’t prevent a backlash from women’s rights groups, some of which called for Elbaz to be replaced.
The religious Zionist organization Torat Lechima, which promotes religious conservatism in the IDF, fired back:
“Just as there is a different standard for men and women in sports competitions, as well as in training courses for military officers and pilots, that is certainly the case in active combat zones. In the next war our soldiers will face an enemy without compassion, who are unconcerned by the lies of the women’s lobby.”
In other words, when it comes to war, it doesn’t matter how “progressive” Israel wants to be. What matters on the battlefield is how the enemy views us, and the enemy views female combat soldiers as a weak point to be specifically targeted and exploited, potentially putting them at greater risk than their male comrades.
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