Women in com­bat

The ‘Mag­a­zine’ speaks with some of the women in IDF com­bat units re­main­ing on guard across Is­rael dur­ing the hol­i­day

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By ILANIT CHERNICK

They are fear­less. They are strong. They are women who serve in some of the tough­est com­bat units in the IDF. This group of women ded­i­cated their lives to serv­ing their coun­try, to pro­tect­ing their coun­try come rain or shine, war or peace, and that ded­i­ca­tion re­mains un­af­fected by Jewish hol­i­days

and spe­cial oc­ca­sions. These women serve in the IDF com­bat units, and they are spend­ing their Passover on base or on guard, keep­ing the coun­try and its cit­i­zens se­cure dur­ing this unique time for the Jewish peo­ple.

Speak­ing to the Mag­a­zine, Sgt. Avia (first names only), who is in an Ar­tillery Unit, said that this is her first Jewish hol­i­day on base, and de­spite not be­ing with her fam­ily this year, she’s ex­cited.

“The IDF put a lot of ef­fort and work into the hol­i­day to make it spe­cial for us,” she said. “It was like Shab­bat. There was a fes­tive meal and the rabbi was there to go through the story of Passover and the Hag­gadah to­gether with us.”

She said there are about seven sol­diers stay­ing be­hind with her on the base to keep guard, and that they were mak­ing it fun.

For Avia, it’s hard not to be with her loved ones. “It’s tough, but my fel­low sol­diers too are like my fam­ily, so I know it will be OK. I know that it’s im­por­tant for me to be here to pro­tect the base, my fel­low sol­diers and the peo­ple of Is­rael,” she ex­plained.

Asked about how and why she joined a com­bat unit, Avia said she al­ways knew she wanted to take a gap year to help peo­ple and do some­thing mem­o­rable.

“I wanted to men­tor, in­ter­act and do some­thing to chal­lenge my­self, and go­ing into a com­bat unit was the best op­tion.”

The be­gin­ning was dif­fi­cult for her.

“I didn’t come into the army phys­i­cally fit; I wasn’t so pre­pared and that was the main chal­lenge,” she re­counted. “But they train you well, and look, I made it in. I knew it would be hard, but I got there in the end. It proves that women can be as strong as men.”

Avia said she ap­pre­ci­ates the hu­man in­ter­ac­tion and that she is achiev­ing her goal “of do­ing some­thing mean­ing­ful and im­por­tant.”

“I also love that I get to be in the field and not stuck in an of­fice,” she joked.

The ar­tillery soldier has a pow­er­ful mes­sage for young girls who hope to make it into an IDF com­bat unit.

“Think of the big pic­ture,” Avia said. “What­ever you want or what­ever you dream, you can achieve. Fight for that dream and don’t let any­one stop you.

“It might sound big, but you can do it.”

ARYOT YARDEN (The Li­ons of Jor­dan) com­pany leader Capt. Sapir sees Passover as per­fect way for the unit to pre­pare as a fam­ily.

Aryot Yarden is a mixed male/fe­male bat­tal­ion that pro­tects the Jor­dan Val­ley re­gion, and over Passover and other Jewish hol­i­days it re­mains al­most fully func­tional, keep­ing set­tle­ments and kib­butzim in the re­gion safe.

“We se­cure all the set­tle­ments and kib­butzim in the area, along the en­tire Dead Sea and Jor­dan Val­ley. It’s a long re­gion and there are con­tin­ued pa­trols,” Sapir ex­plained.

“It’s cru­cial to re­main on base and in ser­vice dur­ing the Passover hol­i­day, and al­though we’re not with our own fam­i­lies, we have our fam­ily in the IDF – with the sol­diers we serve with,” she said.

Sapir af­firmed that those who stay be­hind – about half the bat­tal­ion – un­der­stand the importance of be­ing there and pro­tect­ing the fam­i­lies in the re­gion so they can have a safe and en­joy­able cel­e­bra­tion.

“Half of us stay to pro­tect and re­in­force the area,” she said.

She ex­plained that this was her third Passover away from her fam­ily, so she is used to be­ing away from home.

Asked what fes­tive ac­tiv­i­ties take place, Sapir said they read the Hag­gadah and take part in all of the Seder night’s tra­di­tions: “We do the en­tire Seder with matzah, maror and some­one even hides the afiko­man,” she said, gig­gling. “Then we all go look­ing for it.”

Those re­main­ing be­hind dur­ing Passover still feel the hap­pi­ness of the hol­i­day, she noted.

“An­other re­ally spe­cial thing that hap­pens is fam­i­lies from the set­tle­ments and towns in the area will bring the sol­diers on guard duty food and some­thing

sweet to say ‘thank you.’”

She added that fam­i­lies also come visit the base to spend time with their loved ones dur­ing this time.

As a teenager, Sapir knew she wanted to be in a com­bat unit and this de­ci­sion was made con­crete dur­ing her high school years.

“I knew I wanted to do some­thing sig­nif­i­cant and when I was in high school, sol­diers came to the school and spoke about com­bat units and the army to us,” she ex­plained. “I started work­ing re­ally hard on my fit­ness and started do­ing a lot of train­ing, and I was re­ally ex­cited to join.”

Asked about her day-to-day re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, Sapir said that her unit’s main fo­cus is to guard and se­cure the Jor­dan Val­ley and Beit She’an area.

“We need to make sure that the bor­der with Jor­dan is quiet, and stays quiet and safe.”

For the cap­tain and com­pany com­man­der, one of the highlights of her po­si­tion is work­ing with peo­ple and tak­ing care of the sol­diers in the com­pany she heads up.

“They are amaz­ing, high-qual­ity peo­ple and I re­ally love be­ing with them. I love get­ting to know them and learn from them,” she said.

One of the chal­lenges that keeps her on her toes is the re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with be­ing in charge of this group of sol­diers.

“Al­though I re­ally en­joy be­ing with them, at the same time, it can be a chal­lenge to take care of them. Some­times there are is­sues. Most peo­ple have their own prob­lems to deal with, so to deal with ev­ery­one’s prob­lems, you find a bal­ance.”

Sapir has a strong mes­sage for young women who hope to join com­bat units in the IDF.

“If you want it, go for it. You can achieve it. Be­ing in the army, be­ing in a com­bat unit changes you. It shapes your per­son­al­ity and shapes you for the fu­ture. Don’t let any­one stop you. Follow your feel­ings, follow your heart and do what you love.

“It’s okay to be scared. It’s nor­mal to be scared when you’re do­ing some­thing new, but it’s im­por­tant be­cause that is what pushes you to suc­ceed.”

AMBAT, A lieu­tenant first class in the Home Front Com­mand, looked for­ward to spend­ing Passover on base. Serv­ing in the Home Front Com­mand is not an easy feat for any­one and she has worked her way up into a lead­er­ship po­si­tion.

“I was re­ally ex­cited to close the hol­i­day [and stay in ser­vice]. I am now com­mand­ing the line, which is a big thing for me. It’s a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but I look for­ward to it, hav­ing a quiet, re­laxed, kosher and happy hol­i­day.”

Al­though there are a lot of chal­lenges be­ing in the Home Front Com­mand, Ambat continues to face them with enthusiasm and a smile on her face.

“Just like in ev­ery­thing, there are good things and there are chal­leng­ing things, it’s all about the at­ti­tude and how you face them and deal with them. I love what I do and I know how es­sen­tial it is for the coun­try and its se­cu­rity.”

Asked about her day-to-day job, Ambat said she works in in­tel­li­gence, and in ad­di­tion to deal­ing with sit­u­a­tions like rocket at­tacks and the like, there’s a lot of train­ing, drills and cour­ses that they do.

“It’s a hard jour­ney and there’s a lot we have to do and bal­ance – we have sev­eral jobs we fo­cus on – but it’s re­ally great.”

As a wo­man, it wasn’t easy break­ing the glass ceil­ing in com­bat units, but Ambat em­pha­sized the im­pact of do­ing so and of smash­ing the stereo­type that “only men can do it.”

“Women are able to do the job just as well as men; many women in com­bat units have proven that.”

She said that her mes­sage to women or young girls who are con­sid­er­ing to go into com­bat units in the IDF is “just to do it.”

“Know that you can do it, be­cause you can. You’re strong and you’re able to do it. Don’t let any­one get in the way or tell you that you can’t.”

(Photos: IDF Spokesman’s Unit)

AMBAT (CEN­TER), a lieu­tenant first class in the Home Front Com­mand, looked for­ward to Passover on base with her fel­low sol­diers.

ARYOT YARDEN (The Li­ons of Jor­dan) com­pany leader Capt. Sapir hoped Passover will be a uni­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for her sol­diers.

AVIA (LEFT), who is serv­ing in the IDF’s Ar­tillery Unit, poses with a fel­low ar­tillery soldier atop a tank.

A FE­MALE soldier from the Home Front Com­mand in ac­tion.

WOMEN FROM a mixed IDF Com­bat Unit pose dur­ing a train­ing ex­cer­cise.

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