Opinion: Despite medical, logistical, and financial obstacles, slowly and carefully granting women access to elite combat units is the right move, since proper criteria would allow only exceptional female soldiers to pass the threshold

For those closely following the statements coming from the military about the integration of women in elite IDF combat units, it’s pretty clear that the chances of seeing female troop in these units are close to none.

Indeed, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the IDF must open a mediating platoon in one of the infantry brigades to enable admission of women to several special unites, such as the Israeli Air Force’s 669 and Yahalom that specializes in counterterrorism, bomb defusal and other tasks.

 לראשונה - צה"ל קבע תנאי סף לנשים לשרת בחטיבות חי"ר וביחידות מובחרות
Women combat soldiers in the IDF (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)


The ruling is set to be materialized via a pilot program, expected to be launched towards the end of 2022. The requirements for admission, however, point to a clear course of action: very few female soldiers will be accepted into these special units, similarly to the selective IAF pilot program. And even those few women who would make the cut, would not be able to make a career out of the role due to potential pregnancy and childbirth.

The IDF is rightfully acting out on the principle of equality, but it must be wary of lowering the bar of professionalism, just as it does not do so in the technological units for soldiers from the peripheral areas of Israel – where the focus is on improving the education in order to help them meet the qualifications to serve in these units.

It’s important to clarify: the IDF’s interest to include women in its combat units derives from wanting to enlarge the pool of combat soldiers overall, and provide more soldiers – girls and boys alike – with a chance to have a meaningful service.

Despite the medical hurdles and pressure from rabbis, who are concerned about women mingling with religious troops, the number of female combat soldiers in the IDF has spiked in the last eight years, with record breaking rates of motivation to pursue these roles among secular and religious girls.

Thousands of girls get drafted to combat units every year, allowing the IDF to fill gaps that existed in an array of battalions that aren’t mixed when it comes to gender and require more manpower, such as infantry, Armored Corps and engineering units.

 לראשונה - צה"ל קבע תנאי סף לנשים לשרת בחטיבות חי"ר וביחידות מובחרות
Women combat soldiers in the IDF (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)


The recent decisions were based on comprehensive research that encompasses 5,000 medical and physiological studies, published worldwide and are in use by many Western militaries. The findings reveal that dropout rates from combat units among women are three times as high compared to men, and the injuries are twice as likely to occur in female troops rather than male. A very limited amount of girls finish the training period in the special units.

For infantry units, the girls must meet the following criteria: weight of 67 kilograms, height of 1.64 meters, LCI of 1.05 (measures capability to carry weights long distances), ability to run 3,000 meters in 15:44 minutes, and ability to גם at least seven pull-ups.

The criteria for admission to other special combat units have the minimum requirement of: weight of 78 kilograms, height of 1.66 meters, LCI of 1.05, ability to run 3,000 meters in 14:50 minutes, and ability to at least 10 pull-ups.

The above standards alone would eliminate most girls who would be interested in being drafted to these units. Critics claim that some of the criteria has no correlation to the tasks the soldiers will have to carry out in their roles. “What does weight have to do with the ability to neutralize explosives?” they say.

Another problem of mixing genders in combat units is the reserves duty. Special units rely on active reserve soldiers, which will be problematic with female troops who get pregnant and start families as they get older.

 לראשונה - צה"ל קבע תנאי סף לנשים לשרת בחטיבות חי"ר וביחידות מובחרות
Women combat soldiers in the IDF (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)


In their selection processes, the special units must demand the same requirements from girls and boys, even if it means that women will have a much smaller chance of meeting the criteria, which will likely curb their motivation to even try and enlist in such units.

By following the unfolding trends of the IAF’s prestigious pilot course, the effects of integration of women in special units can be foreshadowed. Over more than two decades, only 70 women completed the course, a negligible figure next to that of men who were trained simultaneously. More so, given potential pregnancy and childbirth.

It is quite clear that training and integrating women into combat roles is not a good long-term investment, but it is of great importance, especially in a democratic society.

In conclusion, the IDF is doing what it must – slowly and carefully granting women access to units that lie at the core of our military.

As reported by Ynetnews