Israeli women soldiers have "right stuff" for border watch

Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:20am EST
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Dan Williams

ISRAELI-EGYPTIAN BORDER (Reuters) - Breaking cover from a lookout point disguised as a dune, four soldiers storm into the open, ploughing through the sand with rifles aloft. Their battle cries are like seagull calls, and from under their helmets, ponytails flap.

Team Mor is a spotter unit on Israel's fenced-off border with Egypt, deployed at night to intercept would-be infiltrators from the lawless Sinai desert. Like dozens of others along the tense divide, it is all-female.

"We make a real contribution to protecting the country," team commander Lieutenant Mor Dafna said during training drills at Sayarim field intelligence headquarters, marching distance from the frontier.

Any trespass in the Sinai would outrage Egyptians, many of whom resent having signed a peace treaty with Israel that largely demilitarized the peninsula in 1979. That makes spotting Islamist guerrillas or illegal African migrants well before they reach the razor-wire border fence a strategic priority for Israel.

While the Israeli conscript military's gender egalitarianism is well known, when it comes to keeping the peace with Egypt over the border, women are valued perhaps even more than their male counterparts.

"It is no accident that so many women are in field intelligence - with all due respect to the men, women bring a special capability," said Major Oshrat Bachar, the chief of operations for Sayarim.

She would not elaborate, but retired brigadier-general Ruth Yaron, a former chief Israeli military spokesperson, voiced her opinion that at draft age, women tended to be better suited for the patient vigilance required of surveillance.

"This is a role that multi-tasks between discipline, pro-activeness and long-term focus, attributes that are often less developed among 18- or 19-year-old male soldiers," Yaron said.   Continued...

 
Israeli platoon commander Racheli Levantal (2nd R) of the Karakal ground Battalion, made up of male and female combat soldiers, shouts instructions during a training session at a military base in southern Israel, in this February 12, 2007 file picture. Team Mor is a spotter unit on Israel's fenced-off border with Egypt, deployed at night to intercept would-be infiltrators from the lawless Sinai desert. Like dozens of others along the tense divide, it is all-female. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte/Files