What It’s Like to Be an Israeli Female Combat Soldier

Stand for Israel  |  May 29, 2019

female soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces

With military service compulsory, for men and women alike, all Israelis have stories to share about their time in the IDF. Writing at The Times of Israel, Josefin Dolsten tells us about an America-born Israeli photographer who spent five years with Israeli female soldiers in IDF combat units in order to share their unique experiences:

Israeli female soldiers served as combat soldiers during Israel’s War of Independence, when the fledgling country needed all the fighters it could get. But following the 1948 war, it took half a century before they were allowed back in combat.

Since the late 1990s, when some units started allowing female recruits, the number of women serving in combat has rapidly increased.

Last summer saw a record 1,000 female combat soldiers inducted.

Debbie Zimelman, a US-born photographer who has lived in Israel for 30 years, spent five years with young women serving in 20 combat units to capture their experiences…

Why did you decide to focus on women serving in combat units?

Zimelman: When my friend’s daughter volunteered for a combat unit in the army around 2012, I remember being surprised because it was the first time that I had heard of women serving as combat soldiers. I remember being very impressed at her decision to volunteer for a combat unit.

Since I had missed out on that the opportunity to serve in the army, having made aliyah after army age, the next best thing would be to get permission to photograph my friend’s daughter Sarit while she was in the army. I thought that I could use the camera to gain access to a place otherwise closed to me, and to see up close and photograph what she was doing on a daily basis.

I was also curious to see what the women actually did during their service, how happy they were with their choices, what motivated them, etc…

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