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Women at war: How roles are changing



Yael Kidron

Yael Kidron is 21 years old and a combat soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces' mixed-sex Karakal Battalion, based in the Negev desert. She argues that it is only fair to allow women to take on physically challenging army roles.

I decided to come and serve in a combat unit, because for one thing I grew up with five brothers and I needed to do something physical. It's not just sitting down and doing paperwork. I wanted to do something more challenging, and this is why I am here.

It's a very, very, very cool experience, to shoot a gun - I love it!
Yael Kidron

I came to serve in Karakal. It's a girls and guys unit. You basically do everything like the guys, you work hard.

Our base is in the middle of the desert, the middle of nowhere, kind of. We have very nice views here, sunset, sunrise. You've got a lot of wide open space here - and a lot of space where they can make you run when you get punished.

We live in tents. The tents are very sturdy, although honestly, to go from a nice cosy bed to a tent, living in these little beds... but it's awesome, I love it. I think it's a great experience.

WOMEN AT WAR
The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are the first in which tens of thousands of women have fought alongside men for prolonged periods. This week the BBC World Service is taking an in-depth look at women's stories from the frontline.

Every day when I wake up in the morning, I don't say, 'Ooh what am I going to wear this morning?' It's the same thing every single morning. It's not a very nice colour of clothing - kind of olive-greenish pants and a shirt.

Not feminine

We actually name our weapons. I named my gun Jack, Jack Black. Why? Because it's black, and I like the name.

Map showing the Negev desert

It's an Israeli-made machine gun, it's got nice, smooth shooting. It's a very comfortable gun.

The gun is basically on you every single day. Even when you sleep it has to be under your head.

And it's a very, very, very cool experience, by the way, to shoot with a gun. I love it.

It's not a very feminine weapon at all. It's actually more manly than some of the other weapons that they have, but that's the whole point of being in a combat unit - you're not feminine.

Only when you go home that's when you can be a little more feminine, in your own time.

Snipers

What we end up doing, after all the training, when it comes to an actual war, we guard the borders and we make sure nothing comes in.

WOMEN IN THE IDF
The Karakal Battalion, which guards Israel's borders with Egypt and Jordan, is 70% female
Women have served in combat roles in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) since the mid-1990s
During the 2006 Lebanon conflict, women fired artillery, served on warships, and piloted aircraft
All Israelis except Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews are conscripted
Women serve for about two years, unless they volunteer for a combat unit - then they serve three, like men

It's a very important job, because honestly you can't do without your support group, and that is what we basically are for the men.

I think the fact that Israel has girls in combat units is a good idea. I think it is only fair that they let us be part of the actual physical, challenging jobs.

I told my dad that I wanted to go into paratroopers like my brother, and he started laughing at me. He said, 'You know there's no girls in paratroopers.' So that was kind of a let-down.

Right now, women in combat units can be snipers, combat doctors, officers. There are also women who go into the pilot unit.

The rest of the world should also consider having girls in the army, because we have a lot to offer.

I think it's vital for the army. It makes it better.



Woman in the armed forces

You can listen to the BBC World Service series on Women at War on World Update all this week until Thursday 18 February.



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SEE ALSO
Country profile: Israel and Palestinian territories
09 Mar 11 |  Country profiles
Bedouin who serve in Israel's army
20 Oct 09 |  Middle East

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