Yael Rom – the IAF’s first female pilot.

Many countries at one time or another have made it compulsory for people to join their armed forces. Perhaps the most notable use of this was during the Second World War when the United States and other countries brought in conscription in order to secure victory. Both Britain and the Soviet Union conscripted women. Today however, the number of countries with mandatory military is low (approximately 30) and countries who make it compulsory for women are even lower. With all the conflict that the country has seen over the years the most famous of these is Israel.

The State of Israel was founded in 1949 and with this the Defence Service Law was passed which meant that anybody could be enlisted to serve. Women however were not treated equally and were banned from the frontlines – their main roles were to act as secretaries. A number of trailblazing women changed all that starting with Yael Rom, who was one of the first women to pass the IAF pilot exams and became a certified flight instructor in 1951. In 1953 she joined the “Flying Elephants” squadron after two years of petitioning.

Women have not found it easy to move up through the ranks of the Israeli army with very few women earning a rank higher than Colonel. One exception to this rule was Amira Dotan who became the first female brigadier-general in 1986. From this point on women began to fight for equality within the army and in 2000 an Equality Amendment was added to the Military Service Law which stated that “The right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men”. Today the mandatory service for women is 24 months and as with men they may be exempted if they have a valid reason for example, religious belief.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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