Women in the IAF
The Early Years
There have been several female pilots in the history of Israeli flight:
- Rachel Landau (Markovsky) was the first of them - graduated from the Hagana's course on
July 1940 with her Mandatory Flight License No. 66, and flew reconnaissance and weapons-transport missions; she
has represented Israeli flight all over the world for years.
- Zohara Levyatov was the most renowned woman during the Independence War - trained in Eleanor
Rodnick's Flight School in the United States, and flew for a few months in the Light Squadron; she died in a
fatal low-altitude stall on 3 August 1948 over MAROM Airfield (nowadays, ''Sakker Garden'') in
- Three women graduated from the IAF's Flight-Course No. 5 on January 1951:
- Ruth Bookbinder was posted in the Light Squadron and flew a Piper Cub during Operation
- Yael Finkelshtein was sent to a Dakota squadron and was even the First Officer in the plane
which led the IDF paratroops to the famous Mitla battle in Operation ''Kadesh'' (1956) -
the only wartime parachute-jump in Israeli history to date; she ended her career in the IAF with 1800
- Rena Levinson had a commercial pilot's license (United States, 1946) and a vast experience
as a gliding instructor (she set a record of 4:45 hours in 1952) prior to her joining the IAF; during
Operation ''Kadesh'' she flew a Stearman and was the personal liaison pilot to the Commander of
the French Air Force.
In 1 May 1960 the Head of the IDF Manpower Branch (''AKA'') issued an order, according to which women were
not allowed to enter the IAF Flight-Course due to the high cost of training and the fact that according to IDF
regulations they are discharged when they marry or become pregnant. In spite of that, a few attempts have been
made over the years since 1976 - though all of them failed.
The turning point was in 1996 when officer Alice Miller petitioned to the Supreme Court (''BAGATZ'') on
the subject and as a result the IAF decided to allow women to volunteer for the prestigious Flight-Course. This
has also paved the way for women to volunteer for more operational positions in the IAF!
1st Lt. Sherry from Raanana was the first woman ever to graduate from the combat
Flight-Course of the IAF in the jet-age. She received her wings on 31 December, 1998 (the Wings Parade took place
at Hatzerim) and thus became the first woman to serve in a full combat capacity within the IDF in the modern
era. She was initially posted as an F-16D combat-navigator in the 110th ''Northern Knights'' Squadron at
Currently there are already/only (depends on your point of view) 2 women serving in the IAF as combat-navigators:
the second one is 2nd Lt. Moran from Haifa who received her wings exactly 2 years later (30
December 1999, also at Hatzerim) and was posted in an F-4 Phantom squadron. By the way, her final
certification exam was conducted by the Commander-in-Chief in person, Gen. Eitan Ben-Aliyahu.
Air-Defense is the second combat course which is opened for women in the IAF, after the IAF Flight-Course:
The first female recruits went through Basic Training for 8 weeks (July/August 1998), beginning with 21 girls; they
were divided into 2 separate sections (teams) within integrated male-female platoons of the ''Atalef'' (bat)
company at the IAF Anti-Aircraft School. In December 1999, 14 of them completed an advanced course in order to be
certified as combat operators of the IAF's various Air-Defense platforms. 8 of them were certified as HAWK
operators, and 6 were certified as ''Ramit'' operators and were assigned to a battery which is a part of a
The ''Ramit'' is a mobile tactical radar system which detects low-altitude penetrations of light aircraft;
it operates on the northern border with Lebanon and Syria (the 'Purple Line').
Half of the first 14 fighters, 4 from HAWK batteries and 3 from the ''Ramit'' continued to an NCO Commanders
Course (2 and a half months, ended July 1999). 4-6 of them continued to the IDF Officers Course in BAHAD-1
(Instruction Base 1) near Mitzpe Ramon with other male cadets from the IAF Air-Defense forces (until then
only male cadets trained there); it is reported that 3 of them completed their cadet training on 23 February 2000,
and thus became the first female officers in the IDF to graduate from BAHAD-1! The second course enlisted
and began Basic Training (March/April 1999) with 33 girls; about 27 began the third course (August 1999).
Female enlisted fighters serve 2 years (women normally serve only 1 year and 7 months, whereas men serve 3 years),
and will also be in the reserves, for 1 month per year, till the age of 34 (woman normally don't serve in the
reserves at all, whereas men usually serve till the age of 45). Female officers sign for an additional period of 3
years, just like male officers in the same position.
Available posts to women in the IAF Air-Defense currently include: HAWK batteries, Patriot batteries (both within
Israeli borders), and ''Ramit'' systems (may advance along with ground forces during war, but behind the
actual front-line of fighting).
1st Sgt. Orly, aged 20 from Ramat-Gan, is the first and only female to serve as an airborne
mechanic in the IAF. She enlisted as a mechanic in a Bell-212 Anafa squadron, after a year and a half she
transferred to the new UH-60 Black Hawk suqadron, and a few months later she volunteered for the airborne mechanics
course. She finished her course in the end of 1999.
An airborne mechanic is an assistant aircrew member, who deals with every mechanical problem which occurs - on the
ground or in the air. An airborne mechanic is also in charge of operating the helicopter's crane in CSAR (Combat
Search and Rescue) missions, as well as operating the helicopter's machine-gun under attack.
The duraion of the Airborne Mechanics Course is 8-9 months, because the final phase - professionalizing - is
conducted in the various operational squadrons. In order to apply for an airborne mechanic post, one must have a
seniority of over a year and a half as a ground mechanic, as well as pass psychotechnic and medical evaluations,
and the final requirement is a 3-days period of intense PT (Pyshical Training) prior to the actual course. During
the course the trainees also go through the IDF parachuting course. Airborne mechanics are required to sign for 3
years of additional service.