Female Soldiers Set Pace in Gaza; Performance in Pullout Praised

Article excerpt

Byline: Abraham Rabinovich, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

JERUSALEM - Israeli female soldiers performed better than male soldiers in the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip in August, according to a study carried out by the army.

Although news media cameras focused on female soldiers crying from the emotional stress of removing women and children from their homes, the study shows that they dealt with a greater number of violent confrontations than did their male colleagues and handled the challenge more efficiently.

"Reality was different from what we expected," said a senior officer. "The women dealt with it really well."

The army command had feared that many of the thousands of female soldiers involved would buckle under the physical and emotional strain because they have less experience with difficult physical conditions than male soldiers.

In the evacuation of some 8,000 settlers and 5,000 infiltrators, the female soldiers - almost all 18- and 19-year-old draftees - had the task of escorting or carrying women and children to the buses taking them from the Gaza Strip. The evacuees included a large number of young female infiltrators, mostly from religious schools.

These resisted more forcefully than their male counterparts, the study found, "perhaps because they knew that less force would be used against them, perhaps because most religious women don't serve in the army and have less respect for it."

This often placed the female soldiers in higher-stress situations than male soldiers were experiencing. They responded by forming ad hoc "women only" groups for the task at hand. While individual male soldiers evacuated four or five persons on average during the weeklong evacuation, the smaller number of female soldiers evacuated between six and 10. Although some female soldiers wept from the emotional stain, so did male soldiers. …