JERUSALEM (JTA) – A female pilot for the first time has been named the commander of a flight squadron in the Israeli Air Force.
Major T., whose first name is not provided due to security concerns, a 35-year-old mother of two, will be promoted to lieutenant-colonel, the Air Force announced Tuesday evening. A transport pilot, she will lead a squadron of IAF transport planes.
A second female Air Force officer, Major M., was appointed to command the Air Force’s operational command and control unit. She also will be promoted to lieutenant-colonel, the highest rank ever held by a female air traffic controller.
Also Tuesday, a leading Religious Zionist rabbi said it was forbidden to join a mixed-gender unit in Israel’s military. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner made the statement on the religious website Kipa in response to a query from a yeshiva student.
Most non-combat units and several combat units in the Israel Defense Forces are mixed gender.
Aviner said it is better to refuse to serve than enter a mixed-gender unit.
“It is a great mitzvah to go to the army, but alongside that one must uphold the Torah’s instruction that men and women should be as far away from each other as possible,” said the rabbi, whose movement’s ideology combines Zionism and Orthodox Judaism. “You need to ask for a unit that has no women, such as proper combat units or haredi units.”
The haredi Orthodox units are not obligated to take anyone but haredim and generally are not open to soldiers from the Religious Zionist movement.
Aviner told the student that he was not advocating a Religious Zionist rebellion against the Israel Defense Forces.
“We dearly love the IDF and will surely enlist when the problem is corrected,” the rabbi said.
Aviner is the rabbi of the Beit El settlement and the head of the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva. He is widely known for answering religious queries by text message or on the internet.