By FOX News Radio’s Emily Wither in Southern Israel
On a rocky desert hilltop close to Israel’s fenced off border with Egypt, a combat intelligence unit runs through a drill where they come to face-to-face with would-be infiltrators from the lawless Sinai Peninsula.
With the wind whipping up their loosely braided hair they lunge forward with their rifles leading the charge. Like many teams operating in this tense border region, they’re all female.
“The fact we are girls…it’s nothing, we can do everything that the boys do and we have more motivation.” This 19-year-old will be graduating next week after seven months of training with the Israeli Defense Forces.
A woman serving on the front line is a big policy change for the U.S. But if you ask these soldiers what they think of it, they’ll shrug their shoulders and explain in Israel it’s nothing new. The U.S. lags behind the Jewish state by more than a decade; the IDF opened up combat positions to women in 2000.
Military service after school is also compulsory here. In the States, while many 18-year-old girls are picking colleges, their Israeli counterparts are picking military posts. While most positions are available to men and women, when it comes to patrolling the country’s border, I’m told these girls have a special touch.
“We men aren’t that good at focusing on a few tasks at once,” admitted Captain Boaz Shahar. “It’s proven itself time and time again that these women are amazing at what they do.”
Crouched under a cramped camouflage tent with a team of six girls, it’s clear that being patient and focused is essential. The team tells me they spend at least 48 hours in these tents, barely moving, with their eyes fixed on the border.
In the blazing desert heat they peer through powerful binoculars reporting back to base any suspicious activity. They can’t even leave for the bathroom, which might explain why the men aren’t welcome in this intimate crawlspace.
“The army isn’t letting us play soldier, we are necessary. We are looking for any kind of terrorist activity or illegal actions,” I’m told.
Egypt’s lawless Sinai desert is a haven for Islamist militants and a place to smuggle weapons to Gaza. Cameras and radars dotted along the border beam images and information back to base. Here an all-female observation unit sits watching surveillance screens for hours at a time.
“These watchers are saving lives more than any other girl,” said Operations Officer Ortal Omer. She leads the Combat Intelligence Unit and tells me that women are well suited for the role because they have the patience to sit still for long periods.
“If I would move a rock in her field she would know it immediately, if you would remove a flower she would see it because these girls know the border more than anyone,” Omer added.
Outside the tightly sealed room, a group of girls take a break on a nearby picnic bench. They gossip about boys while fiddling with their cell phones in brightly colored cases.
Among them is 19-year-old Noam, she says if there were men in the observation room they’d only be a distraction.
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