A commission appointed by the Israeli army is set to recommend that previously all-male areas of the country”s defense forces be opened to women soldiers. The commission urges that “men and women be utilized equally according to the soldiers’ pertinent criteria and personal qualities and not according to his or her sex,” reports the Associated Press. The group will also advise that women in combat jobs be conscripted for the same amount of time as men; three years as opposed to the two they serve now.
Though the Israeli army has enlisted both men and women since 1948, and women fought alongside men during the battle for Israeli statehood, women have lately been relegated to desk jobs and kept out of combat situations. Currently, only about 1,500 women–2.5 percent of female soldiers–serve in combat positions like front-line infantry, armored corps, and special forces, according to army figures reported by the Associated Press.
The Jerusalem Post reports that religious conservatives are concerned about full integration, as physical contact between men and women is against Orthodox Jewish rules. Others are concerned about the reaction that could arise from women soldiers being held captive or dying in battle.
“The heart and soul of the army is combat, and if we are in the army, we need to be at its heart,” retired General Yehudit Ben-Natan, former head of the now-disbanded Women”s Corps, said on Israeli radio, according to the Associated Press. “This should have been done a long time ago, but better late than never.”