Date: 09/03/2009, 7:14 PM     Author: Na’ama Rak

Col. Ofra Rahav remembers how, during her officer’s course, the female cadets were taken to a panel of women in the Knesset, where they were empowered to excel as leaders. Today, Col. Rahav, who studied and pursued a profession even before her officer’s course, serves as the first female commander of the Building Department in the history of the IDF (Zahal), and as such is the highest ranking officer in the Technological and Logistics Directorate.

Ofra has lived according to this guideline throughout her whole life. “I grew up in a very equality orientated house. The gender issue never came to mind. The army was also very important at home, since my dad was a career soldier.” During her compulsory service, Ofra served as an artillery instructor. A couple of years after being discharged from the army, Ofra returned from her civilian life to the IDF (Zahal) to work in the construction field. “It’s not just another job. There is a connection to the territory, the fact that the military construction field influences the borders of the country is significant; also, there is the professional aspect – you need to make orders from the government into something practical. The connection between professionalism and the direct contribution to the security of the State– that’s the magic.”

Ofra is very proud to be the commander of the Building Department. “I am here thanks to my own hard work, but in large part thanks to commanders who supported me and believed in me. My case does not only prove that women are capable, but also that the opportunity for women to be high-ranking leaders exists in the IDF (Zahal).” Col. Rahav also points out that the most important factor for her success is the support of her husband and her three children: “My family supports and helps me a lot, I wouldn’t manage without that. My husband supports me, too, on an ideological and on a practical level. It is doubtlessly a demanding task, but this is the lifestyle that I chose. It is not easy, and but I wouldn’t give it up.”

Col. Rahav doesn’t feel that her gender is much of an issue at work in the army or at home. “Throughout the years, I’ve worked in the field, in war rooms, and it’s like that for all the women in the Department, without exception. My husband is responsible for the household just as much as I am, and I am married to a high-tech business man who doesn’t work any less than I do. I find it important to show other women that it is possible. It’s not easy and it’s not simple, but it’s possible.”

When asked whether or not she believed that women will continue to achieve high-ranking positions in the IDF (Zahal), she responded affirmatively. “Of course that’s possible. The army has doubtlessly made significant change. It is a lot more professional now than in the past.”