“It’s a daunting road ahead, but there’s no need to fear it” A woman wearing her IAF wings is not a strange sight around IAF bases anymore. These days, many women serve as aerial crew members and are integrated in all units of the IAF. “It’s a daunting course, but you shouldn’t be threatened by it”, said one of the cadets to the next generation of IAF female pilots
Michal Khayut and Shani Poms
For many years women have been striding through the halls of the IAF Aviation Academy in Hatzerim Airbase, and today that sight isn’t notable at the least. These days, many women serve as IAF pilots, navigators and flight engineers and are an inseparable part of aerial crews. It all began in 1996, when Alice Miller petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court and asked to be allowed to enroll in the elite Pilot Training Course of the IAF. She did not ultimately graduate, but she opened the previously tightly shut door to Sherry Rahat, the first female aerial crew fighter who graduated the course in 1998.
Women admit that as the years went by, the gap between men and women in the course become blurry. “The first year was tough; at first you feel the physical differences. But we never felt left behind”, says Yarden, a cadet of course 168, who participated in the panel answering questions at the informational seminar held for future recruits. “It’s a daunting Course, but you shouldn’t be threatened by it”. Four other women served alongside Yarden in course 168 and are only a few months away from receiving their pilot wings.
It will take over three years for the group of girls sitting in the audience to reach the moment of becoming official aerial crew members, but they are sure to plan ahead, and ask questions about how the IAF deals with family life and pregnancies. “Of course I’m committed to being a pilot”, says Captain Dana, a “Desert Giants” Flight engineer who is eight months pregnant. “But at the end of the day you can choose different paths. My path allows me to have a life, family and a career just like any other woman”.