"There is no bigger proof to the absurdity of the exclusion of women than the fact that you stand here today," he said, addressing the five female graduates.
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"A country where women sit in the pilot's seat is a country where women should be able to sit anywhere," Netanyahu added, referring to the recent national upheaval over sex-segregated buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
Only 14 have managed to complete the course, out of hundreds who began it two years ago. The graduates have signed a nine-year contract with the IDF.
'Zionist answer to women's exclusion'
Defense Minister Ehud Barak joined the prime minister in congratulating the female pilots.
"You are the latest Zionist answer to anyone who attempts to exclude women," he told them. "You make the entire society mightier. All of us, secular and religious alike, must not only treat you with respect but also to make efforts, as a society, to erase the stain that is women's exclusion."
The female graudates (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz addressed the hot topic as well, telling the young female soldiers that they are an indicator of "women's considerable contribution" to society.
According to data released by the IDF ahead of the ceremony, 31% of the graduating pilots have grown up in cities, 21% come from moshavim, and 5% come from the kibbutz. Moreover, 58% hail from the center of the country, 36% come from the north and only 6% come from the south.
The vast majority of the newly-minted pilots – 72% – are secular, while 17% are traditionalist and 10% are religious. The oldest graduate is 26 years of age, and most of the rest are 21.
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