Female officers across Israel’s Border Police units have become a common sight in the country, but when Sgt. Maj. Avishag Shiran Malka, a 38-year-old ultra-Orthodox woman from Afula, arrives on duty in her uniform with a long skirt and a head cover, it is distinctly uncommon. After all, she is the only ultra-Orthodox female combat soldier in the Border Police.
Malka, who is married and a mother of two sons who are being educated in the Haredi education system, doesn't see a contradiction between her way of life and her role in the Border Police.
"I’m very proud to serve in the Border Police, and I recommend other ultra-Orthodox women to enlist," she told Ynet. "It's possible to combine an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle with operations and challenging work."
Born in Tel Aviv, she moved with her family to Ma'ale Efraim and attended secular schools. When she turned 18, she enlisted in the Border Police and served as a combat soldier in the areas surrounding Jerusalem and the West Bank.
A year after her release from service, she returned to her unit while in career service. "At the age of 26, I began attending Torah classes and getting closer to the Jewish faith," she explained. "And my belief grew until I became an ultra-Orthodox woman."
Surprisingly, Malka’s rabbi actually supported her decision to remain in the Border Police. "I asked my rabbi several times for his guidance, and each time he said I should stay as a combat soldier," she recounted.
Initially, she said, she was also required to work on Saturdays. "I also worked on Yom Kippur, while fasting. But all the friends I serve with know what my limits are."
Surprisingly, the ultra-Orthodox community directed hurtful comments at her for her decision. "I secured an even in Mount Meron when an ultra-Orthodox young man approached me and said: 'This is the first time I've met a 'Chardakit' (a derogatory term in the community for those serving in the army).”
“At that moment, I called my husband and cried," she recounted. "It hurt me that an insult came from the community I belong to."
Today, she serves in a unit comprised mostly of female soldiers that conducts patrols throughout Afula.
"This unit was established in the past year as part of the expanding of the Border Police, with the aim of providing a rapid and professional response in case of terror attacks and crime and enhancing the citizens' sense of security," said Deputy Commissioner Barik Yitzhak, chief of the Border Police.