Discrimination claims: Eight female Border Guard soldiers left their base near Hebron Tuesday night in protest over service conditions they say are not equal to those enjoyed by their male counterparts, Ynet has learned.
The soldiers were AWOL for only a few hours, after which they agreed to return to base. It was unclear whether or not they would be disciplined.
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The soldiers in question patrol the Cave of the Patriarchs for the Border Guards but actually serve under the auspices of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division. They patrol both the Jewish and Muslim sides of the cave and are expected to sacrifice themselves to thwart any potential terror attack should the occasion require it.
The extreme step of going AWOL came after months of bitterness that their status has not been rectified. Unlike the Border Guards and IDF combat troops who serve alongside them, the female soldiers do not receive combat soldier IDs that would grant them considerable benefits.
In addition, they say they are not allowed to switch commands to avoid service fatigue and their weapons authorization grade is only 02, considered "basic" and appropriate for support staff.
A female Border Guard soldier on duty (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"It doesn't keep the defense establishment from sending us to serve two straight years in the same cave, without any chance for refreshment in other commands," one of the soldiers told Ynet.
"It doesn't stop the defense establishment from demanding that we stand guard for nine straight hours every shift, with a helmet, vest, and weapon, to foil terrorists," she said.
According to the same soldier, she and her female cohorts also face sexism in the unit itself: "While the (male) Border Guards were sent for a series of courses at another base, they left us to continue guarding," she said.
"When we were drafted, they promised us that we would get 03 weapons certs, that we'd have our own pistols and would patrol in Border Guard jeeps," she added. "But actually, we do the same exhausting mission under poorer terms. We don't receive courses, we don't receive bonuses, we don't have a chance for promotion. They let us guard the lives of citizens who come to visit and pray in a dangerous place, but forget that we deserve appropriate status. They just don't take us into account," the soldier said.
A Border Guard spokesman said in response that "there is a significant difference between the role of the Border Guard fighter and that of the patrolwomen. These are two different jobs. The claims comparing the service conditions are baseless, since the jobs and their purpose are different."
"However, the possibility of integrating (the female soldiers) as combat support is being considered. The Border Guard patrolwomen are a unique and vital force who fulfill their role flawlessly," the spokesman added.