Israel's Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, better known as the Mossad, has recently marked an historic precedent when two women were appointed division heads simultaneously for the first time in the annals of Israeli security, law enforcement, intelligence and civil defense authorities.
The two division heads received ranks comparable to the IDF's major-general upon their appointment.
The first woman, S., was recently appointed head of her division, with her colleague Y. receiving a similar appointment shortly thereafter. This marked the pair's accession to Rasha, or the "division heads' forum," the Mossad's high command forum.
Y. served in a number of roles, most of which were in the Mossad's human resources division. These roles should not be taken lightly, as an agency such as the Mossad relies on the skills of the people working for it, as well as on their loyalty and dedication to the organization.
In fact, the Mossad's human resources division weeds out 95 percent of applicants. Other monitoring systems it operates examine employees' performance throughout their careers. Mistakenly admitting anyone into an organization as sensitive as the Mossad can be disastrous on a national level.
S., on the other hand, joined the Mossad in 1992, initially serving in its intelligence division, and dealt with matters relating to terrorism. She then went on to the organization's covert foreign relations wing, Tevel, where she held a number of positions and transferred to the Tzomet ("Junction") division, which recruits and runs field agents.
These promotions were not mere coincidence. The Mossad was the first organization to integrate women into operational roles on the forefront of its mandate, not excluding high-risk ones.
At first, women were recruited for two wings: Caesarea—the special operations wing operating especially in "target countries" (Arab states and Iran)—and Keshet ("Rainbow"), carrying out surveillance, wiretapping, building incursions, document copying and the like.
Keshet operates in groups and has always employed women. The reasons for coed service in the unit were practical: movement of mixed-gender couples draws less suspicion than that of a group made up solely of men and, even more importantly, women were simply found to outmatch men in a number of operational fields.
The average recruitment age for Keshet, for instance, is significantly lower for women compared to men. "They're simply more mature and adept at the job than men of the same age," said a senior Mossad official.
As an aside, the woman who reached the highest position in the Mossad thus far, Aliza Magen-Halevi, did so in the Tzomet division, still almost exclusively dominated by men.
Magen-Halevi was the first, and to date only, woman to serve as head of a Tzomet office (in a Europen country) and then later head of the Mossad's HR division and its operations directorate, then finally serving as the Mossad's deputy director under Shabtai Shavit and Danny Yatom.
Another woman, Sima Shine, served in senior positions in the Mossad's intelligence divisions and even lit a torch in the 2015 Independence Day ceremony representing the women working the for intelligence agency.