|Col. Rachel Tevet-Weisel|
When Col. Rachel Tevet-Weisel graduated Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Tzfira in 1981 it was clear to her that she was going to enlist in the IDF rather than taking the more conventional route of volunteering in the National Service (Sherut Leumi) for one or two years. "In those days, she recalls, "it was almost unheard of for a girl from the ulpana to enlist in the army,"
She began her army career as a soldier/teacher in a development town elementary school. From there she advanced to officer training, eventually rising to become the commander of the officer training base. After her discharge from the IDF she earned a law degree, and re-enlisted after five years, this time as a military lawyer, and continued to earn promotions, eventually becoming a military court judge and President of the IDF high military court.
Col. Tevet-Weisel notes that much has changed in the IDF since the time when she first enlisted. "The main reason religious girls preferred not enlisting in the army back then was to avoid being subjected to sexual harassment. Today, the army has a zero-tolerance policy regarding both verbal and physical sexual harassment." A recent survey revealed that 12.5% of female soldiers experienced some form of sexual harassment during their service. "We are still not where I would like the army to be in that regard," says Tevet-Weisel, "but it is a far cry from what was once the norm in the army."
Another survey revealed that 85% of religious female soldiers felt that their level of religious observance remained the same or improved during the period of their service in the IDF, Tevet-Weisel credits the IDF's policy changes and the support of non-profit organizations such as "Alumah" for making it easier for religious girls to do a significant service in the IDF. As a result, the number of religious girls enlisting has risen from 935 in 2010 to 1,616 in 2013.
The Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network continues to respect the Israel Chief Rabbi's ruling directing girls to volunteer for Sherut Leumi rather than enlisting in the IDF. But for those ulpana girls who feel compelled to do a significant service in the army, the trends that Col. Tevet-Weisel is leading in the army are welcome news.