What’s the best way to confront gender inequality?

Nine months ago, male and female soldiers embarked on a journey together in the newly established co-ed battalion, the Lions of the Jordan Valley. After completing their training, they stood side by side as equals at their inauguration ceremony, united to protect Israel’s border with Jordan. Below, four soldiers tackle stereotypes on women in combat roles, and share insights on the trials and triumphs of their co-ed battalion.

Corporal Hallelujah Ben Avraham

Cpl. Hallelujah says she wanted to prove to herself that she could handle the frontline. “I knew it would be the most challenging, interesting and fulfilling job for me,” she says. “There are always going to be those who say, ‘there is no way she can do it,’ but you have to charge forward.” Today, after months of training, she says her platoon feels like family.

Corporal Elie Mimoun

Cpl. Elie says he went through an incredible transformation during his months of training with his female compatriots. “Originally, I came in pretty closed-minded,” he explains. “Most of my friends serve in combat units composed entirely of men. And there I was, in a battalion where half of the soldiers are women.” It wasn’t long before Cpl. Elie started witnessing ”the sheer willpower and strength of the women in the unit.” He emphasizes that the defining factor is for “an individual to give 100% of him or herself to the mission. Some of the most capable combat soldiers I know are women.”

Lieutenant Noam Maoz

As a deputy company commander, Lt. Noam says she faced multiple leadership challenges within the co-ed environment. But as it became clear to the soldiers that regardless of gender they needed to complete the exact same tasks, “they learned to communicate and work together as a team.”

Lieutenant Ilai Greco

Lt. Ilai, a company commander, joined the Lions of the Jordan Valley after several years of serving in the Paratroopers Brigade. It was a completely novel concept for him to serve in a combat unit along women, but he “was interested in taking part in something new and different.” Lt. Ilai was surprised at how assertive his female soldiers were. “They demanded that their opinions be heard, and they often took the lead.”

Today’s generation of soldiers hold the promise of profound gender integration within the IDF. Currently, 92% of jobs are open to women, but this number will continue to rise as both women and men have a stake in creating a gender diverse environment where every individual thrives.