Five females graduated the Israel Defense Forces pilot’s training course Tuesday, marking the highest number of females in a graduating class ever. The course, which has been coed since 1940, includes three years of officer and flight training and earns graduates an IDF officer's commission and an academic degree from Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
This year’s class graduated amidst rising tensions between ultra-religious and secular communities over women’s exclusion from public spaces. Hatzerim Airbase Commander Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Ziv referred to this development in his speech at the IAF graduation ceremony.
"You, the five female fighters who finished the pilot's training course, as well as every woman serving in the IDF, offer a decisive, irrefutable response to the question of where women belong in a democratic and enlightened society," Ziv said.
"You represent independence, power, equal rights and obligations, and are an outstanding example to us all. Men and women warriors, we salute you today with satisfaction and great pride in our fighters.”
In an interview for IDF Soldiers Appreciation Day, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said, "In the IDF, women are welcome in any capacity where they can serve and contribute to operational activities."
"Anyone who looks at how we operate, and sees how many women hold senior IDF positions—from the commander of the IDF Manpower Directorate to women in other senior positions, including the five new pilots—will understand that a revolution is taking place," he added.
This year’s pilot graduates will formally receive their wings at a ceremony on Thursday. Notable attendees include Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, and IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan.