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War, Morality, and the Israeli Soldier

Lawrence cited missions that have been cancelled due to the IDF’s policy of not involving women and children in conflicts.

“In my job I raise awareness of the sensitivities, especially in places like Gaza where the combatants use their civilians around them as human shields,” said Lawrence. “We give medical care to Palestinians. And if one time there is a woman who has a bomb on her, it makes it really hard for us.”

In June 2007, two Gaza women, including a pregnant mother of eight, planned a double suicide bombing in the cities of Tel Aviv and Netanya. Fatima Zak, 39, and Ruda Habib, 30, Islamic Jihad recruits, applied for a permit to enter Israel for medical treatment. According to Israel’s General Security Service, the women “took advantage of Israel’s humanitarian policies, receiving a fraudulent medical permit to enter Israel.”

Groups like the Islamic Jihad have specifically trained women, leading to a trend of female suicide attackers.

“It’s a really big problem. We’re not dealing with normal armies,” said Lawrence.

According to Ben-Haim, beyond the Israel-Arab conflict, the IDF provides social services that are often overlooked.

“I was a commander in the Hagam,” said Ben-Haim. Hagam is a special initiative that advances the well-being of disadvantaged and at-risk women who enter the military. “The army recruits female soldiers who have been from a low social economic situation or abuse in the past -- sexual abuse -- or girls who didn’t finish high school or come from broken homes.”

“It’s hard to describe our reality in one phone call or an interview,” said Ben-Haim. “People should really get to know the little stories, the things that people don’t see in media.”

Lawrence agreed. “The problem with the whole issue, with everything surrounding Israel, is much more complicated than it seems,” said Lawrence. “Realize that we’re people, we’re just like everyone else. After the army we’re going to go study, going to go travel, and start families. Living safely,” she said, “is really important to us.”