Editor’s Note: According to an IDF spokesman, there is a higher number of women serving in the reserve than ever before; some of them even pregnant. Hamas must be humiliated at the thought that their men are being defeated by an army with women in it. These ladies are tough and ready to fight for their country. Meet a few of them here in this article.
Some 60,000 IDF reservists have been called up to serve in Operation Protective Edge so far. Many are parents leaving families behind at home – but not all are fathers.
According to the IDF Spokesman who would not release exact figures, the thousands of women currently serving in reserves are a higher percentage than in any previous IDF operation. They serve in a variety of capacities, but especially in combat support in the Home Front Command, Intelligence, the Air Force and field operations.
While it is never easy for anyone to drop everything and leave home, receiving a “tzav 8,” an emergency call to service, poses unique challenges to the currently active female reservists, among them pregnant women and mothers.
“I try to get my girls to go to bed first, otherwise they cry,” says Captain (res.) Lee Betser, who has left her home in Tzur Yitzhak every night for the past two weeks to perform her duties with search and rescue battalions of the IDF Home Front Command.
A financial comptroller in a large company, the mother of two daughters ages four and 11, and stepmother to three older children, Betser feels an obligation to do whatever she can for her country. As a mother, she is technically exempt from military reserve duty, but she insists on volunteering.
“It’s not enough to sit at home at a time like this,” Betser, 36, says. “What I am doing is the most important thing I could be doing now, and I will continue to do it. I will continue to do reserve duty for as long as they let me.”
Dedication to country and dedication to motherhood can coincide, but not always without difficulties.
“There is an enormous effect on the children in families where the mother is the primary caregiver,” notes Rina Berkus, a clinical social worker at the Kav L’Noar Center for Families and Young Adults in Jerusalem.
According to Berkus, research done on women reservists in the American military indicates that the development of younger children (newborn to age 5) can be disturbed when a mother leaves for military duty.
“Attachment gets thrown off, and we see disruption in eating and sleeping. We also see bedwetting and hyperactivity,” Berkus says.
Older children fare slightly better, because they are more resilient and have some coping skills, such as being able to talk to themselves about what is going on.
“Older kids feel a sense of loss, but the sense of purpose and pride they feel can mitigate that,” Berkus explains. “They have tears in their eyes, but their chest is swelling with pride.”
Betser says she and her husband work to keep things as calm and routine as possible for their daughters.
“It’s not easy. Even my husband, who commutes to work in Ashkelon, has had his breaking points,” she says. “But we have a routine where the girls are going to camp every day and my husband picks them up and takes them home. They know they will be with their dad, and that they are in a house that will protect them.”
Berkus confirms that things work best if the father or partner can stay home more than usual, or if close relatives, friends or neighbors can come over to the house, rather than arranging for the kids to go to a different friend’s or babysitter’s house each day. “Things are much worse if the kids have to deal with too many changes. It’s easier to deal with only one stress at a time,” she says.