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A Woman in a Man’s World: Orna Barbivai

Despite the progress women across the globe have made in the fight for front-line equality, to many, women in the military is still an issue.  To Israeli Major General Orna Barbivai, it’s a no brainer.

Women, Barbivai believes, are a critical asset to the Israeli Defense Force. So much so that she intentionally stations female soldiers on the front lines, including her daughters—her youngest served in the IDF West Bank border police, and her oldest is currently a Major serving as a senior personnel officer in the Navy.  Why? Because she believes women are more skilled than men at using respectful communication and negotiation—and thus are more adept at preventing violence.

As the Israeli Defense Force’s only female major general, Barbivai commands the manpower directorate from the Mactal Tower, the Israeli version of the Pentagon in the United States. On her office wall, she keeps a framed copy of The Spirit of the IDF—an ethical code that decrees that every person is valued, regardless of race, nationality, gender or status.   In this age of drones, satellites and other forms of impersonal warfare, it’s an important to keep in mind.

Officers, she says, “have to have a broader perspective than what you see looking through a gun sight.”  Women more strongly exhibit this kind perspective, Barbivai believes, because they are less encumbered by masculine traits of aggression.  In the eyes of Barbivai, if the world can place a few more feminine wiles on the front lines, we may eventually see those lines break down—and peace rise up.

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