Born in 1906 in Russia, Shoshana Gershonowitz emigrated to Palestine in 1925 and worked as a laboratory assistant at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem before joining the Haganah and then the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) during World War II. She was among the first 66 women to joined ATS, and was one of the first four to be promoted as officers. When the state of Israel was founded, Gershonowitz became a leader of the nascent Women’s Corps of the Israel Defense Forces, serving as deputy to the corps’ first commanding officer Mina Ben-Zvi. During her service Gershonowitz was an advocate for women’s rights in the military and for ex-servicewomen by helping them to find housing and creating courses in nursing and literacy.
Shoshana Gershonowitz, who emigrated from Russia in 1925 and worked as a laboratory assistant at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was active in the Haganah in Jerusalem. One of the first 66 women to enlist in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), she was among the first four to be commissioned as officers.
In 1947 Gershonowitz established the Women’s Division and was then transferred to Tel Aviv, where she and Shurika Braverman of A voluntary collective community, mainly agricultural, in which there is no private wealth and which is responsible for all the needs of its members and their families.Kibbutz Shamir were charged with conscripting the first national Women’s Corps. She served as deputy to the corps’ first commanding officer, Mina Ben-Zvi. In 1950 she was appointed officer of the women serving in Nahal, and two years later became OC Women’s Corps, in charge of all the servicewomen in the IDF, no matter where or in which occupation they were serving. In this position she advocated for separate disciplinary procedures for women, as well as for the rights of servicewomen and an improvement in their status. She assisted Dr. Chaim Sheba in forming a course for nurses within the IDF, was active in establishing literacy courses and in finding housing for ex-servicewomen (the forerunner of the Advisory Center for Ex-servicepersonnel).
Herself subordinate to the head of manpower, Gershonowitz appointed women officers with the rank of colonel in every military command and in every branch of the IDF. These were professionally subordinate to the OC Women’s Corps, who coordinated their work with the various adjutants in every framework, who in turn supervised the women officers at every level; these adjutants had ranks ranging from second lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel.
On completing her service in 1959, Gershonowitz was sent to Washington, D.C., where she served for three-and-a-half years as attachée for liaison with women’s organizations.
She died in 1986.
Bloom, Anne. “Women in the Defense Forces.” In Calling the Equality Bluff: Women in Israel, edited by Barbara Swirski and Marilyn Safir, 138-138. New York: 1991.
Williams, Louis. “Women in the IDF.” In The Israel Defense Forces: A People’s Army, 319-340. Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1989.