Born in Busk, Poland, in 1952, Israela Oron moved to Israel at the age of five in 1957. In 1970, she began a career in the Israel Defense Forces, where she held several postings, including roles as IDF Spokesperson and as Officer Commander of the IDF’s Women’s Corps. In her time as OC during the 1990s, Oron guided the Women’s Corps through reorganizations that simultaneously opened up more opportunities for female soldiers in the IDF and retained services that would deal with the unique needs of women serving in the military. After her retirement from the IDF, Oron moved to a career rooted in national security and sits on the boards of several non-governmental organizations.
Early Life and Entry into the Military
Born on September 9, 1952, in Busk (then a part of Poland; after World War I the city became a part of Ukraine), Israela Oron came to Israel as a child in 1957. Her father, Nathan Naor, was also born in Busk, in 1921. He completed high school and worked as a logistics manager. His wife, Edzia, a homemaker, was born in 1916 in Tomaszów Lubelski (Poland). During World War II both she and Nathan escaped from the Germans to Russia and spent the war in one of Stalin’s camps in Siberia. After the war, the couple met in Busk and married in 1950. Their older daughter, Yehudit (Shemesh), was born in 1951.
Israela enlisted in the IDF in October 1970. In 1998 she was appointed commander of the central training base for women, where she was responsible for all the IDF’s basic and officer training of women. In 1991 she was the first woman to be appointed deputy to the IDF’s spokesperson and directed the unit’s operations throughout the Gulf War. In 1993, Oron, who holds both a B.A. degree in psychology from the University of Haifa and an M.Sc. in Business Administration from Tel Aviv University, was the first woman to be appointed a faculty member at the IDF National Defense College, the highest academic facility for all security entities, where she was in charge of developing and implementing the college’s defense strategy studies and its curriculum.
Career in the OC Women’s Corps and Impact on Women in the Israel Defense Forces
In 1994 Oron was promoted to OC Women’s Corps, with the rank of Brigadier General. At the time, women in the IDF felt like “second-class citizens”; it was difficult to open up additional military professions for them and to advance their status within the IDF. The Women’s Corps was accused of holding back women’s advancement both by overprotecting them and because of its reluctance to transfer responsibility for women’s service to male commanders. The situation called for profound reform of the Women’s Corps, but despite the recognized need for such reform, it was not implemented before her time, because it was seen as too risky a move, one which might have left young women without protection in a male environment and could have deprived the Women’s Corps of substantial power. The reform was finally instituted during Oron’s term of office, step by step, starting with integration of basic training of men and women. However, she resisted the notion of extending the abolition of the Women’s Corps to include abolition of the HQ of its commander—a step that would have left the entire area of women’s service uncared for.
Oron was active in effecting women’s integration into the military and in ensuring the recognition of their enormous potential in contributing to the IDF. She was the first to state frankly that nobody was doing the women a favor by opening new jobs for them, but that this was just a better use of human resources. In consequence, she helped expand women’s training and was the first to integrate men and women in combat units as fighters. During her term of office, the Supreme Court petition, Alice Miller vs. Israel Air Force, in which the plaintiff was represented by the Israel Women’s Network, led to a change of policy, compelling the IDF to permit women to take selection tests for combat duties in general and pilot training in particular.
Following her honorable discharge from the IDF in 1997, Oron joined Price Waterhouse Cooper, where she was a director and head of the company’s Department of Organization and Change Strategy in Israel. Since 2000 she has been the Deputy National Security Advisor for planning and infrastructure at the Israel National Security Council. Oron was also a member of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) and a member of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. In addition to her continued work in security, Oron is a member of the steering committee at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and a board member at several Israeli nongovernmental organizations, including the Geneva Initiative, Aharai!, and the Peace and Security Association.
Oron is married and the mother of a daughter, Rony, born in 1976.
Eldar, Akiva. “Retired Israeli General Combats Stereotypes.” Al-Monitor. March 16, 2015. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/fr/originals/2015/03/israela-oron-idf-army-women-career-politics-tzipi-livni.html. Accessed July 18, 2020.
Forum Devora. “Israela Oron.” https://www.forumdvorah.org.il/experteng/Israela-Oron. Accessed July 18, 2020.
Press, Viva Sarah. “Tackling Gender Segregation in Israel.” The Canadian Jewish News. March 19, 2012. https://www.cjnews.com/news/israel/tackling-gender-segregation-israel. Accessed July 18, 2020.