Born in Haifa in British Mandatory Palestine in 1937, Dalia Raz’s long career in the Israeli military broadened women’s opportunities in the Israel Defense Forces. During her career as an officer in the Israeli Navy and the IDF Women’s Corps, she worked to provide opportunities for women in the IDF to move into roles most typically performed by men, especially in positions that revolved around combat, engineering, or technology. Following her retirement from the military, Raz shifted to a career in local government as a council member in the Haifa Municipality.
Early Life and Military Career
Dalia Raz was born in Haifa on January 19, 1937. Her father, Noach (1904–1997), a bookkeeper and locksmith, immigrated to Palestine from his birthplace, Drohiczym (66 km. W of Pinsk), in 1931. In 1934 he married Aliza Elkayam (1914–1997), a native of Tiberias, who attended a teachers’ training college and worked as a kindergarten teacher. Dalia, who attended the Reali School, enlisted in the IDF in 1955, first serving in the Nahal (Fighting Pioneer Youth), where she was promoted to Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) before proceeding to officer training. In 1957, after completing her mandatory military service, she was appointed Head of Personnel in the Israeli Navy, becoming the only woman ever to serve in this position. She remained there until 1966, when she went on to become staff officer of the Women’s Corps (see “CHEN”) in the Northern Command. During this period she headed the annual IDF delegation to the Netherlands—another position in which she is the only woman ever to have served. From 1973 to 1975, Raz attended the School of Social Work at the University of Haifa, returning to the IDF to serve as OC Women’s Corps until her retirement with the rank of colonel in October 1983.
The outbreak of the war in Lebanon in 1982, which occurred towards the end of Raz’s term of office, opened the way to women’s serving beyond Israel’s borders. Women’s occupations expanded to include the training of infantry and armored units and other typically “male” duties, especially in such fields of technology as electrical engineering, electronics, communications technology, optics, and the operation of forklifts. In addition, Raz brought about the opening of training courses for warrant officers, thus paving the way for their professional advancement as officers. Her struggle to enable women to train as pilots resulted in a one-time opportunity for them to take such a training course. She actively strove to convey the social message that women, too, were capable of engaging in technical professions and that the IDF needed them in such professions. Great stress was laid on care for the individual servicewoman, a direct and close link was established between the OC Women’s Corps and the incoming trainees, and the principle of the Women’s Corps as being at the service of every woman soldier who needed help or had a problem was greatly strengthened.
Retirement and Current Activities
After her retirement Raz became spokesperson and a member of the board of directors at the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel, where she remained until 1988. From 1989 until 1995 she was a member of the Haifa City Council, holding the absorption and culture portfolios. In that capacity she chaired both the council of Haifa Museums and the city’s annual film festival, while also serving as a member of various additional municipal committees.
From 1996 to 1999, having moved to Herzliyah, Raz was advisor to the mayor of that city and managing director of a project to build a Women’s Corps house there. In 1999 she became managing director of the committee against religious coercion initiated by the Shinui political party and since 2004 she has served as director of development and fundraising at the Arab-Hebrew Theatre, located in Jaffa.
Married in 1958 to Gidon Raz (b. 1934), a hotel manager, Raz is the mother of two sons: Ofer (b. 1963) and Chen (b. 1972). She and her husband separated in 1997.