(Women make up 30% of the Israeli Defense Force, and make up three per cent of those in combat positions.  Several combat roles are open to women - artillery, field intelligence, home front search and rescue, and infantry along the Egyptian border.  They can also serve in the Oketz, a special unit that trains and manages search dogs.  Israeli women, just like men, are subject to conscription between the ages of 18 to 26.  Women who are married, pregnant or already mothers may be exempted.  Women may choose alternative service if they feel their involvement with the military is contrary to her religious beliefs.

E. is a 16 year old girl who is thinking about the service contribution she will make)

E.   My father is from Minnesota and my mother is from New York.  They made aliya 18 years ago, so I was born in Israel.  One of the things I love about living in Israel is that the Jewish holidays are actual holidays.  In the US, where my parents grew up, Christian holidays are the only ones people get time off work and school for.  And there are a lot of Jewish holidays, all of them important.

I've been singing my whole life.  I'm in the choir at school.  My mother is very musical, so I guess I got my abilities from her.  I do a lot of theatre, too.

Israel has a lot of opportunities for people who love the performing arts.  There are theatres all over the country, and a film industry, too.

My family is in the Conservative branch of Judaism.  People who don't know any better try to put all the Jews into one group, but of course there are differences between us, just like there are differences in how Christians practice Christianity and how Muslims practice their religion.

My sister just finished her time in the army, and my brother is in the middle of his military service.  I think it will be awesome to be in the army.  I want to serve in a combat brigade, right in the heart of whatever is going on.  I always loved seeing the soldiers, especially the women soldiers.  They always look so strong and confident, and I would like to be like that, too.  You would feel as if you were involved in something important, surrounded by others who felt that way.  I'm sure there will be challenges.

I'd like to learn more about Arabs but there aren't a lot of opportunities that come up and it isn't easy to create the chances.  It would be good to hear their side of things.  I grew up hearing they were all bad and wanted to kill us, but I don't think that can be true.  How can a whole group of people hate another whole group of people that they don't even know?  But maybe they have the same stigma about us? Maybe they are raised to think that all Israeli Jews hate all Arabs, and that of course is not true.

I have to be honest, though, that I am afraid of going out a lot by myself, especially at night, because of men.  Arab or Jewish men, you never know what can happen.  I grew up during the Second Intifada, when the Arabs were so busy blowing up things, including themselves in suicide bombs.  Mom never let us go on buses because she was afraid an Arab would come on and blow everything up.  We could only go in certain taxis because they were the cabs that had been checked out, the drivers cleared to make sure they weren't terrorists, so Mom felt the taxis would be safe.  And we had to be careful in markets and restaurants because you never knew when they would blow up.  So we were raised and scared.  Generally, though, I feel safe now.  There is a barrier now between Israel and the Occupied Territories, and that has cut down on the bombings.  But as a girl, I still have to be careful.  I watch how I dress and always walk with an awareness of who is around me.  But still, men and boys can give girls problems, no matter how we dress or behave.

I'd like to have the whole problem solved between Jews and Arabs.  We are neighbours and should act like it instead of acting like enemies.  I guess we need the right people to be in power for that to happen.  In these times it is hard to always know who the right people are.

It will be a couple of years before I can go into the army, and I would be foolish to believe that the problems with the Arabs will be solved by then.  I like to think about going into the army, but I guess I don't really like to think about what I might be called upon to do.  It's been pretty quiet around here for a while, most of the time.  There are a lot of bombs that come to Israel from the Gaza Strip.  So Israel went over there to bomb the bomb-making factories last month.  One of the Arab missiles landed near Jerusalem.  But it landed on an Arab neighbourhood, not a Jewish one, so you can imagine how mad the people in that village were!

I hope that when I'm in the army, nothing happens to make my parents worry - but if it does, I hope I can do my job and not let anyone down.  I think that's why we were put here, on this earth, to do our best and to not let others down when they need us.