Musings · January 4, 2007 1

Serial No. 3817131

Hail-oh hail-oh infantry
Queen of battle follow me

Nothing in this life is ever free
So pick up your weapon and follow me

Being a soldier is tough business.  The blood, the sweat, and the threat of combat are constant companions.  I lived the life of a soldier for 11 years.  Something I always found a little odd was women in the military.  Not from a sexiest point of view, women are just as capable as men in doing their duty, but from the psychological contradiction of woman as both nurturer and destroyer.

There is something about seeing a woman in combat gear carrying an automatic rifle.  I often wondered how they reconciled their femininity with the inherent masculine dirty, grimy life of a soldier.

Rachel Papo, serial no. 3817131, a former Israeli servicewoman turned photographer, has done a wonderful job of exploring this dichotomy in a photo essay.

The life of an eighteen-year-old girl in Israel is interrupted when she is plucked out of her environment at an age when sexual, educational, and family values are at their highest exploration point. She is then placed in a rigorous institution, where individuality becomes a secondary matter, making room for nationalism. “I solemnly swear…to devote all of my strength and to sacrifice my life to protect the land and the liberty of Israel,� repeats the newly recruited soldier during her swearing-in ceremony. She enters the two-year period in which she will change from a girl to a woman, a teenager to an adult, all under a militaristic, masculine environment, and in the confines of an army that is engaged in daily war and conflict.



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