June 23, 2011
Born in 1962, Orna Barbivai began her service in the IDF in 1981. For more than thirty years, she has served in the Personnel Directorate. On May 26, 2011 Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that Barbivai, then a brigadier general, would be promoted to the rank of major general and would head the Personnel Directorate, thus becoming the highest ranking female officer in the history of the IDF. Following the announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Barbivai to offer congratulations. Speaking to the newspaper Yediot Ahronot, the prime minister stated that there is “extreme importance in integrating women in top positions in the IDF, the defense establishment and the Israeli market in general…the nomination is a big step for Israeli society and also sends a message to nations worldwide” (Ynet, May 26, 2011).
Women make up approximately one-third of all soldiers in the IDF and Israel is the only country in the world with mandatory military service for women. However, prior to Barbivai’s appointment, no woman had served in a position of such authority. In Hebrew, Barbivai’s title is “aluf,” and it is the second-highest ranking position in the IDF.
As she was sworn in, Barbivai announced, “I am proud to be the first woman to become a major general and to be part of an organization in which equality is a central principle.” A mother of three, Barbivai received a Bachelor’s degree in humanities from Ben-Gurion University and an MBA in Business Management from the University of Derby in England.
A video of the ceremony can be viewed here.
In the photo, Defense Minister Ehud Barak looks on as Orna Barbivai receives her new rank from Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz and her husband. The photo is from the IDF.