University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Nov. 7, 2003

Israeli Lieutenant Speaks at UW-RF
By Jessica Campbell
UW-RF News Bureau

After 24 years of military service in Israel, Lt. Gen. Orit Adato continues to make significant gains in furthering the role of women in military forces, as well as within Israeli society. Her new role as commissioner of the Israel Prison Service has gained new frontier in the advancement of women in society.

The Ministry of Public Defense and Security called Adato to dutyŃshe being the first woman appointed to this position. Adato actively serves with the International Prisons and Corrections Association and is on the Israeli Prime Minister's Committee for the advancement of women in society.

Lt. Gen. Orit Adato presented a seminar titled, "Women in Israeli Society," on Monday, Nov. 3, at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She spoke about her role as commissioner of the Israel Prison Service and the relative importance of advancing women to leadership positions in the military and within Israeli society.

Adato says the advancement of women in Israeli society as been slow, but impressive. "ItŐs not a revolutionary progress," says Lt. Gen. Adato, "it is an evolutionary progress." It takes hard work, day by day, year by year, to integrate women into government positions, but there is no eternity for Israel but for women to move up and to utilize all of Israel's resources: men and women.

As a result of the changing attitudes and legislation promoting women to officer and general positions, more women are applying for and being elected in municipal elections. There are more women in the Israeli government today. The attorney general, several judges in the supreme court, the commissioner of income tax, and several ambassadors are all women.

Outlining her experiences, Adato said she faced extreme trends of terrorism at the start of her position as Commissioner of Israel Prison Service, Adato immediately enacted her visions of the organization and its long-term goals. She wanted to build a structured organization, emphasizing the areas of security, the humanitarian treatment of prisoners, and reinforcing ties with the community. Adato was forced to impose tough security measures in Israeli prisons in response to the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. For instance, inmates were allowed to hug and hold family members during the last 10 minutes of visits; however, when inmates began to smuggle items in the diapers of their children, these rights were taken away.

Adato said her appointment to commissioner shocked the prison service. Previous commissioners of the prison service were generals pulled from the police force, but Adato was an outsider. She was a full ranking army brigadier general in command of the women's corps at the time of her new assignment. Her position was an unlikely transition. However, the most shocking factor of Adato's appointment was her being a woman in a male-oriented society. It was a great challenge to uphold the expectations of her position and be a role model for women, but Adato succeeded in paving the way for the future of women in the military.

Adato appeared before the United Nations in March 1999 to speak for women's rights. Her perception of women's progress in the military became a motivating force in the legislation that opened new positions and combat roles for women in the military.

Women are a quality resource that should be utilized, Adato said. There is a need for equality simply to avoid discrimination; however, there is also an added value of having women in higher ranking positions and integrating women into combat. When a woman is appointed to a position for the first time, she strives to succeed. Women will do their best, not only to fulfill the position, but also to increase the likelihood of more women being appointed to headquarter positions, Adato said.

Adato says that women, the same as men, are just human beings. The best way to manage any society is through a mixed approach. Women should not be left out because they are a human resource to be utilized. Women are an added value and can manage, command, and assert just as well as men. "Leadership is not related to gender," says Adato, "ItŐs not a guyŐs nature."

Adato, 48, will continue to work as a commander and role model for women in Israel. Her dedication and commitment to her positions is clear when she says, "It's not work; itŐs serving my country."


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