Friday, March 06, 2009
The girls who carried rifles...
What's it like to be an 18-year-old girl and called to enlist in National Service? What goes on in Basic Military Training for girls in the Israeli army? Call me a curious cat, but I really wanted to know! After all, Israel is the only state in the world where girls have the compulsory obligation to serve in the army.
So when I found out that the Embassy of Israel here in Singapore was screening a documentary film (in celebration of IWD) on women in the army called Seeds of Summer - and was flying in the film's Director and Producer - I scrambled at the opportunity to host them in The Living Room for our Wonder Women series.
The Embassy had sent me a copy of the DVD the day before, and I spent the evening curled up on the sofa watching the 63-minute documentary. All I can say is that when it was over, I was dying to meet Director Hen Lasker and Producer Elinor Kowarsky.
Well, I did on the very afternoon the ladies touched down in Singapore from Bangkok! *grin* For some reason, I half expected beefy, tomboyish girls. I don't know why. But they were petite and pretty young ladies who were very articulate and with a delightful sense of humour! Joining them was Idit Abu, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel here.
Hen Lasker, Elinor Kowarsky & Idit Adu share about NS for girls in Israel.
From them, I gained tremendous insight into the lives of young girls in Israel, where NS is part and parcel of life. Whether one looked forward to it or dreaded it, it is a rite of passage for all girls in Israel, a pivotal point in life where 'daddies' little girls' grow up to be independent women who learnt responsibility and contribution.
"In high school, you think the worst thing that could happen to you is that the boy you like doesn't like you back or maybe you did badly for a test," chuckles Hen, "Being in the army taught me to see things in perspective."
"Those two years impacted me in a very deep and personal way," Hen continues. "That's why I decided to go back to my [elite combat] unit to make this film. I wanted to explore what we went through, because when you're in it, you don't pause to reflect."
Hen shares why this documentary film is so close to her heart.
Elinor adds, "I was in the Air Force communicating on the ground with pilots in the air. When you think about it, the responsibility is huge for a teenager because you have others' lives in your hands. And that's how we grow up."
Personally, I found Seeds of Summer moving and insightful. If you'd like to catch it, there's a screening at The Substation this Sunday 8 March, 12noon to 2.30pm, as part of the 3rd Indie Doc Fest, in celebration of International Women's Day. Hen and Elinor will be there for an open dialogue session after the film screening, if you'd like to meet them.
And with this conversation, we conclude our Wonder Women in The Living Room series. So to all our women listeners out there, Happy International Women's Day!!!