Eretz Israel women in the service of the British Army
The exhibit tells the story of the Eretz Israel women who served in the British Army in World War II. The volunteers, who were called to enlist into the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service, and the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), may have marked a turning point in historical decision-making. The national question whether to enlist into the British Army, like the men who served in the Jewish Brigade, revived deliberations on helping the British, who initiated the White Paper in the war against the common German enemy, or enlisting into the nascent Israeli organizations. The central issue of stormy discussions focused on the enlistment of women into the British Forces, was gender-oriented – would it be right to allow the Yishuv’s women to serve in uniform side by side with British soldiers?
The act of enlisting women into the British Forces was unprecedented in the Jewish or Eretz Israel context, and in hindsight perhaps heralded the enlistment of the women of the Yishuv in World War II and the establishment of Chen – the Women’s Corps – in the IDF, whose first commanding officers were a group of women trained in the ATS.
The exhibit tells the story of these women, a story which has not been given its proper place in Israeli historiography, which reveals a broad spectrum of the enlistment of women through an assortment of visual means.
The exhibit shows posters which combine the inspiration of propaganda design, encouraging women to join the British army, with biblical texts, posters that bestow upon Jewish women a national role, photographs depicting the variety of their roles in the British army: they worked mainly in hospitals, served as clerks, cooks and nursing auxiliaries, and worked in the quartermaster’s store, etc., and others that give the spectator a flavor of the atmosphere in the British military camps, and the propaganda used to recruit additional volunteers. Video interviews with several volunteers give a personal dimension to the collective endeavor, alongside exhibits such as badges of merit and other medals given to the women, the insignia they wore on their uniforms, service books and discharge books, etc., Passover Hagaddahs, a book of prayers for the Jewish soldiers serving in the British army, and special publications issued for the Jewish holidays.
The exhibition is based on a study by Dr. Anat Granit-Hacohen, on the material she used as sources for analysis, and mainly on the thesis she presented as the main subject of her study.
Curator: Batia Donner
Opens: February 21
Closes: August 31, 2010