This photo went viral last week.
It shows a young woman, probably a soldier, in a bikini, enjoying the sun on a crowded beach in Israel.
Oh, I almost forgot: she also has a machine gun slung over her shoulder.
The photo’s caption: “Only in Israel” says it all.
Because only in Israel can women play out their inner Bond girl fantasies. Even if they didn’t know they had inner Bond girl fantasies.
Take me, for example.
Last week while visiting Tel Aviv, I sat on the train next to a very attractive woman with a rifle.
It’s not that I didn’t know they had mandatory military service for both men and women in Israel, it’s just that I’ve never sat next to an armed woman in public transportation, attractive or not. It’s not the kind of thing that happens on New Jersey Transit.
I tried to play it cool.
I casually put my purse in my lap and she casually took her gun off her shoulder and put it in her lap. I removed my sunglasses, she loosened the heavy belt on her uniform.
“Military service,” she clarified.
“Vacation,” I clarified.
Funny, women have the ability to communicate surprisingly concisely in the presence of an assault weapon.
I can’t say sitting next to an armed 18-year-old woman made me nervous. I can’t even say it made me feel safer. What I felt sitting next to the alpha female — in my pastel-colored summer dress and heels — was pure, distilled inferiority. Mercifully, she wasn’t wearing a bikini.
What is it about guns and bikinis, anyway? What happened to the idea that men are biologically predisposed to desiring to protect the weaker sex? Why the fascination with armed women?
According to Allison Kaplan Sommer, who wrote a blog on Haaretz.com about the “hot Israel chick with gun,” it‘s not the bikini. Neither is it the gun. It‘s the combination of the two.
Clearly, Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox have had it right all along.
This is what Sommer wrote on Haaretz:
"I’ve been quite fascinated by the fascination. Bikini pictures aren’t uncommon, and neither are pictures of gun. But put them together and you’ve got everyone’s attention. The combination of exposed female body and deadly weaponry must tap into some deep-seated male fantasy world. Even when fully clad, there seems to be a major Internet fetish for Israeli female soldiers. A quick Google search will prove me right. There may be other countries with women in the military - including the United States, but the consequences of Israel’s universal military service is that, when the entire female population goes to the army at age 18, each cohort is going to include a certain percentage of really hot women."
So it seems to be nothing but a numbers game.
Israel, after all, is the only country on the planet where all 18-year-olds must join military service: three years for men, two for women. And they are not only encouraged — but outright required — to guard their weapon at all times when off-duty, whether at a coffee shop, a friend‘s wedding or the beach.
Losing a weapon is harshly punished in the military. Still, according to the Haaretz article, some soldiers have been accused of “unnecessarily taking their weapon along in order to impress members of the opposite sex.”
And using a gun to “impress members of the opposite sex,” of course, would be improper use of military property, which is only one of many issues the Israeli army deals with these days.
On Saturday, for example, an estimated 20,000 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv to change the legislation which allows ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to be exempt from compulsory military service and pursue religious studies instead.
The following Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the green light to reforms that would end that exemption, Reuters reported.
In a country where military service remains one of the most emotive issues, this is huge news.
But one can’t underestimate the national pride associated with having the hottest armed chicks in bathing suits.
When I asked a friend in Tel Aviv what the potential influx of Orthodox Jews (the Orthodox population in Israel is about 60,000) would mean for the soldiers and the army in general, he replied: “Not much I don't think. Orthodox Jews have their own beaches.”
Only in Israel.