“I’m not saying it’s easy, because it isn’t. I’m not Superwoman. When I get home, the first thing I do is put the cell phone down so I can spend quality time with my kids.”
Shifra Buchris may not have come from Krypton, but she most definitely is a superwoman. A Modern Orthodox mother of nine and superintendent (Captain) in command of the Border Police of the Ramat Negev Region, her life has always been about pushing boundaries.
“I was always a bit of a tomboy,” she says. “From an early age I loved hiking and nature much more than being in a classroom. Nevertheless, I completed high school and went on a trek to the Far East before starting my national service. I was always very patriotic and knew I wanted to serve as a combat officer, not as someone’s secretary in an office.”
Upon her induction into the IDF, she asked to be sent to a combat unit. She was posted to the Border Police, and after successfully completing the gibush (an intense “pre-boot camp” program that includes physical and psychological testing to determine an individual’s compatibility with a unit’s requirements), she began basic training.
“Our class was the third group of femal Border Police. Many of the troops and officers considered us as something between a novelty and a nuisance. But I took to it like a duck to water: The combat training, weapon and the adrenaline rush that comes with them were right up my alley. I felt I was doing what I was born to do, and completed basic training as an outstanding soldier.”
‘I Wanted to be in the Field, Where the Action is’
Despite being offered a position as a drill sergeant, she opted to join a combat company. “I did not want to be in a training position. I wanted to be in the field, where the action is,” she recalls.
Her first posting was in the Jerusalem area, where she was the only woman in the unit. “At first there were problems. We were in a very sensitive area that demanded complex operational requirements. I wasn’t one of the boys – they had never had a woman in their unit before and didn’t know how to react to me. I had to deal with a fair number of sexist comments and attitudes, but as I proved myself, that changed, and they accepted me as a peer, colleague and comrade in arms. Only someone who has served in a combat unit can understand the sense of belonging, mutual trust and friendship that develops between those serving together.”
“We often had to deal with difficult situations. Often, while pursuing or arresting suspects, we found ourselves facing violent protesters who would throw stones, and sometime Molotov cocktails at us. I was in action so often some of the Palestinian protesters began to recognize me, as I was the only soldier with a ponytail under their helmet.”
‘Border Police’s First Platoon Commander’
Her exemplary performance earned her a promotion, and she was eventually rewarded with an appointment as squad commander. “I was offered the chance to do an officers course, and accepted. After successfully completing the course, I was posted to a Border Police Unit in Jerusalem, and became the Border Police’s first platoon commander,” she says.
Then her life took another unexpected twist. “In 2000 I got married. That was definitely not part of the plan. We met by accident, a group of friends had gone somewhere for a weekend, and we were both part of the gang. We had never met before but he asked me out. At first I said no, as I knew I was not looking for a serious relationship. He, however, would not take no for an answer, and eventually his persistence wore me down, and I agreed to go out with him. The rest, as they say, is history.”
A few months after her wedding Buchris discovered she was pregnant. “I was overjoyed, yet determined not to change my lifestyle, and carried on my regular duties as a combat officer. Only when I was five months pregnant did I go to the base doctor. He insisted I stop taking part in field operations and I was transferred to a training position.” Today, she admits that taking part in field operations while pregnant was not smart. “I should have realized straight away that pregnancy and combat operations are not a good mix. Fortunately, I was lucky, nothing happened, everything progressed normally, and I gave birth to Herut, a beautiful healthy daughter who is now 15.”
Shortly after giving birth, she and her husband, together with seven other young families, founded a new religious settlement in the Negev. For awhile, she was somewhat ambivalent as to whether she wanted to combine motherhood with a career as a combat officer, and seriously considered going to university to study medicine. Ultimately, however, the call of police work proved to be too strong.
‘I Knew I Wanted to Have More Kids’
“Then the Border Police offered me a command position, and I said yes. Within a short time, I was fully absorbed in my work. We developed innovative ways to deal with the communities we were serving, combining assertive law enforcement with public education and proactive prevention. I found my work very satisfying and decided to continue with my police career.
“I knew I wanted to have more kids. I’ve always loved children, and to me being a mother is a very basic and important part of my life. A year after Herut was born I decided to have another kid and got pregnant with Aviva. This time I took no chances and maintained an appropriate operational tempo. After that, having kids just seemed normal, and today we have nine adorable children.
“I’m not saying it’s easy, because it isn’t. I’m not Superwoman. When I get home, the first thing I do is put the cell phone down so I can spend quality time with my kids. We have this daily ritual, I give each kid a hug and a kiss, and then talk to them about their day. After that we organize the daily chores, the kids do their homework,and help me out in the kitchen or look after the younger siblings while I do my housewife routine. Combining motherhood with my job has made me an excellent manager of time, which makes be a better and more effective commander.”
By: Gili Eliyahu Adler/TPS
This article was written in honor of International Women’s Day.