Meet the woman in the IDF tasked with propelling combat innovation to prepare Israel’s armed forces For enemy threats.
By Sharon Wrobel, The Algemeiner
Lt. Col Michal Frenkel, the Head of Innovation branch at the IDF’s Innovation & Combat Methods Division. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
At the helm of the Israeli army’s division tasked with recruiting some of the best minds in the IDF is a woman who is tasked with looking into the future.
For Lt. Col. Michal Frenkel, head of the IDF’s Innovation branch at the Innovation & Combat Methods Division, it is clear that as the enemy changes, so does the battlefield.
“We need to shape the future of defense today and to innovate to be one step ahead of our enemies,” Frenkel said in an interview with The Algemeiner. “I get up in the morning as the head of the innovation branch to make sure that the armed forces have all they need technologically to meet security threats and that soldiers with innovative ideas have the right mechanisms within the IDF to fulfill their dreams to solve operational challenges.”
At the branch, which was established in 2020, Frenkel, 34, works to bring innovation of future technologies across all of the IDF’s divisions under one roof. Her philosophy fits into the IDF’s multi-year plan to build a much more lethal, multi-dimensional, and innovative “smart” war machine so it can better confront the changing nature of the threat Israel faces with the emergence of missile-based terror threats across the region.
“We have an advantage that we are relatively small in size, so we know one another and when we talk about innovation, we have a culture of saying: Yalla, yalla! let’s try it out,” Frenkel said. “That’s good but innovation is hard work; it’s not just about making up ideas and going along: you have to be understood, you have to speak out, and you have to sell your ideas.”
Frenkel’s background is in anthropology, organizational sociology and behavioral sciences and before rejoining the IDF’s ranks after her mandatory service, she worked at tech giant Intel Corp.
“I came back because there is no soul in the high-tech industry – Just money,” Frenkel said. “In a nutshell, I wanted to get up in the morning and feel that what I do has meaning.”
Despite her achievements, Frenkel acknowledged that in her rank as a Lieutenant Colonel, she often finds herself the only woman in the room.
“What I try to do is to set an example and to do and not to talk about feminism,” Frenkel remarked. “In the back of my mind, I need to make sure that we are represented correctly. I think we have a lot to contribute and we are unique in our way of thinking and the army needs it.”
But Frenkel said that her identity as a woman is an asset rather than a hindrance. She emphasizes the link between gender and innovation where women may have an advantage as it requires modesty and mediation — skills which she says come naturally to women.
“You need less ego in order to get things done in a way which is holistic and sees what everyone needs,” she said.
In recent years Frenkel has also exchanged experiences with Western armies, including the UK and the US, to learn about their innovation efforts. This week, the IDF hosted its first International Military Innovation Conference attended by military chiefs-of-staff and high-ranking generals and commanders from 18 nations, including Morocco, Greece, Cyprus, Poland, United Arab Emirates. the US and the UK.
Looking ahead to her end of term next year, Frenkel is confident that she has accomplished her mission and that her legacy will be continued by the innovation leaders in the IDF.
“In February, I will have finished three years and then I hope to retire,” Frenkel said. “I need to rest. I am going to sell flowers, or maybe be a dog sitter or something like that.”
Do You Love Israel? Make a Donation to Show Your Support!
Donate to vital charities that protect Israelis and help inspire millions around the world to support Israel too!
Now more than ever, Israel needs your help to fight - and win - the battle of public opinion.
Anti-Israel bias and boycotts are out of control. Israel's enemies effectively use social media to incite brutal terror against innocent Israeli civilians. Please help us fight back!