Dr. Anat Berko was born in Israel to refugee parents who fled from Iraq. During her service in the IDF she held a number of command and training positions, including command of a women's officers' training course, command of the military women's prison, was a Women's Corps officer in a combat tank division (during the First Lebanon War), a Women's Corps officer of the Southern Command and Women's Corps officer of the ground forces. She is a graduate of the IDF's Command and Staff College. In addition, she has a PhD in criminology from Bar Ilan University, writing her thesis on suicide bombing terrorism, and has diplomas in bridging and negotiations from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a directorship diploma from the Israel Management Center.
Throughout her career she has worked to change the concept of incarceration in military prisons in Israel and to identify and promote the potential of women serving in the IDF. She worked on many projects, including "The Enlightened Commander," soldiers going AWOL, advancing senior women officers in the IDF and changing military imprisonment. She initiated a volunteer project for women prison inmates and staff to help at-risk children in daycare centers in Rishon Letzion (for which she received an award from the town mayor). She was instrumental in opening training courses in technology and command for women serving in field units. After 25 years as a career army officer, she completed her military service with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Throughout the period leading up to the recent Knesset elections, Dr. Berko served as the defense minister's representative to the military prison punishment committee and belonged to the IDF and National Security Council groups dealing with terrorism. She spoke before international academic conferences, forums and administrative defense groups including the American Congress, the State Department, the FBI, the NYPD, Columbia University, the UN, AIPAC, conferences of the American Psychiatric Association and the Society of Political Psychology. In 2013 she authored the National Defense College curriculum on terrorism and taught senior officers.
She has published many articles on academic subjects, focusing on terrorism and counterterrorism. Her doctoral thesis, published in 2002, was entitled "The Moral Infrastructure of Chief Perpetrators of Suicidal Terrorism: Cognitive and Functionalist Perspective." Her research was based on face-to-face interviews with security prisoners who had dispatched suicide bombers, meeting with them in Israel's maximum-security prisons.
In 2009 she initiated and accompanied (as a volunteer) an education leadership program to integrate male and female commanders in academic studies and to work as teachers in the Israeli educational system. The project was launched by Bar Ilan University in 2011, and included constructing an academic program for the recognition of teachers as leaders. Dr. Berko still serves on the steering committee.
Dr. Berko was a visiting professor at George Washington University, lectured at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and is a research fellow at the International Institute for Counterterrorism. She is considered an expert on terrorism in general and suicide bombing terrorism in particular, and often appears as a commentator in the Israeli and international media.
Dr. Berko has written two books based on field research. They are:
- The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers, published by Praeger in hardcover in 2007
- The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers, published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2012
Dr. Berko accepted Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's offer to join the Likud's list for the Knesset and in March 2015 she was elected as a Member of the Knesset.
Mother of three, she is married to Middle East expert Dr. Reuven Berko.