The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is one of the most technically advanced and powerful military machines in the world. I remember growing up hearing stories about how Israel with its relatively small army defeated the much larger more powerful armies of their Arab neighbors time and time again. I have to admit that this did not make sense to me. It was not logical.
Israel Defense Forces – A Few Fascinating Facts
The Israel Defense Forces have been involved in over a dozen major wars and border conflicts since its inception in 1948 making it one of the most battle-trained armed forces in the world.
- Last year (2012), over $15 billion was spent on the Israeli Military. That adds up to $1900/person; one of the highest ratios of spending to GDP of all developed countries in the world.
- Israel is the only nation in the world with an operational anti-ballistic missile defense system; the Arrow and a rocket defense system called the Iron Dome or Kipat Barzel. The latter was deployed in the most recent Gaza conflict (Operation Pillar of Defense 2012) to intercept and destroy over 400 rockets headed for population centers within Israel.
- It is commonly thought that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads with the ability to deliver them from land, air, and sea; however they do not officially acknowledge a nuclear weapons program.
- Latrun is one of the largest tank museums in the world and located about 10 minutes from Ben Gurion Airport. I have been there a few times and it is fascinating. A must see!
The IDF is woven into Israeli Society – As you walk down most streets in Israel and/or travel on public transportation, you will see young men and women soldiers everywhere often times carrying their weapons. This is because military service in Israel is mandatory for all men and women reaching age 18. Men generally serve for 3 years and women for 2.
It is a coming of age for all young Israeli men and women and part of the culture. At a very young age, soldiers are given huge responsibilities that many of us will never experience in our lifetimes, including the use and control of state of the art weaponry, responsibility and command over other individuals, and serious job assignments that often carry life and death implications. As a result, most soldiers feel as though they have “lost their youth” and graduated into adulthood during their army service.
Many report that their ability to cope with daily hardships and interact with a more diverse group of people is enhanced. They also seem to develop an increased sensitivity for society’s political and moral issues. This is largely due to the fact that Israelis from all over the country from differing ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds all meet in the Israeli army and must develop a way to live together.
A Quick Recognition Tip:
The service uniform for all ground forces personnel is olive green while Navy and Air Force uniforms are beige (tan). Contrastingly in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, young men and women tend to measure their independence by their career selection and economic independence, sexual freedoms, and the ability to vote. Here in Israel, many lifelong personal (marriages included) and professional relationships are developed during regular army service and the reserves. The Israeli Army connects the soldier to his country and provides a common bond with his fellow Israelis, for a lifetime.
I have to admit that I was keenly aware of this when I first moved to Israel and started networking and job hunting. Because it is a small country, employers and other Israelis want to know what army unit you served in and who you know that they know.
Unlike the U.S. and most other armies around the world, the Israeli army, probably due to the relatively small size of the country, allows soldiers to go home on a regular basis. It is not uncommon that a soldier can return home every weekend or in some administrative positions every night.
Woman in Combat; my partner Lisa has a daughter Shani who served in the Israeli army as a combat soldier. Read how about how the youth in Israel are recruited to the army from school – My Daughter: The IDF Soldier
The Israel Defense Forces is comprised of one of the only armies in the world to allow women to operate in front line direct combat positions. You’re not going to believe this; most commanding officers in the IDF are referred to on a first name basis and orders are more like suggestions that are open for discussion and debate. You may think this is crazy and cause for chaos, but this informal atmosphere actually promotes constructive solutions and a greater sense of ownership of the decision by the soldier. This, of course, excludes basic training, where new recruits refer to superiors by their rank.
Shalom from Tzahal (Shalom from The Israeli Defense Forces)