10 Incredible Facts About the Israel Defense Forces

Israel’s army has come out in full force over the last few weeks as threats against the Jewish state continue. Known as the Israel Defense Forces, or the IDF, the Israeli Army works year-round and around the clock to ensure that the Jewish state is kept strong and safe and that its borders are always secure. 

You probably know that serving in the Israeli military is mandatory for most citizens, and that most Israelis serve in the IDF for 2-3 years beginning when they’re only 18 years old. You also probably know that Jewish people from all over the world come to serve in the Israeli Army, even if they don’t have Israeli family. Stay educated on the IDF, and share these facts with your friends and family so that the world knows the truth about the army of the Jewish state!

1. IDF troops are not deployed 

Unlike many armies, Israel’s does not get deployed. The IDF’s main responsibility is to keep its borders with the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Jordan, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria safe. However, special IDF troops are often sent abroad to help with Search and Rescue missions in the aftermath of natural and humanitarian disasters.

2. The IDF is one of the least hierarchical armies in the world

Of course, the Israeli army has ranks. However, since everyone is conscripted, there is no shortcut to becoming a commander or other high-ranking army official. Instead, they rise through the ranks through their own dedication. In addition, many of the formalities that other armies frequently use, like salutes and parades, are virtually non-existent in the IDF.

3. The IDF developed one of the world’s favorite martial arts

Many people know that krav maga is Israeli, but did you know that the IDF developed it in its early days? A mixture of boxing, wrestling, judo, aikido, and karate, the martial art has been used by Israeli soldiers during security situations, and the IDF regularly travels around the world to train other militaries in the special martial art!

4. The IDF is often called the most vegan friendly army in the world

Nearly one in five Israelis don’t eat meat, and about five percent of Israelis are vegan, including the IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi! The IDF adapted to the needs of its soldiers and has introduced several measures to make it easier to be a vegetarian or vegan soldier during mandatory service. Soldiers can opt for non-leather boots, wool-free berets, and plant-based options at every meal on base. 

5. The Israeli Air Force is a big deal

The three parts of the Israeli Army – the ground forces, the navy, and the air force – are each special and important in their own ways. However, the Israeli Air Force is regularly recognized as one of the strongest air forces in the world, and about one-third of the IDF’s manpower goes toward its Air Force! An IDF pilot, Giora Epstein, also holds the world record for enemy takedowns. 

6. The Israeli Army works hard to accommodate religious soldiers 

In any other country, being a Torah observant Jew and being a soldier would be difficult. You would need kosher food, time to pray and study, and modest uniforms. However, the IDF goes to great lengths to make sure that the young Haredi Jews in Israel who are able to receive an exemption but instead choose to serve in the army are accommodated and comfortable. The IDF even has a Chief Rabbi! 

7. Not only humans serve in the IDF….

Over the years, a variety of animals have helped IDF troops protect Israel, including camels, donkeys, alpacas, dogs, antelopes, and llamas. Some military bases even use sheep to guard their ammunition, as the sheep are very aggressive and protective of their territory! 

8. The IDF, by the numbers

There are currently 169,500 soldiers actively serving in the IDF. There are also 465,000 soldiers in the IDF’s reserve units, which are comprised of veterans who completed their service but can be called up in times of war and crisis. Reserve duty is mandatory until age 40, although some become exempt through health conditions, by moving abroad, and other reasons. 

9. Israel’s Army operates a radio station, an orchestra, and more

Not everyone serving in the IDF is a combat soldier. For the more creative types, the IDF also places recruits in its popular radio station Galatz, a magazine, several social media accounts ranging from Twitter to TikTok, an orchestra, a choir, and more! 

10. The IDF is frequently recognized as one of the most LGBT friendly armies 

Israel is the only army in the Middle East that recruits LGBT soldiers! The IDF also offers a number of free health services to LGBT soldiers and all of the same benefits to same-sex couples that it does to heterosexual couples. There is even a Gender Affairs Unit in the army that ensures the IDF is a safe and open place for all.

We’ve officially hit 10 facts, but we all know there are hundreds of reasons to be proud of the IDF. However, we shouldn’t only think about the sacrifices and achievements of the IDF once a year on Independence Day. If you want to wear your pride and show the world you support Israel’s soldiers, we have a wide selection of IDF-themed shirts, hats, jewelry, and other accessories that are perfect for showing off your support of the Israeli Army every day of the year. Check out our hand-picked favorites or view our full selection here