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10 Inspiring Facts About the Israel Defense Forces

Israel’s army continuously comes out in full force against all kinds of threats against the Jewish state. 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. 

But you might not know these 10 amazing facts! Stay educated on the IDF, and share these fun facts with your friends and family to spread the word about the amazing army of the Jewish people.

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, 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, soldiers 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. Soldiers usually refer to their commanding officers by name rather than rank, and have a friendly, mutually respectful relationship where volunteering alternate suggestions instead of blindly following orders is encouraged.

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, krav maga has been used by Israeli soldiers during security situations, and the IDF regularly travels around the world to train other militaries in this 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 the population is 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 food 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. 

The Israeli Air Force in particular is regularly recognized as one of the strongest in the world, and about one-third of the IDF’s manpower goes toward the Air Force! 

An IDF pilot, Giora Epstein, holds the world record for the most enemy jet takedowns.

6. The Israeli Army works hard to accommodate religious soldiers - of all faiths!

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

However, not only Jews serve in the Israeli Army

While Jewish Israelis make up the bulk of enlisted soldiers, young Israeli Druze and Circassians are regularly drafted as well. Israeli citizens who are members of other religious or ethnic minorities are usually exempt from military service, but increasing numbers have been choosing to volunteer over the past decade – such as Israeli Muslims and Christians from the Arab community. 

The IDF does not discriminate on the basis of religion, and ensures that the religious needs of all soldiers are met, including accommodating prayers and holiday rituals.

A Jewish and a Muslim soldier praying side-by-side on an IDF base (Photo credit: Israel Defense Forces)

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!

Animals who serve in the IDF are considered soldiers in their own right, and receive excellent treatment and care. 

The army’s dedication to animals extends to even adopting and caring for stray cats and other feral animals who find their way to military bases.

8. The IDF, by the numbers

There are currently 169,500 soldiers actively serving in the Israel Defense Forces. 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 for combat roles and 45 for non-combat, although some people can 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. Some serve as engineers, paramedics, intelligence officers, or even graphic designers or photographers. 

Some other positions for recruits with creative talents include the army’s 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 in the world

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 souvenirs 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 of IDF gifts here!

If you love the IDF, you’ll love proudly showing your support with these amazing gifts honoring Israel’s brave soldiers!


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