In 1948, with the country in middle of its War for Independence, the interim government ordered the establishment of the Tzvah Haganah L’Yisrael, Hebrew for the “Israel Defense Forces” (IDF). Underground fighting units were dismantled and thousands of volunteer immigrant farmers, some of them Holocaust survivors, were drafted into a new unified military to fight off the invading Arab armies. Generations later, the war still goes on, however the IDF has since evolved into one of the most elite armies in the world. Here are 5 unique facts about the IDF:
1) Military Ingenuity
Today, the IDF is a world leading innovator of advanced weapons systems, while its air force, special forces, intelligence and engineering units have pioneered campaigns that are studied by military tacticians all over the world.
2) Social Function
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister and Defense Minister, used to say the IDF is not only for defending the country, but also for integrating and building Israeli society. In a country of Jewish immigrants and refugees from all over the world, people from all political, social and economic backgrounds perform military service side by side, forging a bond that completely transcends these normal divisions.
Israel is unique in that military service is compulsory for both males and females, and is, in fact, the only country in the world that maintains obligatory military service for women. Males serve for three years and females for just less than two years. Those only ones who are exempt from service include minority groups, those who are not physically or psychologically able, married women or women with children, religious males who choose to study Torah full time as well as religious females who prefer to pursue community work.
4) Reserve Forces
Due to Israel’s small population, released soldiers continue serving as reservists for many years, some contributing up to over a month’s worth of service each year and supporting the army’s manpower needs. It is not uncommon in Israel for two generations to be serving simultaneously in the army, the son in his obligatory service and the father in the reserves.
5) Purity of Arms
Contrary to anti-Semitic propaganda, the IDF is recognized as the most moral army in the world, often going to extreme lengths to avoid hurting innocent civilians, to the extent of putting its one soldiers in harms way. According to its”purity of arms” code of ethics, the IDF “will use their arms only for the purpose of achieving their mission, without inflicting unnecessary injury to human life or limb…. with special consideration for the defenseless, whether in wartime, or during routine security operations, or in the absence of combat, or times of peace.”