IDF – The Real People’s Army

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), alternatively referred to by the Hebrew-language acronym Tzahal, is the national military of the State of Israel. It consists of three service branches: the Israeli Ground Forces, the Israeli Air Force, and the Israeli Navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security apparatus.

Who Serves in the IDF?

The State of Israel requires every Israeli citizen, male and female, over the age of 18 who is Jewish, Druze or Circassian to serve in the IDF (although full-time yeshiva students are exempt, a policy that has recently been in dispute). Other Israeli Arabs, religious women, married individuals, and those deemed unfit medically or mentally are exempt from compulsory military service. Regardless, many of those exempt from military service do volunteer to serve. Once enlisted, men are expected to serve for a minimum of 32 months and women are expected to serve for a minimum of 24 months.

How Do People Serve in the IDF?

Normal Service ― At age 18, men and women join the IDF for normal service of two and a half years for men and two years for women.

Reserves ― After completing normal service, men and women serve in members of the IDF Reserves, while working in their regular jobs, until they age out or authorities deem they are no longer needed. Members of battalions are called together. Reservists do periodic training. Some reservists might serve (in what is known in Hebrew as “Miluim”) several weeks a year, while others may be on-call for longer periods.

Career ― Some men and women join the career military after active duty, usually filling higher command positions or jobs that require special training and experience.

Lone Soldiers ― IDF members who are immigrants without family in Israel are known as “lone soldiers” and receive services and support from various agencies.

In the tweet below, you can see how the Israeli Snapir (“Fin”) unit, made from both male and female fighters, defended the Israeli shore cities against the Hamas terror attack on October 7th, 2023.

The IDF Culture and Broader Society

The IDF, known as “the people’s army,” is a central institution in Israeli society. Most Israelis serve and most men continue to serve in the reserves until middle age. In addition to defending the country against prolonged hostility and violence, the army carries out important social and economic functions such as teaching Hebrew to new immigrants and blending Israelis from diverse backgrounds. The social ties formed during service often last through Israelis’ lives and some marriage partners meet during service. Soldiers go home regularly – most visit their families and friends at least once a week in addition to longer furlough every three months. On special occasions and especially in the early months of service, parents usually visit their children on the army base. 

No real “barracks sub-culture” has developed in the country. Aside from basic training and certain courses, the atmosphere in the IDF is generally informal. Only the highest officers are referred to as “commander” and everyone else is literally on a first name basis, as in other sectors of Israeli society. Most orders are given as directions, and disagreement and discussion of such directions are not uncommon. Soldiers in command are expected to be able to explain their orders. Once given however, orders are followed.

Army dress is functional and simple: there are few insignia, battle decorations or medals. Officers wear the same fatigues as other IDF members. Within certain boundaries, the soldiers’ appearance (dress, hairstyle, footwear) is affected by broader trends in Israeli fashion. Military ceremonies and rituals are minimal. Social policy and domestic politics have always been clearly off limits as far as the army is concerned. In its various activities, the army is careful not to advocate a particular social or political view. The principle of military subordination to civilian control has been internalized by the military elite. Israel has not become a “garrison state” ruled by the military in spite of the fact that the country has had to contend with prolonged conflict and war. Although it exercises considerable influence within the country, the Israeli army is part and parcel of Israeli society. It continues to be perceived and to perceive itself first and foremost as the army of the people.

Israel Defense Forces Values

Every member of the Israel Defense Forces learns its four fundamental values and ten additional values derived from these fundamental values.

  1. The purpose of the IDF is to protect Israel and its independence and ensure the security of its residents.
  2. Patriotism and loyalty to Israel.
  3. Human Dignity. Every individual is of inherent value, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender or status.
  4. Statehood ― The IDF is the people’s army, the State of Israel’s military, subject to the law and government of the State of Israel. IDF soldiers will operate with their mission, the IDF’s values and the security of Israel as their priority.

What Do the Various Beret Colors Mean?

The Israeli Air Force (IAF)

The Israeli Air Force (IAF). The IAF’s aerial superiority and advancement allow its squadrons to conduct a large portion of the IDF’s operational activities, minimizing the risk to ground forces without compromising on accuracy or capabilities. It continues to develop in all fields and is developing and integrating new aircraft, RPAs and various technological means into its ranks at all times.

The Ground Forces

The Ground Forces include:

  • The Artillery Corps destroys enemy targets and provides cover fire for IDF ground forces.
  • The Armored Corps includes tanks, infantry, and reconnaissance.
  • The Combat Engineering Corps dismantles minefields; sabotages enemy targets; builds bridges to cross streams; constructs fortifications; and responds to nuclear, biological, or chemical attacks.
  • The Field Intelligence Corps collects visual information on the battlefield and rapidly transfers it to other forces.
  • The Infantry and Paratroopers Corps trains all ground forces in the IDF.

The Israeli Navy

The Israeli Navy has bases in Haifa, Atlit, Eilat, and Ashdod, with headquarters in Tel Aviv. Its vessels include missile boats and submarines.

The Cyber Protection Unit

The Cyber Defense Division enables the existence of IDF activities by neutralizing enemy cyber attacks. Cyber shields are required to identify, analyze, and neutralize security events in various military networks.

Other IDF Functions

  • The Military Rabbinate
  • Medics, Combat Medics, and Paramedics
  • Foreign Relations
  • Home Front Command provides emergency population instructors and performs search and rescue
  • Military Police, Border Police
  • IT including network administrators, information security, electronic warfare technicians, and information defense  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *