10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the IDF

Written by Division Chief Joel Rivera, MPA

Founded shortly after the State of Israel in May 1948, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) serves as the sole military wing of the Israeli special forces and consists of ground forces, air force and navy. But that’s just one fact Here are 10 more things you (probably) didn’t know:

  1. The founders of the IDF were so desperately short of resources that up until the 1950s, even senior commanders mostly earned no wage, were in their early twenties and lived by growing their own food.
  2. There are currently 176,500 active soldiers serving in the IDF.
  3. Israel’s Airforce is ranked No. 1 in the world due to its space assets, advanced fighter jets, high-tech armed drones and nuclear weapons. Israeli’s military is ranked No. 1 in the Middle East.
  4. The IDF is one of the world’s most informal and least hierarchical armies. Its officers do not come from academies, but rather rise through the ranks solely on the basis of their leadership and command capabilities. Officers often sleep and eat with their soldiers and the army makes scant use of saluting and parades.
  5. The IDF requires conscription, meaning that every 18 year old—male and female—is required to serve. Men must serve for three years and women for two. Released soldiers continue serving as reservists into their early 50s, contributing up to over a month’s worth of service each year, both training and active service.
  6. Women typically do not serve in combat roles, though there are female pilots and infantry units that allow women. According to the IDF, 535 female Israeli soldiers were been killed in combat operations between 1962-2016 (the number killed before 1962 is unknown). Women can avoid conscription through a religious exemption, in which more than third of Israeli women do.
  7. Israel is the only country in the world that requires the deaf and hearing impaired to serve in the military. Sign language interpreters are provided during training and many of them serve in noncombat capacities such as mappers, office work, etc.
  8. Since 2006, the IDF has fought in four major engagements, including the Second Lebanon War.
  9. IDF troops do not deploy; they protect Israel, its borders and its people.The IDF have their own version of the Navy SEALs called Shayetet 13. The unit is one of the most secretive in the Israeli military and the details of many missions and the identities of active operatives are highly classified. The unit’s motto is, “As the bat emerges from the darkness, As the blade cuts through with silence, As the grenade smashes in rage.” The unit trains extensively in Krav Maga and all manner of weapons. The unit is referred to by others in the military as the “people of silence.”