When the nation of Israel was formed, it was one of the most exciting times in all of Jewish history. It was however very clear that others were not as happy about it and that there would need to be an intense effort made to protect the new, modern form of Israel. With this, on May 26, 1948, the Israeli Defense Force was formed by Ben Gurion.
It don’t take long for the necessity of the IDF to be clear. They have been in so many conflicts and wars since its inception that it is known as one of the most battle-tested militaries in the world.
The IDF was designed and has existed as a conscripted force since its beginning. This means that everyone is expected to give service. The requirement is two years for women and three years for men for all Jews 18 and over.
There are many men and women at service at any time. There are around 170,000 active military members with 465,000 reservists. Technically every person under 40 is eligible for reservist duty once they complete their actual conscripted service. Women however are usually not required to so they can have children and raise them.
Women in the IDF
Women in the IDF is a very unique thing in the world, being trained in combat and conscripted into the military just like men. Women have been conscripted into the military since it’s creation in 1948, making it very unique. Women serve in practically all roles in the military as well. This includes combat roles.
Volunteers in the IDF
While only Jewish, Druze and Circassian citizens are required to serve, there are in fact volunteers in the military as well. In fact, there is a record number of volunteers. All volunteers are put through vigorous background checks and training.
Gadsar is the all-Arab unit. Just in 2021, there were over 600 new muslim recruits. While their service can be controversial, many believe that Israel is their country and it is in their best interested to serve and protect it. When they are sworn in, they swear upon the Koran.
Christian Arabs also serve in the IDF. There are currently hundreds serving. When they swear in they use the Bible. Israel is currently launching an effort to recruit more to service.
There are currently opportunities for foreigners to volunteer in the IDF on a short term basis. These programs last several weeks and offer the opportunity to learn more about Israel, the people in the military and their training and offer support.
While those with disabilities are not required to serve in the military, many are now volunteering through programs which allows them positions in which to serve in adaptive and appropriate ways. It is giving the the participants a great sense of purpose and belonging and proving that no matter what you can be a productive member of society in Israel.
Why Are There So Many People Carrying Guns?
You may notice that when you are on your tour you see many young people carrying assault rifles, not only in uniform but also in their street clothes. This seems very strange to many visitors from around the world. You may be at the beach and see a young woman in a bikini wearing an assault weapon!
These are all active duty soldiers. They all carry their weapons wherever they are to protect themselves and to be able to protect the general public where they are. There’s no reason to be afraid but plenty of reason to be appreciative of the soldier carrying it!
Can I Take a Picture?
Many who’ve traveled with us have taken pictures with soldiers on duty. They are generally quite friendly! Just be polite and remember that they are also doing a job, so ask at appropriate times and they just might oblige!
We hope we will see you next year in Israel and you can experience our wonderful soldiers for yourself! Contact one of our tour operators to plan your tour today!