Israeli military service



About I.D.F.

The Israel Defense Forces (official website), commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal (צה"ל), are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force, and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways. Differences include the conscription of women and its structure, which emphasizes close relations between the army, navy, and air force. Since its founding, the IDF has been specifically designed to match Israel's unique security situation. The IDF is one of Israeli society's most prominent institutions, influencing the country's economy, culture and political scene. In 1965, the Israel Defense Forces was awarded the Israel Prize for its contribution to education.

The IDF uses several technologies developed in Israel, many of them made specifically to match the IDF's needs, such as the Merkava (main battle tank), high tech weapons systems, the Iron Dome, Trophy countermeasure, and the Galil and Tavor assault rifles.
The Uzi submachine gun was invented in Israel and used by the IDF until December 2003, ending a service that began in 1954. Following 1967, the IDF has had close military relations with the United States, including development cooperation, such as on the F-15I jet, THEL laser defense system, and the Arrow missile defense system.

The Mission

The IDF mission is to "defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel. To protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life."

Military service routes

The military service is held in three different tracks:

Sometimes the IDF would also hold pre-military courses (קורס קדם צבאי or קד"צ) for soon to be regular service soldiers.

Special service routes

Shoher will have the ability to serve in R&D units without having the engineering credentials if an officer finds him as worthy and could recommend him for the R&D units, R&D unit have the option to provide "על תקן מהנדס" certificate for few selected personal to allow person to work on life saving or flight equipment without having an Eng. license (the certificate isn't valid for medical R&D machinery), the certificate is provided by the highest in command in the research field (as an example for the Air Force it is the Chef of Equipment Group).

The Israeli Manpower Directorate at the Israeli General Staff is the body which coordinates and assembles activities related to the control over human resources and its placement.

Regular service

National military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, although Arab (but not Druze) citizens are exempted if they so please, and other exceptions may be made on religious, physical or psychological grounds (see Profile 21). The Tal law, which exempts ultra-orthodox Jews from service, has been the subject of several court cases as well as considerable legislative controversy.

Men serve three years in the IDF, while women serve two. The IDF women who volunteer for several combat positions often serve for three years, due to the longer period of training. Women in other positions, such as programmers, who also require lengthy training time, may also serve three years. Women in most combat positions are also required to serve in the reserve for several years after they leave regular service.

Some distinguished recruits are selected to be trained in order to eventually become members of special forces units. Every brigade in the IDF has its own special force branch.

Career soldiers are paid on average NIS 23,000 a month, fifty times the NIS 460 paid to conscripts.

In 1998-2000, only about 9% of those who refused to serve in the Israeli military were granted exemption.

Permanent service

Permanent service is designed for soldiers who choose to continue serving in the army after their regular service, for a short or long period, and in many cases making the military their career. Permanent service usually begins immediately after the mandatory Regular service period, but there are also soldiers who get released from military at the end of the mandatory Regular service period and who get recruited back to the military as Permanent service soldiers in a later period.

Permanent service is based on a contractual agreement between the IDF and the permanent position holder. The service contract defines how long the soldier's service would be, and towards the end of the contract period a discussion may rise on the extension of the soldier's service duration. Many times, regular service soldiers are required to commit to a permanent service after the mandatory Regular service period, in exchange for assigning them in military positions which require a long training period.

In exchange for the Permanent service, the Permanent service soldiers receive full wages, and when serving for a long period as a permanent service soldier, they are also entitled for a pension from the army. This right is given to the Permanent service soldiers in a relatively early stage of their life in comparison to the rest of the Israeli retirees.

Reserve service

After personnel complete their regular service, the IDF may call up men for:

  • reserve service of up to one month annually, until the age of 43–45 (reservists may volunteer after this age)

  • active duty immediately in times of crisis

In most cases, the reserve duty is carried out in the same unit for years, in many cases the same unit as the active service and by the same people. Many soldiers who have served together in active service continue to meet in reserve duty for years after their discharge, causing reserve duty to become a strong male bonding experience in Israeli society.

Although still available for call-up in times of crisis, most Israeli men, and virtually all women, do not actually perform reserve service in any given year. Units do not always call up all of their reservists every year, and a variety of exemptions are available if called for regular reserve service. Virtually no exemptions exist for reservists called up in a time of crisis, but experience has shown that in such cases (most recently, the 2006 Lebanon War) exemptions are rarely requested or exercised; units generally achieve recruitment rates above those considered fully manned.

Legislation (set to take effect by 13 March 2008) has proposed reform in the reserve service, lowering the maximum service age to 40, designating it as a purely emergency force, as well as many other changes to the structure (although the Defence Minister can suspend any portion of it at any time for security reasons). The age threshold for many reservists whose positions are not listed, though, will be fixed at 49.

Non-IDF service

Other than the National Service (Sherut Leumi), IDF conscripts may serve in bodies other than the IDF in a number of ways.

The combat option is Israel Border Police (Magav – the exact translation from Hebrew means "border guard") service, part of the Israel Police. Some soldiers complete their IDF combat training and later undergo additional counter terror and Border Police training. These are assigned to Border Police units. The Border Police units fight side by side with the regular IDF combat units though to a lower capacity. They are also responsible for security in heavy urban areas such as Jerusalem and security and crime fighting in rural areas.

Non-combat services include the Mandatory Police Service (Shaham) program, where youth serve in the Israeli Police, Israel Prison Service, or other wings of the Israeli Security Forces instead of the regular army service.


Israel is the only nation to conscript women and assign some of them to infantry combatant service which places them directly in the line of enemy fire.

Civilian pilot and aeronautical engineer Alice Miller successfully petitioned the High Court of Justice to take the Israeli Air Force pilot training exams, after being rejected on grounds of gender. Though president Ezer Weizman, a former IAF commander, told Miller that she would be better off staying home and darning socks, the court eventually ruled in 1996 that the IAF could not exclude qualified women from pilot training. Even though Miller would not pass the exams, the ruling was a watershed, opening doors for women in new IDF roles. Female legislators took advantage of the momentum to draft a bill allowing women to volunteer for any position, if they could qualify.

In 2000, the Equality amendment to the Military Service law stated that the right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men. Women have taken part in Israel’s military before and since the founding of the state in 1948. Women started to enter combat support and light combat roles in a few areas, including the Artillery Corps, infantry units and armored divisions. A few platoons named Karakal were formed for men and women to serve together in light infantry. By 2000 Karakal became a full-fledged battalion. Many women would also join the Border Police.

In June 2011, Maj. General Orna Barbivai became the first female major general in the IDF, replacing head of the directorate Maj. General Avi Zamir. Barbivai stated, "I am proud to be the first woman to become a major general and to be part of an organization in which equality is a central principle. 90 percent of jobs in the IDF are open to women and I am sure that there are other women who will continue to break down barriers."

Minorities in the IDF

Non-Jewish minorities tended to serve in one of several special units: the Minorities Unit, also known as Unit 300; the Druze Reconnaissance Unit; and the Trackers Unit, which comprised mostly Negev Bedouins. In 1982 the IDF general staff decided to integrate the armed forces by opening up other units to minorities, while placing some Jewish conscripts in the Minorities Unit. Until 1988 the intelligence corps and the air force remained closed to minorities.

Druze and Circassians

Israel, being a Jewish state, has a majority of Jewish soldiers. Druze and Circassian men are subject to mandatory conscription to the IDF just like Israeli Jews. Originally, they served in the framework of a special unit called "The Minorities' Unit", which still exists today, in the form of the independent Herev ("Sword") battalion. However, since the 1980s Druze soldiers have increasingly protested this practice, which they considered a means of segregating them and denying them access to elite units (like sayeret units). The army has increasingly admitted Druze soldiers to regular combat units and promoted them to higher ranks from which they had been previously excluded. In recent years, several Druze officers have reached ranks as high as Major General and many have received commendations for distinguished service. In proportion to their numbers, the Druze people achieve much higher—documented—levels in the Israeli army than other soldiers. Nevertheless, some Druze still charge that discrimination continues, such as exclusion from the Air Force, although the official low security classification for Druze has been abolished for some time. The first Druze aircraft navigator completed his training course in 2005; his identity is protected as are those of all air force pilots. During the Israeli War of Independence, many Druze who had initially sided with the Arabs deserted their ranks to either return to their villages or side with Israel in various capacities.

Since the late 1970s the Druze Initiative Committee, centered at the village of Beit Jan and linked to the Israeli Communist Party, has campaigned to abolish Druze conscription.

Military service is a tradition among some of the Druze population, with most opposition in Druze communities of the Golan Heights; 83 percent of Druze boys serve in the army, according to the IDF's statistics. According to the Israeli army, 369 Druze soldiers have been killed in combat operations since 1948.


Bedouins and Israeli Arabs

By law, all Israeli citizens are subject to conscription. The Defense Minister has complete discretion to grant exemption to individual citizens or classes of citizens. A long-standing policy dating to Israel's early years extends an exemption to all other Israeli minorities (most notably Israeli Arabs). However, there is a long-standing government policy of encouraging Bedouins to volunteer and of offering them various inducements, and in some impoverished Bedouin communities a military career seems one of the few means of (relative) social mobility available. Also, Muslims and Christians are accepted as volunteers, even at an age greater than 18.

From among non-Bedouin Arab citizens, the number of volunteers for military service—some Christian Arabs and even a few Muslim Arabs—is minute, and the government makes no special effort to increase it. Six Israeli Arabs have received orders of distinction as a result of their military service; of them the most famous is a Bedouin officer, Lieutenant Colonel Abd el-Majid Hidr (also known as Amos Yarkoni), who received the Order of Distinction. Vahid el Huzil was the first Bedouin to be a battalion commander. Recently, a Bedouin officer was promoted to the rank of Colonel.

Until the second term of Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister (1992–1995), social benefits given to families in which at least one member (including a grandfather, uncle or cousin) had served at some time in the armed forces were significantly higher than to "non-military" families, which was considered a means of blatant discrimination between Jews and Arabs. Rabin had led the abolition of the measure, in the teeth of strong opposition from the Right. At present, the only official advantage from military service is the attaining of security clearance and serving in some types of government positions (in most cases, security-related), as well as some indirect benefits.

Rather than perform army service, Israeli Arab youths have the option to volunteer to national service and receive benefits similar to those received by discharged soldiers. The volunteers are generally allocated to Arab populations, where they assist with social and community matters. As of 2010 there are 1,473 Arabs volunteering for national service. According to sources in the national service administration, Arab leaders are counseling youths to refrain from performing services to the state. According to a National Service official, "For years the Arab leadership has demanded, justifiably, benefits for Arab youths similar to those received by discharged soldiers. Now, when this opportunity is available, it is precisely these leaders who reject the state's call to come and do the service, and receive these benefits".

Although Arabs are not obligated to serve in IDF, any Arab can volunteer. A Muslim Arab woman is currently serving as a medic with unit 669.

Cpl. Elinor Joseph from Haifa became the first female Arab combat soldier for IDF. Elinor said:

...there was a Katyusha [rocket] that fell near my house and also hurt Arabs. If someone would tell me that serving in the IDF means killing Arabs, I remind them that Arabs also kill Arabs.

Another Arab-Muslim officer in the IDF is Hisham Abu Varia, who is currently a Second Lieutenant.

In October 2012, the IDF promoted Mona Abdo to become the first female Christian Arab to the rank of combat commander. Abdo had voluntarily enlisted in the IDF, which her family had encouraged, and transferred from the Ordnance Corps to the Caracal Battalion, a mixed-gender unit with both Jewish and Arab soldiers.



Men in the Haredi community may choose to defer service while enrolled in yeshivot (see Tal committee); many avoid conscription altogether. This special arrangement is called Torato Omanuto, and has given rise to tensions between the Israeli religious and secular communities. While options exist for Haredim to serve in the IDF in an atmosphere conducive to their religious convictions, most Haredim do not choose to serve in the IDF.

Haredi males have the option of serving in the 97th "Netzah Yehuda" Infantry Battalion. This unit is a standard IDF infantry battalion focused on the Jenin region. To allow Haredi soldiers to serve, the Netzah Yehuda military bases follow the highest standards of Jewish dietary laws; the only women permitted on these bases are wives of soldiers and officers. Additionally, some Haredim serve in the IDF via the Hesder system, principally designed for the Religious Zionist sector; it is a 5-year program which includes 2 years of religious studies, 1½ years of military service and 1½ years of religious studies during which the soldiers can be recalled to active duty at any moment. Haredi soldiers are permitted to join other units of the IDF as well, but rarely do.

The IDF has identified an urgent gap of hundreds of soldiers in their technical units that might be filled by the Haredi. The IAF is currently using Defense contractors to fill in the gaps and continue operations.


LGBT people

Israel is one of 24 nations that allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Since the early 1990s, sexual identity presents no formal barrier in terms of soldiers' military specialization or eligibility for promotion.

Until the 1980s, the IDF tended to discharge soldiers who were openly gay. In 1983, the IDF permitted homosexuals to serve, but banned them from intelligence and top-secret positions. A decade later, Professor Uzi Even, an IDF reserves officer and chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Chemistry Department revealed that his rank had been revoked and that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics in military intelligence, solely because of his sexual orientation. His testimony to the Knesset in 1993 raised a political storm, forcing the IDF to remove such restrictions against gays.

The chief of staff's policy states that it is strictly forbidden to harm or hurt anyone's dignity or feeling based on their gender or sexual orientation in any way, including signs, slogans, pictures, poems, lectures, any means of guidance, propaganda, publishing, voicing, and utterance. Moreover, gays in the IDF have additional rights, such as the right to take a shower alone if they want to. According to a University of California, Santa Barbara study, a brigadier general stated that Israelis show a "great tolerance" for gay soldiers. Consul David Saranga at the Israeli Consulate in New York, who was interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times, said, “It's a non-issue. You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave one, and be gay at the same time.”

A study published by the Israel Gay Youth (IGY) Movement in January 2012 found that half of the homosexual soldiers who serve in the IDF suffer from violence and homophobia, although the head of the group said that "I am happy to say that the intention among the top brass is to change that."


Deaf and hard-of-hearing people

Israel is the only country in the world that requires the deaf and hard-of-hearing people to serve in the conscription or military. The sign language interpreters are provided during the training, and many of them serve in the non-combat capacities such as mappers, office work, and like. The deaf and hard-of-hearing people who have served IDF have better opportunities in the employment, housing, education, and other areas than the ones who do not serve. In addition, they gained a greater respect and recognition for their service and contribution to the country as well as stronger self-esteem and motivation.



According to a Care2 report, vegans in the IDF may refuse vaccination if they oppose animal testing. They are provided with special allowances to buy their own food. They are also given artificial leather boots.


I.D.F volunteering programs



I.D.F. volunteering

I.D.F. together with other organizations offer Jews and non-Jews around the world to join different volunteering programs in the army.

In cases when a citizen cannot be normally drafted by the law (old age, served as a soldier in a different country, severe health problems, handicaps, autism, etc.), the person could enroll as volunteer in places where his knowledge can be used or in cases there is a base that accepts volunteer service from one day per week up to a full 24/7 service upon person abilities and wishes.

Overseas volunteering

I.D.F. volunteering programs for non-immigrating foreign volunteers:

Sar-El Volunteers for Israel (IDF Bases)

- Sar-El or "Service to Israel" is a volunteer program of the I.D.F., which accepts every year about 5,000 volunteers from overseas to serve for two or three weeks with the IDF. The job is mainly in the logistical, maintaining, catering, supply and medical services. This is a great help for the army, as it helps not only to save money, but also to spare reserve soldiers from being called up. The requirements for volunteers are the following: at least 17 years old (or 15 if accompanied by a parent) and healthy. The job is neither paid and nor armed. The volunteers wear the IDF work uniforms with Sar-El epaulettes, but they are not considered as soldiers. This service usually does not conflict with the military laws of the volunteers' home countries. Learn More


- The program targets young non-Israeli Jews and consists typically of 14.5–18 months of IDF service, including a lengthy training for those in combat units or (for 18 months) one month of non-combat training and additional two months of learning Hebrew after enlisting, if necessary. Volunteering for longer service is possible. There are two additional subcategories of Mahal, both geared solely for religious men: Mahal Nahal Haredi (16 months), and Mahal Hesder, which combines yeshiva study of 6.5 months with IDF service of 14.5 months, for a total of 21 months. Similar IDF programs exist for Israeli overseas residents. To be accepted as a Mahal Volunteer, one must be of Jewish descent (at least one Jewish grandparent)... Learn More

Garin Mahal

- Garin Mahal (formerly Aish Machal) was established in May, 2010 in cooperation with Israel's Ministry of Defense. Garin Mahal is a Pre - Military Educational Program uniquely designed to assist lone soldiers throughout their IDF service. To date, Garin Mahal has helped over 200 volunteers from America, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, England and South Africa. Once discharged, Garin Mahal participants return to their homes overseas, where they serve a vital role as ambassadors to Israel both on campus and within their own communities... Learn More

Garin Tzabar

- The program run by the Friends of the Israel Scouts, Inc. -Tzofim was founded in 1991. Garin, a Hebrew word for “core” or “seed”, is a term used in Israel for a group of soldiers who choose to experience their army service together as a social unit of mutual support and camaraderie. The members of Garin Tzabar, a group formed for Diaspora Jews and sons od Israelis who choose to move to Israel and serve in the IDF, are adopted by the Israel Scouts and placed in a hosting kibbutz that quickly becomes their home away from home throughout the duration of their army service. The program is largely funded by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, who has been a partner in this endeavor since its inception. Learn More


- Marva is an IDF program that allows young Jews to learn and experience the basics of IDF and Israeli life. The program lasts between seven to eight weeks and each week, students are stationed at a different base. This program is open to participants from all over the world. The program is conducted in simple Hebrew, allowing for significant improvement of Hebrew skills. Activities range from camp craft, navigation, and topography to hikes, lectures, seminars and walking tours, participation in training exercises, and being in the field. Emphasis is placed on Israel’s security situation during lectures on specific social and political issues. Applicants should be Jewish tourists between the ages of 18-28...‏ Learn More

Volunteers For Israel

- The mission of Volunteers For Israel is to connect Americans to Israel through volunteer service. VFI achieve this goal by partnering with military and civilian organizations that enable volunteers to work side-by-side with Israelis. VFI promote solidarity and goodwill among Israelis, American Jews, and other friends of Israel...

Learn More

Pre-Army Mechinot

Religious pre-army Mechina

A religious Mechina is intended for graduates of a Yeshiva high school, and prepares them for their service in the Israel Defense Forces. Focus is placed on preparing them for the encounter with secular society in the army by studying Jewish thought, beliefs and outlooks. Students also prepare physically for their service period and receive leadership training from active-duty officers.

Secular pre-army Mechina

A Secular Mechina focuses on preparing high school graduates for citizenship as well as IDF service. The program of studies covers leadership, principles and practice of democracy, volunteer service to the community, ideological and individual identity, Zionism, Jewish history and heritage, philosophy, and more. While "secular" in matters of religious observance, the program of study includes Judaism with a focus on ethics and tradition.
The first secular Mechina was Nahshon, founded in 1997 in Nili - in the West Bank.

Joint religious and secular pre-army Mechina

The joint religious and secular Mechinot were founded to help bridge the widening gaps in Israeli society. As such, they focus on teaching a range of subjects to a mixed student body, including Zionism, leadership, Judaism, political science, philosophy, alongside intensive community and societal involvement and volunteering.

Below is a list of all Pre-army Mechinot:

Name of Mechina Location Phone Director Email
Elisha Halamish - Neve Tzuf
D.N. Modiin 71945
Fax: 08-9241053
Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim
Arzei HaLevanon Ma'ale Ephraim, POB 1060, Jordan Valley 02-9409097
Fax: 02-9409123
Rabbi Ze'ev Sharon
Beit Yatir Beit Yatir, D.N. Har Hebron, 90402 02-9964933
Fax: 02-9964781
Rabbi Moshe Hagar Website:
Bnei David Eli, D.N. Efraim, 44828 02-9942240
Fax: 02-9943256
Rabbi Yigal Levenstein
Eretz HaTzvi Peduel, D.N. Modiin, 71940 03-9332856
Fax: 03-9336402
Rabbi Meir Katz
Amishai - 052-3291821
Chemdat Yehuda Chemdat, Mobile Post Mizrach Binyamin 10990 02-9944602/5, 02-9941818
Fax: 02-9944603
Rabbi Yinon Madar
Yemin Orde Hazor HaGlilit, POB 165, 10300 04-6860806
Fax: 04-6800346
Eyal Eldar
Carmey Hayil Bet Rimon, Mobile Post HaMovil, 17950 04-6509654
Fax: 04-6509654
Rabbi Ran Ben-Moshe
Magen Shaul Nokdim, Mobile Post North Yehuda, 90916 02-9965150
Fax: 02-9605547
Rabbi Itamar Cohen
Elad - 0524 639 069
Amit Rosh Pina POB 57, Rosh Pina, 12000 04-6930582
Fax: 04-6930574
Rabbi Abraham Davidovitch
Ateret Cohanim 139 Hagai Street, Old City,
POB 1076, Jerusalem 91009
Fax: 02-6261528
Rabbi Netanel Harel Website:
Leadership Yeshiva Academy Moshav Avnei Eitan,
Golan Heights, 12925
Fax: 04-6600142
Rav Erez Levi
Alon Moreshet 0525-371206
Keshet YehudaMoshav Keshet,
D.N. Golan Heights, 12410
Fax: 04-6963962
Rabbi Yaakov Feigenbaum
Shuki Kestenbaum - 0525-443621
MaskiotShadmot Mechola, Mobile Post Yizra’el 1093204-6581834/7
Fax: 04-6584543
Rabbi Shlomo Azualos
Katzrin POB 3585, Katzrin 1290004-6964235
Fax: 04-6964037
Rabbi Ya’ish Chanuna
Kiryat MalachiPOB 57, Kiryat Malachi08-8600024
Fax: 08-8600024
Rabbi Boaz Sherman
Website: (Hebrew site)
Secular MechinotYaffo (Reform) 10  Wasserman Street, Yaffo03-6823284
Fax: 03-6810078
Rav Arale Fox
Minsharim KaluMa’agan Micha’el, Mobile Post Menashe 3780504-6399655
Fax: 04-6293857
Mr. Muki Betzer
NachshonKibbutz Netiv Ha’lamed Heh, Mobile Post Ha’ela Valley 9985502-9900235
Fax: 02-9922028
Mr. Ze’evik Nativ
AderetMoshav Aderet 36, Mobile Post Ha’ela 9985002-9920080
Fax: 02-9920080
MeitzarKibbutz Meitzar, Mobile Post Golan Heights 04-6763760
Fax: 04-6763762
Rabbi Avi Ze’ira
Rabin – OranimOranim, Mobile Post Tivon 3600604-9838753, ext. 220/1
Fax: 04-9830232
Adv. Danny Zamir
Mechinat HanegevMidreshet Ben Gurion, Sde Boker 8499008-6532701
Fax: 08-6532270
Mr. Gonen
Ma’ayan BaruchKibbutz Ma’ayan Baruch, Mobile Post Upper Galilee 1222004-6954888
Fax: 04-6902006
Mr. Yossi Baruch,
Amichai Moshav Argaman, Mobile Post Arvot Hayarden 90692 02-9400161
Fax: 02-9409493
Mr. Matti Chai
Ein Prat (Co-ed) Kfar Adumim, D.N. East Binyamin, 90618 02-5905992/3/5
Fax: 02-5905994
Erez Eshel
English site:
Beit Yisrael Kibbutz Beit Yisrael, POB 11232, Gilo, Jerusalem 02-6760580
Fax: 02-6768412
Hoshea Friedman Ben-Shalom

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