110. The IDF – Always battle ready!

Right from its birth, Israel had had to face so many conflicts that if we put ‘Israel’ as a search on the internet, it returns results which are mostly related to some conflict or war. From it, one can understand the importance the armed forces have for Israel.

However, the contribution of the IDF or the Israel Defense Forces is not only restricted to defending Israel but also extends to the overall development of the nation. In Israel, a country known as a ‘startup nation’, the youth create most of the startups after completing their service with the IDF. Conscription or the compulsory enlistment for the military service for all the Jewish students after the completion of high-schooling plays a vital role in the success.

At an age when students in other countries ‘enjoy’ college life with their friends, Israeli youngsters prepare themselves for conflict to defend their nation. The preparedness is in all the forms – physical, mental as well as intellectual! Moreover, the training that they undergo requires them to take decisions in situations concerning life-and-death. Besides, they get used to responsible decision making as the responsibility of these decisions is also on them. As a result, from a very young age they competently face various struggles of life which also helps them during their entrepreneurship.

The ‘Israel Defense Forces’, counted among the world’s most war-experienced forces, was formed on 31st May 1948, just two weeks after Israel achieved independence. The IDF comprised of members from various armed groups. Among them were – the Haganah, a paramilitary force raised in the 1920s for the protection of the Jews and which strived for quite some time for the Israeli independence as also the other militias like the Irgun and Lehi. Israel’s War of Independence had then begun, and that too against the big and established Arab enemy nations.

Ceremony marking the establishment of the IDF

The main objectives before the IDF are – to safeguard Israeli integrity and sovereignty, to defeat the enemies who declare war on Israel, to preempt attacks by potential enemies – by resorting to political/diplomatic means first and military option only otherwise. Subsequently, defending Israel from all the forms of terrorism also became one of the chief objectives of the IDF.

After arduous efforts of so many centuries, the Jews had established their own nation in their rightful land. Losing it was not even an option. As a result, during the Israel’s War of Independence and in the wars which followed, together with the objectives mentioned above, there was a foremost guiding principle for the IDF – however strong the enemy be, the IDF must never lose even a single war.

Moreover, the area of the nation of Israel is so small that they cannot afford to fight any war inside their territory, on their land. Thus, the IDF strives to detect at the earliest, any looming attacks, aggressions and restricts them at the borders. As this form of ‘early warning’ and preemption requires movement of the forces and supporting decision making to be quick, the IDF maintains least possible hierarchy and allows several key decisions to be taken at local ground-level.

Fundamentally, due to a smaller population, the number of youth capable of participating in the war was always going to be less. The IDF endeavours to overcome this deficit with piercing and advanced weaponry. Often, the advanced weapon systems are made in Israel according to the specific needs of the IDF. Importantly, despite the lesser numbers, those who join the IDF are highly capable recruits as they come through a very rigorous and tough selection process. Moreover, they are ready to go to any limits for their nation. These highly competent Israeli soldiers are the real strength of the IDF.

The IDF, though on certain occasions, can be offensive, it is tactically a defensive force. The IDF, never for any reason, goes offensive on its own. Not even for expansion of boundaries. It takes to retaliatory action only to defend Israel from aggression that too only in the necessary proportion.

Israel does not differentiate between a man and a woman. Hence, both get equal opportunities to serve the country. Thus, no difference is made between men and women while joining the IDF. Consequently, female soldiers work shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. An exception is made only for the pregnant lady soldiers. Moreover, they are cared for in all possible ways considering that they are bearing an unborn member who will take forward the Jewish heritage.

The IDF is structured somewhat differently as it is a ‘conscription army’. Like other armed forces in the world, a well-armed air force and navy are the key wings of the IDF. However, the army is segregated as – firstly, the ‘Standing Army’, which is a well-armed force and secondly, the ‘Reservists’.

The ‘Standing Army’ comprises of full-time troops. Though not large by numbers, during the time of need, they can be deployed for war within a very short period of time. On the other hand, the reservists are the Israeli men and women who enter civilian life after completing the compulsory military service during their youth post their high-schooling. The number of reservists is much higher as compared to the Standing Army. After completing military conscription, each of the reservists is attached to reserve units and reports to the same on getting a call-up during emergencies.

Women in the IDF

After completing the conscription, the youth get busy with their jobs, businesses or education. They are required to report to their units only during the circumstances of emergency. However, the reservists though not full-time soldiers, they need to undergo regular war drills. Also, they get opportunities to serve in various branches of the military. The reservists are not only made a part of the actual battlefield but also recruited as technologists, communications officers, intelligence agents, combat trainers, cartographers, administrators, computer operators, doctors, advocates, etc. They are drafted into any service or for any skill as required by the armed forces. Today’s Israeli women participate shoulder to shoulder with men, that too in increasing numbers, for various military duties as also the combat roles.

The Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. General Aviv Kochavi

The ‘Chief of the General Staff’, also known as the ‘Commander-in-Chief’ of the Israel Defense Forces, is the supreme commander of the army, the navy and the air force and reports to the Defense Minister.

In addition to providing employment opportunity, the IDF also cares for the holistic development of its soldiers. The IDF offers opportunities to carry on with education to those who had to quit education against their willingness due to adverse conditions. Besides, if a trooper intends to learn some modern technology or skill which could help the IDF, they receive funding from the government to learn the same.

Considering all of it, the IDF is called the people’s army in a true sense which has the ‘national security’ of Israel as its first and the only priority. The IDF soldiers discharge this responsibility with all their might even staking their lives when needed. (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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