Religion and Politics in the IDF


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Dana Ben-Ezra. Non-Jewish minorities tended to serve in one of several special units: the Minorities Unit , also known as Unit ; the Druze Reconnaissance Unit; and the Trackers Unit, composed mostly of Negev Bedouins. In 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 the intelligence corps and the air force remained closed to minorities. Although Israel has a majority of Jewish soldiers, all citizens including large numbers of Druze and Circassian men are subject to mandatory conscription. However, since the s 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 Rav Aluf Gadi Eizenkot ordered the unit's closure in order to assimilate the Druze soldiers no differently than Jewish soldiers, as part of an ongoing reorganization of the army. Several Druze officers reached ranks as high as Major General, and many 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 ; like all air force pilots, his identity is not disclosed. 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 s 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. 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.

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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 if older than 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. Until the second term of Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister — , 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 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.

IDF criticized for forcing religious soldiers to shave their beards | The Times of Israel

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 [update] 1, Arabs were 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". In a Muslim Arab woman was serving as a medic with unit Joseph said "there was a Katyusha [rocket] that fell near my house and also hurt Arabs.

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.


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In an increase of Israeli Christian Arabs joining the army was reported. The IDF carried out extended missions in Ethiopia and neighboring states, whose purpose was to protect Ethiopian Jews Beta Israel and to help their immigration to Israel. Men in the Haredi community may choose to defer service while enrolled in yeshivot see Tal committee ; many avoid conscription altogether.

A Jewish Military

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 accommodating 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 facilitate Haredi soldiers to serve, the Netzah Yehuda military bases follow the standards of Jewish dietary laws ; the only women permitted on these bases are wives of soldiers and officers.

Haredi soldiers may join other units of the IDF, but rarely do. The IDF has identified [ when? The IAF is currently using defense contractors to fill in the gaps and continue operations. Although the IDF claims it will not discriminate against women, it is offering Haredim " women free and secular free" recruitment centers. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon expressed his willingness to relax regulations to meet the demands of ultra-Orthodox rabbis. Regulations regarding gender equality had already been relaxed so that Haredim could be assured that men would not receive physical exams from female medical staff.

Israel is one of 24 nations that allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Since the early s, sexual identity presents no formal barrier in terms of soldiers' military specialization or eligibility for promotion. Until the s the IDF tended to discharge soldiers who were openly gay. In the IDF permitted homosexuals to serve, but banned them from intelligence and top-secret positions. A decade later, Professor Uzi Even, [62] 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 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, [62] a brigadier general stated that Israelis show a "great tolerance" for gay soldiers. 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 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. Israel is the only country in the world that requires deaf and hard-of-hearing people to serve in the military.

According to a Care2 report, vegans in the IDF may refuse vaccination if they oppose animal testing. 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 IDF's 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. One such principle, is the concept that Israel can't afford to lose a single war. The IDF believes that this is possible if it can rapidly mobilize troops to insure that they engage the enemy in enemy territory.

The main doctrine consists of the following principles: [71]. The document defines three core values for all IDF soldiers to follow, as well as ten secondary values the first being most important, and the others appearing sorted in Hebrew alphabetical order : [72]. The article was meant as an "extension of the classical Just War Theory", and as a "[needed] third model" or missing paradigm besides which of "classical war army and law enforcement police. In this article, Kasher and Yadlin came to the conclusion that targeted killings of terrorists were justifiable, even at the cost of hitting nearby civilians.

In a interview to Haaretz , Asa Kasher later confirmed, pointing to the fact that in an area in which the IDF does not have effective security control e. East-Jerusalem , soldiers' lives protection takes priority over avoiding injury to enemy civilians. The article was intended to then Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon , to serve as a basis for a new "code of conduct".

Although Moshe Ya'alon did endorse the article's views, and is reported to have presented it numerous times before military forums, it was never actually turned into a binding IDF document or an actual "code", neither by Ya'alon nor its successors. However, the document have since reportedly been adapted to serve as educational material, designed to emphasizes the right behavior in low intensity warfare against terrorists, where soldiers must operate within a civilian population.

In , Amos Yadlin then head of Military Intelligence suggested that the article he co-authored with Asa Kasher be ratified as a formal binding code, arguing that "the current code ['The Spirit of the IDF'] does not sufficiently address one of the army's most pressing challenges: asymmetric warfare against terrorist organizations that operate amid a civilian population". The supreme command level in the military, the Chief of the General Staff, the military's Commander in Chief, is appointed by and subject to the authority of the civilian Government and is subordinate to the Minister of Defense not the Ministry of Defense itself.

However, in the years after the establishment of Israel, the Military establishment enjoyed a degree of independence given to it by Ben-Gurion. This was evident in the attendance of the Chief of General Staff in Cabinet and security Cabinet meetings as an equal and not as a subordinate.

Even after the Agranat Commission inquiry following the Yom Kippur War , when the roles, the powers, and the duties of the Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Chief of General Staff were clarified and the rules and standards of monitoring where established between the military and the political spheres, the military still continued to enjoy disproportionate status at the expense of the civilian authorities.

Defense expenditures increased dramatically after both the and wars. The budget changes came two months after Israel had approved its current two-year budget. The defense budget in stood at NIS The figure constituted 6. However, in , the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed course and moved to make significant cuts in the defense budget in order to pay for social programs.


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However, Israel's spending per capita is below that of the USA. Field rations , called manot krav , usually consist of canned tuna , sardines , beans , stuffed vine leaves , maize and fruit cocktail and bars of halva. Packets of fruit flavored drink powder are also provided along with condiments like ketchup , mustard , chocolate spread and jam. Around , the IDF announced that certain freeze dried MREs served in water activated disposable heaters like goulash , turkey schwarma and meatballs would be introduced as field rations.

One staple of these rations was loof , a type of Kosher spam made from chicken or beef that was phased out around The IDF possesses various foreign and domestically produced weapons and computer systems. Israel has also developed its own independent weapons industry, which has developed weapons and vehicles such as the Merkava battle tank series, Nesher and Kfir fighter aircraft , and various small arms such as the Galil and Tavor assault rifles , and the Uzi submachine gun.

Israel has also installed a variant of the Samson RCWS , a remote controlled weapons platform, which can include machine guns, grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles on a remotely operated turret, in pillboxes along the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier intended to prevent Palestinian militants from entering its territory.

Many of these developments have been battle-tested in Israel's numerous military engagements, making the relationship mutually beneficial, the IDF getting tailor-made solutions and the industries a good reputation. In response to the price overruns on the US Littoral Combat Ship program, Israel is considering producing their own warships , which would take a decade [90] and depend on diverting US financing to the project. Israel's military technology is most famous for its firearms, armored fighting vehicles tanks , tank-converted armored personnel carriers APCs , armoured bulldozers , etc.

Much of the IDF's electronic systems intelligence, communication, command and control, navigation etc. Israel is the world's largest exporter of drones. Israel is the only country in the world with an operational anti-ballistic missile defense system on the national level — the Arrow system, jointly funded and produced by Israel and the United States.

The Iron Dome system against short-range rockets is operational and proved to be successful, intercepting hundreds of Qassam , mm Grad and Fajr-5 artillery rockets fire by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip. Israel has also worked with the US on development of a tactical high energy laser system against medium range rockets called Nautilus or THEL. Israeli security industries developed both the satellites Ofeq and the launchers Shavit. Israel is known to have developed nuclear weapons. It is thought Israel possesses between one hundred and four hundred nuclear warheads.

M24 Sniper Weapon System Sa'ar 4. Hermes UAV. A female soldier of the unisex Caracal Battalion armed with the Israel Weapons Industries Tavor assault rifle with Meprolight 21 reflex sight. Spike ATGM. Arrow anti-ballistic missile. IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer. Typhoon Weapon Station armed with 25 mm gun. Merkava Mk 4m with Trophy active protection system , the first operationally tested Active Protection System for tanks. Yom Hazikaron , Israel's day of remembrance for fallen soldiers, is observed on the 4th day of the month of Iyar of the Hebrew calendar , the day before the celebration of Independence Day.

Memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top military personnel. A two-minute siren is heard at , which marks the opening of the official military memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis visit the graves of family members and friends who were killed in action.

On the evening before the remembrance day all shops, restaurants and entertainment places must close gates to the public no later than 7 P. The main museum for Israel's armored corps is the Yad La-Shiryon in Latrun , which houses one of the largest tank museums in the world. Israel Defense Forces parades took place on Independence Day, during the first 25 years of the State of Israel's existence.

Despite Promises, Israeli Military Expanded Religious Activity Over Past Two Years

They were cancelled after due to financial and security concerns. The Israel Defense Forces still has weapon exhibitions country-wide on Independence Day, but they are stationary. Starting on Independence Day on 14 May 5 Iyar , a strong military, commercial and political relationship were established between France and Israel until The highest level of the military collaboration was reached between and In the French president Charles de Gaulle limited the export of weapons to Israel.

This was the end of the "golden age" 20 years of relations between Israel and France. Both the U. Additionally the U. As a result of this, the US and Israel share the vast majority [ citation needed ] of their security and military technology. Since , Israel had been the largest annual recipient of U. In October , United States and Israel began their biggest joint air and missile defense exercise, known as Austere Challenge 12 , involving around 3, U. It is a facility used by the U. India and Israel enjoy strong military and strategic ties.

According to a Los Angeles Times news story the Mumbai attacks were an attack on the growing India-Israel partnership. Das thus "Their aim was to Germany developed the Dolphin submarine and supplied it to Israel. Two submarines were donated by Germany. The results aided the German development of an anti-tank system. In , the website DefenseNews revealed that Germany and Israel had been jointly developing a nuclear warning system, dubbed Operation Bluebird. As part of the deal during the early 60's Israel purchased second hand "Centurion" MBTs from the British, that used that money in the "Chieftain" development.

After the trials were done Israeli improvement and ideas were implemented by the British manufacturer, but British politicians cancelled the agreement with Israel and the program was shut down. The knowledge earned during the improvements on the "Chieftain", together with earlier experiments in tank improvements, gave the last push for the development and production of the "Merkava" tank.

United Kingdom has supplied equipment and spare parts for Sa'ar 4.


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British arms sales to Israel mainly consist of light weaponry, and ammunition and components for helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and combat aircraft. Russia has bought drones from Israel. Israel is the second-largest foreign supplier of arms to the People's Republic of China, only after the Russian Federation.

China has purchased a wide array of military hardware from Israel, including Unmanned aerial vehicles and communications satellites. China has become an extensive market for Israel's military industries and arms manufacturers, and trade with Israel has allowed it to obtain "dual-use" technology which the United States and European Union were reluctant to provide. As closely neighboring countries, Israel and Cyprus have enjoyed greatly improving diplomatic relations since During the Mount Carmel Forest Fire , Cyprus dispatched two aviation assets to assist fire-fighting operations in Israel — the first time Cypriot Government aircraft were permitted to operate from Israeli airfields in a non-civil capacity.

On 17 May , it was widely reported that the Israeli Air Force had been granted unrestricted access to the Nicosia Flight Information Region of Cyprus, and that Israeli aviation assets may have operated over the island itself. Israel and Greece have enjoyed a very cordial military relationship since , including military drills ranging from Israel to the island of Crete. Drills include air-to-air long-distance refueling, long-range flights, and most importantly aiding Israel in outmaneuvering the S which Greece has.

They have also signed many defense agreements, including Cyprus, in order to establish stability for transporting gas from Israel-Cyprus to Greece and on to the European Union-a paramount objective to the future stability and prosperity of all three countries, threatened by Turkey. Israel has provided extensive military assistance to Turkey. Turkey's main battle tank is the Israeli-made Sabra tank, of which Turkey has Israel has also supplied Turkey with Israeli-made missiles, and the two nations have engaged in naval cooperation.

But that is a far cry from saying that the actions of the IDF must be based on religious beliefs in a concrete manner. That is a giant leap. There are reasons of both principle and practicality here. In terms of principle, a liberal state is entitled to require its young people to perform military service only if it makes sure that the military operates according to values that enjoy a broad consensus. Soldiers will hesitate to charge into battle if they are alienated by the particular flag their commander is waving.

The Givati Brigade commander inserted his beliefs — which I personally share his command letter brought tears to my eyes — into the public sphere of the IDF. Without such representation, the army cannot function. The uniform of a senior officer, like the robe of a judge, is a symbol that the officer is acting on behalf of the national interest, as defined by the democratic system as a whole. The assassin who killed Rabin in November stated during his interrogation that he would not have acted without explicit religious sanctions.

But the crisis was only temporary. The party was reconstituted under the name The Jewish Home. It is important to bear in mind that a percentage of senior and mid-level officers in the elite units of the IDF are affiliated with the religious Zionists. The role that had been played in past decades by the Kibbutz Movement is now played by religious Zionism. So far, this has not had major political repercussions but the prospect of religious Zionist officers refusing to evacuate settlements hovers over Israeli politics.

During the past few decades, the ultra-orthodox community has gone through a different set of changes.

Insight: In Israeli military, a growing orthodoxy

The most important one is demographic. But given the higher birth rate in its ranks, that percentage - and the community's electoral weight - will go up in the coming years. The traditional landscape of ultra-orthodox parties dominated by East European rabbis changed in the s with the formation of Shass - a party representing orthodox and traditional Jews of Middle Eastern mostly North African descent.

The party reached a high point in the parliamentary elections when it obtained 17 out seats in the Knesset - it has since lost some of its original appeal and has been riven by dissension. During the last two decades of the previous century, the Islamic Movement enjoyed a heyday, but during the last few years its influence has declined.

Religion and Politics in the IDF Religion and Politics in the IDF
Religion and Politics in the IDF Religion and Politics in the IDF
Religion and Politics in the IDF Religion and Politics in the IDF
Religion and Politics in the IDF Religion and Politics in the IDF
Religion and Politics in the IDF Religion and Politics in the IDF

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