PDA

View Full Version : Question for anyone who served in the IDF/Israeli Army



raburrell
06-11-2009, 05:06 PM
I'm in the research phase of a novel that's set partially in modern-day Jerusalem, with a main character who is a Russian Jew by heritage, American by citizenship, but living in Israel when the novel opens.

My question relates to the logistics of the mandatory army service requirement in Israel. (And I'll apologize in advance if this is a dumb question. I've been trying to read up on my own, but it feels impossible to find information that's not bound up in someone's political diatribe)

I know that women serve 28 months and men 4 years. Does this mean Israeli university students are 3-4 years older than their American counterparts?

errantruth
06-11-2009, 06:14 PM
Hey, I haven't served but know people who have.

1. Kids with great grades and potential for important career tracks which could leverage into more useful army service later are allowed to study first, and get higher positions (officer) in the army when they start serving. However, as I write this, I think that at a certain point, they are both studying and serving at the same time--they're not infantry, so this is possible.

2. Otherwise, yes, they join right after high school and are slightly older than American kids starting college.

3. Also, Israelis often take half a year or so to see the world, a gap year of sorts, before college (and after the army). These days they're traveling to the Caucasus, Turkey, Thailand, Greece, Indonesia, Africa, Latin America.... They tend to go exotic rather than to Western Europe or the US. Very few are going to Mongolia right now. (random details here)

4. I'm not so certain about the amount of time you mention for service, though. I thought it was a bit shorter.

5. Okay, another important note. Service in the army is really important in Israeli culture and in the forging of friendships and social networks which last WAY beyond service. A person who sidestepped service (unless they did this for religious reasons, ie is a Hasidic Jew who has chosen not to serve as the majority of them don't) or who arrived in Israel as a young twenty-something is going to have much fewer social connections and networks than one who served. There's a lot of cultural memory being forged there.

6. And you didn't ask this but I just thought I'd add--the Israeli Druze all volunteer for service. They have the highest volunteering percentage of any other ethnic group in Israel. And that includes Jews. Amazing detail, and it's because the extremely religious do not serve, by and large, although there are exceptions.

Hope that helps.

~ R

raburrell
06-11-2009, 06:28 PM
It does, thank you very much :)

errantruth
06-11-2009, 06:31 PM
Great :)
Good luck and enjoy!

~ R

errantruth
06-11-2009, 06:38 PM
One other random detail.

Even after they serve, men remain obliged to be available for service (to be called up) one month out of every year. They may not be called, but they may. This is the Israeli reserves. (Women do not have this obligation.)

The reserves is no safer than ordinary army service; death while serving is no less likely. It's designed based on need to keep fresh people protecting borders etc. And to keep as much of the population ready in case of a sudden all-encompassing war.

It makes it funny to compare that the Swedes are considering eliminating their army altogether. What different lives these two countries lead. :)

~ R

*** Just looked at Wikipedia; it says men serve three years, women two. That sounds more like what I recall...

raburrell
06-13-2009, 03:35 AM
Thanks! I did see those lengths of service indicated on wikipedia as well... The figures I quoted were from a blog somewhere, so I have no trouble believing they were wrong. Btw - your number 5 above really helped me with a plotting idea, so thanks for that. My MC didn't serve, and that fact will give me a lot to work with in terms of conflict.

errantruth
06-13-2009, 04:39 PM
Oh, great! I'm so glad. :)

~ Ruth

Prawn
06-14-2009, 10:22 PM
My novels are set in Israel. The IDF is really where the country comes together. Those relationships Israelis make during their armed service are likely to be life-long. Military service is where all of the disparate elements of the country come together and become one. It is where immigrants come to feel truly Israeli.
P

raburrell
06-14-2009, 10:57 PM
Thanks, Prawn. My MC is sort of a man-without-a-country type, and has a Gentile wife... but still feels a pull toward Israel. I think he'd feel some sense of loss/curiosity about not serving, even if he's got his own reasons for not doing it.

I'm glad to get some balanced perspective here. I tried to ask a guy in my office, who actually *is* a Russian Jew who moved to Israel, then settled in the States, but got a seriously scary rant in response.

EdwardL
06-17-2009, 03:23 AM
Please pardon my english, since it is not my native language. :)



I am an Israeli and served in IDF.

I'm not sure if you would like all the information about Israelis and how they serve in IDF, but I will post it anyway, since it might be a good info for your character's background.

First thing first; Every man or woman registered as a citizen of Israel at age of 18 must join the army. There are volunteers too; the religious ones and I'm not sure but I think non-Israeli citizens can join or can be recruited to the army too if needed, but I can't confirm that.

* There are, of course, issues that can grant you an option not to join the army, but it will affect your future attempts of getting a good job and such.

In case of a teenage Israeli Citizen:
Around age 16 you receive your first letter from the army, titled; "Giyus Rishon" in hebrew. "Giyus Rishon" is "First Recruitment" in hebrew.
It is a recruitment letter for the army that states that you need to come to the central army base near your city at stated date in order to pass an assortment of tests, consisting of physical, knowledge and other exams.
The test results from the exams provide the army enough information about your physical condition, if you have any medical history, your IQ, your psychological state and so on. Combining these tests results, the army generates a "profile rate" for you that rates from 21 (the lowest) to 97 (the highest).

Profile 21 is the lowest profile and automatically releases you from the army. This profile can be labelled as:
1. Released under medical reasons. - it means that you have been released from service in the army due to medical issue that makes you incapable of serving in the army.
2. Released under mental reasons. - it means that you have been released from service in the army due to mentally unstable issue. Profile 21 given due to mental issues is worse then Profile 21 given by medical issues, since it proves that you - the released soldier - was released due to mental disease, which proves to be more dangerous not only to the army but to the general public as well.

This profile will affect you and you won't be recruited to the army in the passing years after you finished serving your time in IDF - in case of war or a yearly recall, etc... It is also rumored that it is hard to get a drivers lisence with profile 21, but I never had to chance to confirm it.

This profile will also affect your chances to get a well paid job in the government or in such places that prefer to check your army record.
Note: These days every big company asks if you served in the army and if are willing to grant access for them to check your army profile. Everyone usually sign an agreement to grant access for the employing companies to check your army profile but they don't usually do it, except when it comes to such establishments as; The Government, The Police, The Secret Service, High Tech Companies, some Security Companies and so on.

Profile 21 also proves to be an embarassment in social life and many people who were released from the army due to low profile (21) either incapable of serving, or preferring to leave the army and "convince" the army that they are incapable of further serving in the army prefer to keep their low profile as secret so their social life won't get hurt due to it.

The profiles numbers range from 21 to 97 when 97 is the highest score and it means that if you have profile 97, your chances are that you end up being a fighter in one of the elite forces - might them be ground forces, navy or air forces.

Note: If you want to join an elite commando unit, there are trials, but no one will send you to any of them, unless you pass the tests, so its hard to get to the real commando units...

Until your actual recruitment to the army you will receive various letters with questionnaires that you need to fill and send back to the army for further decisions for the army to decide where they want to send you to and what profession in the army you will get. The questionnaires contain questions about "what would you like to be in the army, what do you like, and such".

There are two ways to be recruitted and it is partly decided by your army profile and the "profession" you had been assigned to.

1. After finishing 12 years of study (highschool included) you will be recruited to the army. It can be a month after you finish highschool or 6 months - depending on recruitment date. Recruitments occur every few months. I, for example, finished my 12 years of study in 20th of june and was recruited on july 7 same year.
Others, for example, might wait 3 to 6 months until their recruitment to the army.
2. If it is decided that you are keeping studying - this can be decided by very high grades, and if you are going to a prestigious college or university - you will be granted an authorization to study first and then be recruited to the army. People in this category usually go into devisions that reflect their university study (computers, intelligence forces, etc.)

For men, service time is 3 years long.
For women it is approximately 2 years long.

If I remember correctly both men and women who served full service time in the army will be called to serve for a short period of time (depending on their army profession) once a year. It is usually a month - and the army pays the salary. :)
If my memory doesn't fail me, this "reserve service" or "miluim" (in hebrew) ends at age of 50 for men. I'm not sure how long it lasts for women.

Unlike in many other countries, after boot camp - that lasts according to your army profession - each soldier can go home for a weekend, (called; "hamshush" in army slang) every week or every two weeks. Note! COOKS serve ONE WHOLE WEEK and then receive ONE WEEK AT HOME. So many "jobnikim" (hebrew slang word that refers to not-fighters-soldiers) prefer to choose as their army professions to stay more at home than the usual. :tongue

Its very late right now and I'm sure its plenty of information already, so if you would like to know more, I would be happy to share my knowledge and memories and experiences with you, so you can ask me whatever you feel like on this thread or send me an email to my mail; parekura@gmail.com


Hope i helped a bit,
private numer; 6937093 (army serial number given to every soldier on the date of recruitment) or EdwardL. :)

Good night!

Prawn
06-17-2009, 03:35 AM
Thanks for in the info EdwardL, and welcome to AW!

errantruth
06-17-2009, 04:21 AM
Rebecca,

How old is your MC when s/he arrives? As a Jew arriving in Israel to live...s/he is likely to be invited to serve in the army unless s/he's past a certain age. Especially men.

Some people do try steer clear for a while for that reason.

~ R

raburrell
06-17-2009, 05:15 AM
EdwardLWow - Thanks for all of that. I read a bit about Profile 21 on Wikipedia a few days ago, but your post gave me much better information about how the process of recruitment works. My MC has a brother who would be finishing high school (who *is* eager to serve), so this was greatly appreciated!

Ruth - This is mostly backstory, but my MC was 8 when he moved to Israel, after his father was killed in Russia. His mother remarried, and then his stepfather (a famed peace negotiator) was murdered by extremists. At that point, she moved my MC and his younger brother to the US, where they became citizens. The MC is in Israel on a sabbatical from a US university while working on a PhD in Middle East relations - his dream is to continue what his stepfather began.

I'm sure that's *way* more than you wanted to know, but... you asked lol. The IDF comes into play because a) his brother joins and b) his wife, an MSF physician working in the West Bank, gets caught up in something between Hamas, the Mossad, (and maybe the CIA), and the MC turns to an old friend of his stepfather's (who is a well-respected retired IDF officer) to help him sort out who he can trust. And from what you all have posted so far in this thread, I'm thinking the guy might be reluctant to help my non-serving MC at first... which is good :)

So... yeah. That's probably clear as mud at this point... But you've really helped me get a better handle on the *personal* feelings of people living on the Israeli side of the conflict, and I think it's going to help tremendously as I get started writing.

EdwardL
06-17-2009, 11:55 AM
I was glad to help. :)
Btw, your MC's brother who *is* eager to serve, in which army section (ground/aid/navy forces) he would like to serve and what does he see himself doing in the army?

If he is about to finish highschool, it means that he already has some point as to where he is about to serve and what will be his profession there. Does he feel satisfied with the army decision that chose that profession for him?

There are many youngs that wanted to have a certain job in the army, but the army decided otherwise and it could drag a potentially highly motivated soldier-wannabe into a "sluggish" soldier that might even try to "skip" the army due to disappointment.

I found a link about IDF (http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English) and its in english. Perhaps it might prove useful for you. :)

errantruth
06-17-2009, 02:39 PM
interesting! :)

So the MC sees his move to Israel as a temporary one, and he's still getting his PhD, so although he's still recruitable, he wouldn't be pushed into service. So that works and is fortunate for him. :)

In terms of the retired IDF contact, EdwardL could answer you more from a sense of being there. I'd bet there'd be a little shadow of reserve in being completely open with (MC) him or opening other contacts completely for him, just because there's an entire culture, values, historical memory etc that your MC won't share with the retiree.

It might help to also see if you can't find and read any biographies by famous Israelis that either worked in the army or else go into that part of their lives...so you can "feel" what your IDF retiree would be thinking...What sort of route he'd go to make decisions, etc...

It sounds like an awesome story! :) :) :)

~ R :)

Noah Body
06-17-2009, 04:18 PM
Edward, you provided some outstanding info!

EdwardL
06-17-2009, 05:30 PM
Why thank you Noah! :D

raburrell
06-18-2009, 12:45 AM
interesting! :)
In terms of the retired IDF contact, EdwardL could answer you more from a sense of being there. I'd bet there'd be a little shadow of reserve in being completely open with (MC) him or opening other contacts completely for him, just because there's an entire culture, values, historical memory etc that your MC won't share with the retiree.
Yes, that's what I was thinking as well. I do have some personal experience I can draw on there with friends who've served in the US Armed Forces


It might help to also see if you can't find and read any biographies by famous Israelis that either worked in the army or else go into that part of their lives...so you can "feel" what your IDF retiree would be thinking...What sort of route he'd go to make decisions, etc...

I'm currently reading Gideon's Spies, which is a history of the Mossad, and I'm definitely looking around for something on the IDF as well. If anyone has a suggestion, I'd be very grateful.


It sounds like an awesome story! :) :) :)

Thanks! Now if I can ever finish editing my first one lol



I was glad to help. :)
There are many youngs that wanted to have a certain job in the army, but the army decided otherwise and it could drag a potentially highly motivated soldier-wannabe into a "sluggish" soldier that might even try to "skip" the army due to disappointment.

Interesting thought... I haven't figured out much about him yet, but you're definitely giving me ideas. It's even the kind of thing someone could use as leverage against the MC.


I found a link about IDF (http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English) and its in english. Perhaps it might prove useful for you. :)
It did! Once again... thank you.