Serving in the Israeli Defense Forces – The I.D.F.
Hebrew: שירות צבאי – צה”ל – Israeli defense force
For the most part new immigrants have no experience with serving in the Israeli defense force (armed forces) unless they served as volunteers. Stories of how out ancestors escaped conscription in the Russian army at the beginning of the 20th century are common to many Anglo families or your granddad might have been a WWII or Vietnam Vet. South African men were conscripted for up to 2 years and fought in Angola, but conscription came to an end in 1993. Most of us have heard stories about the strength and might of the Israeli Defense Forced (I.D.F.) or Tzahal as it is referred to – Tzva HaHagana LeYisrael – צה”ל. Young adults from the diaspora may have volunteered in the Israeli army for a short period in programs like Mahal or SarEl but your compulsory national service is quite another story, it’s a huge and life-changing event.
How long will I have to serve in the Israeli defense force?
Most Israeli born boys spend 3 years in the armed forces and girls spend 2.
The length and type of your compulsory service is determined by the following factors: your age upon arrival in Israel, your medical profile, your marital status and if you have children.
Immigrant men over the age of 30 are exempt. Men, between ages 18 – 29 may be required to serve anywhere between 6 months and 36 months, depending on the factors mentioned above. Between the ages of 24 -29 your may also be eligible for exemption or only reserve duty. Again, this depends on the aforementioned factors. Your Aliyah organization and Lishkat Giyus – the conscription office – will help to determine your eligibility.
Unmarried women until the age of 20 are conscripted for 24 months. Married women in this age group are exempt. Women over the age of 20, married or not, are also exempt.
- Eran a lone soldier, read his story
- What to bring from home
- Induction day
- Volunteer programs within the IDF
- The IDF resources and information
Are new immigrants eligible to serve in the IDF?
Yes, new immigrants are eligible for conscription after 12 months of being in Israel.
I am not an immigrant, do I have to serve?
Every permanent resident is required to serve in the IDF, irrespective of the fact that you may hold foreign citizenship. You will need to clarify the conditions of this issue with the embassy or consulate of your native country.
I have done army service in another country. Do I still have to serve in the Israeli defense force?
You will be given a reduction in the length of your service in the IDF if you have served in a foreign army. You will of course, have to provide proof. All these substantiating documents need to be translated into Hebrew and notarized.
My parents are Israeli citizens. I live abroad. Am I eligible to serve in the IDF?
Children of Israeli citizens are required to serve in the Israeli army if they return to Israel. The length and type of service is determined by the factors previously mentioned: age, marital status etc.
How will I be called-up?
You are required to register with the IDF within 6 months of receiving new immigrant status. This can be done via your local IDF induction center (lishkat giyus – לשכת גיוס. Once registered, you will receive a call-up notice in the mail.
You may apply for a deferment with the draft board and it will be judged on its own merit. There is no guarantee that it will be allowed.
Should you wish to defer your army service to study, you are required to apply for deferment at the beginning of the academic year, no later than September. Deferment is for one year. You are required to re-apply every year that you are studying. You may only defer your conscription for a maximum of 4 academic years for engineering students and 3 years for other students.
If you are participating in a pre-academic program – a mechina, you can request a deferment.
Should you discontinue your studies, fail to submit a deferral on time or fail the academic year, you will not be able to defer your service any more. Other conditions for canceling a deferment also exist and you should investigate this fully with your Aliyah organization or the draft office in your area.
Exemptions from the army are given under certain circumstances. It could be on the basis of your religious beliefs or health issues etc. Each case is investigated and you would have to appear before an army board who will make the final decision.
A woman may be exempt if she can prove that she leads a religiously observant lifestyle, is married, pregnant or a mother.
Military Service Options in the IDF
An immigrant, doing the a full 36 month period of service, has the same service options as other Israeli recruits. Most job opportunities are open to both men and women. The length and intensity of your basic training will be as designated by that army unit.
Yeshiva students who wish to continue their studies, can participate in the various Hesder programs which are combined with military service. There are Hesder programs across the country. Yeshivat Har Etzion is one such yeshiva in the settlement of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion. You can reach the yeshiva at Tel. 972-2-9937300 Fax. 972-2-9931298 Email:office at etzion dot org
Will I get a placement in my profession?
There are no guarantees. If you are placed in your profession you are required to do 5 years of service.
1. You will receive an order to report for registration – tzav hityatzvut – often called a tzav rishon. This document details the date and you are required to present yourself and details of the lishkat giyus – the draft office in your area, that will be assessing you.
2. The IDF will cover your transport costs. Together with this notification you will receive vouchers allowing you to travel, for free, on that specific day, with the bus service.
3. For this first interview, you need to prepare and have, the following support documentation with you:
- Tzav hityatzvut
- The original and copies of degrees, diplomas and other certificates of professional qualifications.
- Teudat zehut – Israel identity card
- Teudat oleh – Israel immigrant card
- Your passport, valid and canceled ones, reflecting your visa and arrival dates
- Your driver’s license.
- Any documentation you may have that proves you have served in a foreign army
- Medical certificates
- Marriage or divorce certification.
- If you have undergone any didactic evaluations (ivchunim), you will need to bring these with you. They should be in Hebrew and signed by an accredited psychologist or didactic diagnostician.
- Details of your health-fund, name and contact details of your physician and specialist physicians.
4. Be prepared to spend the entire day at the draft office. While you should be able to complete the process in a few hours, there may be some hold-ups, so be prepared.
5. First you will be required to do a series of psychometric tests. The results of these test will be a factor in determining your suitability for a particular assignment or unit in the IDF. You may apply, at a later stage, to redo the psychometric tests if your Hebrew is not of a high standard.
6. A thorough medical examination will determine your medical profile which will also go toward determining your suitability for a particular corps or assignment in the IDF.
7. You will be placed in an army unit based on the results of all these tests, the IDF’s current requirements and a specific request from you. There is no guarantee that you will be placed in a unit of your choice.
While you may bring original documents with you, only hand in photocopies. Never, ever give anyone your original documents. This applies in all offices and situations where you are required to present documents. If you do, you will never see the original document again.