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The Idf: Economic, Political, And Cultural Sociological Effects

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The IDF: Economic, Political, and Cultural Sociological Effects

It is necessary for all countries to have an army in order to defend it. Israel is no exception. However, the unique character of the Israeli army shapes the culture and personality of Israel and its people. The army has influenced every aspect of Israeli society, from its economy to politics to its culture.

Before one can comprehend the affect of the army on Israel, a brief history is necessary. Israel's armed forces, known as the Tsva Ha-Haganah Le-Yisrael, often abbreviated Tsahal, and known in English as the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF, includes the Israel army, Israel air force and Israel navy. Ever since it was formed following the founding of Israel in 1948, Israel has been under constant attack. There has been a war in Israel approximately every ten years, which has created an atmosphere of anxiety among Israelis because they relentlessly fear for their lives. The most well known of these wars, which have transformed Israel into the society it is today, include the War of Independence in 1948, the Six-Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the current al-Aqsa Intifada. Each war was on the defensive and as victorious for the Israelis as the one that preceded it. In 1947, after the United Nations partitioned the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, both Jews and Arabs criticized aspects of the plan. The Jewish population for the most part welcomed the plan, but the Arab leadership and others who opposed the Jews having their own state rejected it. The Arab leadership organized Palestinian volunteers to wage guerilla warfare against the Jewish cause, and thus the war began. After the War of Independence, Israel got 50% more land than they were originally allocated by the United Nations. This was the first of many conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. Security today is at an all time high. Although the Intifada is by no means a normal war, Israel is still being attacked. The thought on everyone's mind is defense. This is the precise reason for the vigor and strength of the Israeli army. The army needs to have the power to be ready for combat at a moments notice. These are examples of why there is such a strong dependence on the army in Israel.

Because of the knowledge that at any moment they can, and probably will, be attacked, there is a sense in the army that they are actually physically protecting the country, as opposed to just representing it. A constant sense of dread they live with attributes to the Israeli collective mentality. In fact, polls consistently show that the majority of Israelis would volunteer for the army, even if it were not mandatory. In a country that has never had permanent borders, and because Israel has always been in a state of war, or semiwar, they have learned to always be prepared. "Israel has 'only' about 140,000 full-time troops, as significant portion of its population, but its real military strength lies in the 400,000 reserve soldiers who serve four to six weeks a year" (Rosenthal 49). Israelis have a deep devotion towards their country as well as a strong connection with their fellow citizen due to their direct and constant involvement in the army. In other words, because an overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens have been and are currently active in the army, it creates a sense of ownership over the land, as well as a collective and shared experience with soldiers both past and present.

The Israeli army has a major impact on the financial success of its citizens. Since they are drafted as soon as they turn 18, they are missing out on what would be (in other countries) perceived as "vital time in the formulation of [his/her] personality and career" (Kimmerling 157). The army has a big part of their development as people because of the major role it plays in their life in their critical developmental years. This is shown in their colloquial expressions, which are filled with military terms. For example, the phrase "she's a bomb" would translate into "the girl is sexy." The many vernacular phrases containing military terms show the country's preoccupation with war. Furthermore, in most countries, college is the stepping-stone to a better career later in life. However, in Israel, the army is that stepping-stone. Generally, the more success one has in the army, the better the career options are post-army. If one chooses not to go into the army, it is normally frowned upon and questioned during interviews. Even after the mandatory three-years of service for men and twenty months of service for women is completed, their military duty is not done. Following compulsory service, Israeli men become part of the IDF reserve forces, and are usually required to serve a number of days every year as reservists, until their forties. However, their reserve duty can be extended at the discretion of the government based on their need. These soldiers face enormous difficulties in their home lives, careers, and academic studies because of the prolonged absences due to reserve duty. Depending on the situation, reserve service can extend from a number of days to a number of months. In once case, during the Yom Kippur war and its aftermath, many reserve soldiers ended up serving six months or more in some cases. The absence of so many men from the work force for such a long periods of time had a brutal effect on Israel's economy. This prompted the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) to pass a law, which gave those serving over six months special benefits. However, this also prompted accusations that the IDF were releasing of soldiers after five months of service, only to call them back a short while later, denying them the benefits. On the other hand, compulsory military service has its advantages, especially for the underprivileged classes. They can acquire an education and learn important technical skills, that they could not have otherwise attained, which could help them later in their careers and in life. The army was once known for its aptitude in integrating immigrants into Israeli society because they taught the newcomers such valuable trades. Educating the lower strata benefited Israeli economy because it resulted in more people attributing to the society, who would not have had the skills in order to do so.

The biggest way the Tsahal has an effect on Israeli politics is because of the fact that most senior officers in the army choose to have their second careers in politics. There are those who, after the compulsory service, choose to stay to pursue a career in the army. However, in Israel, the army has a "quick rotation of senior manpower" (Ben-Dor 332). In other words, most senior officers are discharged from the army, generally in by their forties in order to



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