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The Merkava Mk.4. Cool Tank and Awesome Personnel Carrier rolled into one. And yes, it can shoot missiles too.

"I'll say one thing about Israelis. Don't cross them"
—Rachel Menken, Mad Men

The Israeli Defence Force. Formed in 1948 from the various La Résistance factions of the time, involved in at least one war per decade, usually against numerically superior Arab forces, all won or tied, except for the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which it debatably lost. In terms of flying skills (as measured in tactical exercises vs American and NATO forces) the IDF has some of the best pilots in the world. This is also evidenced by their very good record against Arab aircraft, even if said aircraft are downgraded export versions of Soviet stuff- look up "Bekaa Valley turkey shoot" for an idea. (even though Israel is partly able to make up for it with superior mobilization, this can be considered a real life example of Conservation of Ninjutsu). As a result, if you're looking for an Ace Pilot post WWII, Israel (or Pakistan) should be the first place you check.

The State of Israel uses universal conscription of both sexes. This has resulted in the IDF gaining a reputation for hot female soldiers.

Israel's principal military supplier until the early 1960s was France. The United States became Israel's major supplier after the Six Day War and remains so until the present day. However, over the decades Israel has developed its own defense industry, developing, among others, a number of local aircraft, an indigenously developed series of main battle tanks and APCs, several types of missile boats, various firearms, rocket and missile systems, combat related robots, electronic warfare systems and a wide range of UAVs. Despite this, what most people would probably say when asked what weapon was made in Israel, would probably be"the Uzi".

Israel was also the first export customer for the F-15 Eagle and first to use it, as well as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, in combat. The Israeli air force is still responsible for over half the air to air kills for both fighters to this day.

Israel has nuclear weapons (created during the time Israel collaborated with the French, with mutual assistance regarding nuclear programs) but official sources will neither confirm nor deny such weapons existence when asked. Any speculation you may hear about quality and quantity of such weapons is likely just that - speculation, although Israeli officials have on several occasions openly admitted to it before retracting the statement. Israel's nuclear arsenal is sometimes called "the worst-kept secret in the Middle East". According to historians and biographers of Israeli figureheads, this is completely intentional--the nuclear arsenal's purpose is to deter, not to be used.

Due to Israel's universal conscription, it is often assumed that all Israeli adults have military training, and are therefore combat capable. This is not entirely true, as both Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews (but not Druze or Circassians) are exempt from conscription, and usually do not serve. Also a non-negligible percentage of the population that does need to serve avoids it anyway. So not all Israelis have military training... just most of them. It's also important to note that most of the IDF's personnel are non-combat soldiers that have only a very basic combat training.

Related to this is the Israeli intelligence service. The Mossad (the Israeli counterpart to the CIA) is infamous for carrying out assassinations, as well as being very good at their job in general.

PS - "IDF" is the English translation. If you're ever in the area, you might refer to the Israeli army as "Tzahal" (the short version of the Hebrew name, Tzva HaHaganah LeYisra'el, literally "Defense Army for Israel",צה"ל, צבא הגנה לישראל).

See also: Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Tropes include:

  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Merkava is this and a Cool Tank at the same time.
  • Badass Army
  • Badass Israeli: The IDF is naturally a noted hangout of these.
  • Berserk Button: Aqaba was this during the Six-day War.
  • Catch Phrase: "Masada shall not fall again."
  • Cool Plane: One of the best airforces in the world. Possibly the best. And it's not just because they have cool planes. Check out the story of Zivi Nedivi.
  • Cool Tank: Israelis love these.
  • Conscription: This allows Israel to punch above its weight in numbers. However keeping a lot of people under arms permanently can hurt the economy.
    • The conscription is actually believed to help the Israeli economy quite a bit. Its mostly a matter of mental state--there is no shortage of ex-officers with leadership experience, and the military encouraged attitude of taking the initiative. Doing the likes of say, forming a business plan, doesn't seem all that daunting a task for someone who's trained to plan for and keep his head in a life and death situation as part of his job description.
      • The keywords here are "believed" and "seem", as many Israelis whose bosses are former army officers, will testify. Military officers usually need to retrain extensively to function as civilian managers - probably something to do with employees needing to be asked instead of told.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome
    • Here's four. The first: during the Six Day War, the Israelis launched a sneak attack which destroyed almost the entire Egyptian Air Force while it was still on the ground. On the first day Israel destroyed the Egyptian airforce. On the next five they kicked ass with full air support. On the seventh day they rested.
    • The second: Rallying from near-complete military deactivation on the holiest day of the year to repel an invasion during the Yom Kippur War.
    • The third: The Raid on Entebbe. If you've ever seen the movie with Charles Bronson, you might think it's over-dramatic. It's not: the raid was that insanely awesome.
    • The fourth: in 1981, the Israeli intelligence heard that Saddam Hussein was developing a nuclear program. So they sent a squadron of planes to fly over to Iraq - over 600 miles away - and blow it up. And it worked - the nuclear program was delayed by at least 20 years, and when the American troops came to finish the job in Desert Storm, they found out that "the Israelis did most of our work for us".
    • Better make that five, the very first war the Israelis fought was the 1948 war with the Arabs, and that was the same day it was declared a state. The Israelis fought and repulsed all 10 Arab States that attacked it, marking the beginning of this trope.
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: Several soldiers on patrol being hit with a surprise attack of Ke$ha music... and dancing to it.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: The Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, which means "the hope".
    • YMMV on this, as some Israelis are upset that we have the most depressing national anthem in the world. Where most nations have something uplifting and patriotic, Hatikvah is a big Tear Jerker with a Bittersweet Ending.
      • Funny, that was what I liked about it. It felt like an anti-jingoistic patriotism in which people could love their country while not forgetting that War Is Hell.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The IDF has a history of handing these out to the Arabs. The Six-Day War is one of the most one-sided wars in history. For six days, the Israelis beat the crap out of the Arabs. And on the seventh day they rested.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Attack Israeli targets, and Mossad's kidon unit will hunt you down and kill you anywhere on earth.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Yoni Netanyahu at Entebbe.
  • Determined Homesteader: Kibbutzim
  • Eagle Squadron: The Jewish Brigade in World War II serving in the British Army (this only partially counts as Britain was their Feudal Overlord at the time. But it was recruited in that spirit.). Also a number of foreigners during the '48 war.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Moshe Dayan
  • Faux Action Girl: The great majority of female soldiers in the IDF, who serve in non-combat divisions.
  • Fighting For a Homeland
  • Feudal Overlord: The British Empire. Israel was a working nation long before official independence. This is one reason it survived the '48 war. However it was officially a dependent on The British Empire.
  • Good-Looking Privates: As the Real Life section of that page notes, pretty much every Miss Israel will have been in the IDF.
  • Improvised Weapon: The Haganah used to make bullets out of lipstick tubes.
    • Actually, they created bullets in secret and pretending that they were lipstick tubes. The real thing wouldn't make a very good bullet. They also hid weapons inside of milk cans and explosives in gas tanks of trucks to hide them from the Brits.
  • Initiation Ceremony: For most units, basic training concludes with a long march to a historically or otherwise significant site (depending on the unit, usually Masada or the Western Wall) to be sworn into the IDF and receive their corps berets.
  • Memetic Mutation: When a squad of IDF soldiers broke out into Kesha Dance in Hebron.
  • Mighty Glacier: The armored D9 bulldozer is a 65-ton behemoth that will slowly but surely raze anything to the ground, and can endure attacks that would destroy most other vehicles.
  • The Migration
  • The Not-Secret: The aforementioned nuclear weapons.
  • One-Man Army: Zvika Greengold.
  • Peace Through Superior Firepower: The goal of the IDF.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Israel has a smaller territory and population then several states in the area, and it is probably the most feared.
    • In this case, "smaller territory" works out to "about 200 miles long, and about one third of that at its widest."
  • Proud Warrior Race: This actually goes all the way back to the ancient Hebrews, who were renowned as warriors.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Orde Wingate, an English officer who trained militiamen to pursue Arab raiders in the night. If you ask Wikipedia though, they would tell you he was an Ax Crazy Church Militant.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The IDF has, I shit you not, designed a gun which consists of a rifle with a stuffed cat on the end of it. The entire purpose is to cause the enemy to hesitate in firing at a "cat", thus giving the Israeli time to get a few shots of their own in.
  • The Scrounger: On one notable occasion, one Haganah agent was negotiating with a Czech Arms Dealer. To get the money needed he had to collect it from private contributions, doing things like walking into the local Jewish quarter and drumming up money.
  • Storming the Castle: Entebbe
    • The attack on the fortified Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Twice. Once when the Haganah learned to hunt down Arab guerrillas during the Arab revolt against the British (One British writer said: "They discovered that they were soldiers."). And in the Six-Day War when they surprised everyone by how much they had changed from the Militia they once were.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: The British Officer Orde Wingate did this for the Haganah militia. Including a 20-year-old Ruth Westheimer, trained as a sniper and wounded in the '48 war. "Pintsized Powerhouse", indeed.
  • Trigger Happy: Understandably so - they are surrounded on all sides by nations that are not only hostile but want to end Israel's existence. Then there are the Palestinian terrorists, who operate from urban areas.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Many of the Arabs during the '48 thought they were going to a pogrom not a war. The Jordanians who lived next to them knew differently.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Jordanian Arab Legion, the only Arab military that consistently held its own against the IDF. The West Bank would probably still be Jordanian if the IAF hadn't destroyed almost the entire Royal Jordanian Air Force in the first day of the Six-Day War, granting the IDF the advantage of air support.
  • You Shall Not Pass: The Seventh Armored Brigade on the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War. In particular, one guy - Zvika Greengold.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Being an Iron Woobie for 2000 years does get rather tiresome.

The IDF in fiction

  • Herman Wouk's novels The Hope and The Glory
  • Mirage by James Follett, a spy thriller detailing exactly * how* the Israelis managed to get the Mirage aircraft from the French.
  • Spooks Accidentally kills about 70 kids in a Gaza school
  • Eagle in the Sky- A Wilbur Smith novel that features a South African join the IDF, then get thrown out after chasing Syrian fighters into Syria, losing his wingman and getting disfigured in the process.
  • Independence Day - In an interesting example of... optimism... Israeli and Syrian pilots hide aircraft in the Golan heights and launch a combined attack on the alien fleet after the American example.
  • Operation Yonatan
  • The Zombie Survival Guide: An Israeli paratrooper platoon stops a zombie outbreak in an Egyptian village in the 70's. Trading zombies as biological weapons leads to the Egypt-Israel detente.
    • World War Z, from the same Verse; the IDF ends up enforcing a voluntary quarantine of the country after the Outbreaks begin, and has to fight a civil war with the ultra-orthodox as a result of this and other security and practical measures.
  • Yossi & Jagger
  • Waltz with Bashir is a complete deconstruction of this trope.
  • Y: The Last Man: being the only people in the region to employ female soldiers puts Israel in a strong position when all the men die. IDF leader Alter becomes a major antagonist in the series.
  • Tom Clancy's Endwar: Israel is officially neutral in World War III, but very, very quietly aids and supports the European Federation.
  • Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears: Opens during the Yom Kippur War, where a nuclear armed IDF aircraft is lost in action, providing the McGuffin for the plot.
  • While not precisely a member of the IDF, Earth Force Colonel Ari Ben-Zayn (a one-shot character) from Babylon 5 plays on all the tropes about the suspicion and toughness of Israeli soldiers--and has a massive scar to show for it. Ben-Zayn loosely translates to "Son of a Gun," so that makes it a Bilingual Bonus.
    • Not xactly... Zayn is... well... you know... slang for dick.
    • That's part of the joke. The word means "weapon", but it's mostly used as slang for a a dick. And both meanings are entirely appropriate here.
  • You Don't Mess With the Zohan parodies this trope to no end with Zohan (Not an Israeli name) Dvir (An Israeli name), a supersoldier who can do push ups with no hands, kick two people at the same time, leap over walls, run on ceilings, and feel no pain from a piranha in the swim-suit. He has a Palestinian equivalent called the Fantom, too.
  • The IDF is a playable faction in the Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality.
  • The "all Israelis have military training" is invoked in Vortex by Larry Bond. In order to take out South Africa's nuclear arsenal, the US military enlists the aid of an Israeli professor who helped the South Africans develop said arsenal. The original plan called for the professor to train the American commandos in disarming nuclear warheads. When developments force the op to launch ahead of schedule, the American commander decides to take advantage of the professor's military training (he was an infantryman) and have him come along. The thinking is that even if he's just an infantryman, he'll be able to handle himself on a battlefield.
  • Ziva David from NCIS was a Mossad kidon operative.