The Israel Defense Forces

Service is compulsory for most Jewish Israelis.

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Some soldiers decide to make the army their career. Professional soldiers get a host of fringe benefits, including generous pension plans that begin when they reach their mid-forties. Probably the most important benefit of the career service track is the network of acquaintances formed during the service that often opens up doors for prominent jobs for soldiers after they leave the army.

The army also has made an invaluable contribution to Israel’s economy. The premium placed on preserving Israel’s qualitative edge over superior enemy forces has made the army seek out cutting edge technology and has encouraged soldiers to use the equipment creatively. Many of the innovations that come out of the army are later used by decommissioned soldiers for civilian applications, a phenomenon which became the basis for Israel’s burgeoning high tech industry. Many elite units even developed a reputation for producing the whiz kids who left the army to establish start-ups or become project managers at existing companies. 

One profession where famous soldiers are sought after is politics. The name recognition that goes along with become high ranking generals and the security credentials make military men attractive assets to political parties. Chiefs of Staff and other top generals often make a smooth segue from IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to the cabinet room in Jerusalem. Three of the last four Israeli prime minister came to politics directly from the army. For all of the country’s idealizing of the military, some have lamented the lack of civil servants and professionals in the government positions occupied by generals. Yet despite this, Israel's ongoing military concerns make army service not only de rigueur for politicians, but for most Jewish Israelis.

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Joshua Mitnick is a freelance journalist living in Israel. His articles have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, The Toronto Star, The Newark Star Ledger, and The Washington Times.