Israelis are badass. No ifs, ands, or buts. They are a Proud Warrior Race and it is a national law that each one must have a Moment of Awesome on his Bar Mitzvah. The polite softspoken Israeli with glasses is a myth. If one miraculously appears, you can count on him being a Badass Bookworm. If an Israeli is a villain you can count on him being something cool like an Arms Dealer or an assassin. Every female Israeli is an Action GirlSquadette who always looks great in her combat fatigues and beret with her Uzi jauntily slung over her shoulder. Every male Israeli is an Ace Pilot, or a spy for the Mossad (their other intelligence agencies are so secretive, Hollywood hasn't heard of them; and anyway no one can beat that name for coolness ). The Israeli Defense Force does not have a single Obstructive Bureaucrat like, oh, every other army in the entire world. It is too much of a Badass Army.
The above is partial Truth in Television, since the IDF maintains a more independent, less regimented mode of operation than many militaries, training their units to think on their feet. This, however, also leads to the IDF making mistakes that a more regimented army wouldn't.
Also somewhat corresponds to Israeli Jews' preferred nickname for themselves: tsabar (pl. tsabarim) or (Translated, robbed of its coolness) "Prickly Pears." tsabar (English: "sabra") are cactus fruits, soft and sweet on the inside, but tough, thorny and nigh impenetrable outside.
Fun Fact: "Israel" literally translates to "wrestles with God", after Jacob did just that.
Related to Israelis with Infrared Missiles. Can loosely apply to non-Israeli Jewish characters who are as tough as shoe leather, at least if their Jewishness is played up enough. Can often be Truth in Television too, as evidenced below.
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Sabra from Marvel Comics is a badass female member of the Mossad and a mutant to boot. And is the SOLE superhero for Israel, which she is more than qualified for. Her codename is the Anglicized form of tsabar.
Richard Dragon "Iron" Aron Abromowitz, a former MOSSAD agent and one of the deadliest martial artists in the world, in the latest series.
In Y: The Last Man, Israel becomes a regional military superpower (even more than it is now) because its armed forces contain the most trained and serving women, both relative to its population and in absolute numbers, after the gendercide wipes out a large chunk of other nation's military. Like in real life, many of these women are shown to be inexperienced in actual combat since most women in the Israeli Defense Force are used in support and logistical positions, but they possess the training and background experience to maintain a functioning warmachine. Israel has occupied large portions of the Middle East, and can even project force as far away as the United States, when Alter crosses the Atlantic in an attempt to find the last man. Her soldiers might be inexperienced, but Alter herself is badass (Also psychotic, obsessed, willing to kill innocent people to achieve her goals, and looking to die...but still badass).
Sharmin Rosen, a one-shot character in the 1988 comic miniseries Batman: A Death in the Family. She was born in New Jersey and emigrated to Israel as soon as she was old enough to leave home (and at one point, self-identifies as an Israeli despite being American-born). She works for the Israeli intelligence, knows judo and has no qualms about shooting Lebanese terrorists in the head. More to the point, she is one of three women who could possibly be the biological mother of Jason Todd (Robin). How Jason's father actually met her is never explained, but they were obviously just friends: Sharmin admits to never having given birth to a child in Gotham City.
IDF sniper Isabelle in Predators, who is the only woman in the group.
You Don't Mess With The Zohan an Adam Sandler movie plays this for laughs and takes it up to eleven. Zohan is, simply put, the baddest man alive. His Palestinian rival the Phantom (a man so awesome in his own right that he can walk on the ceiling) is the only man in the world whose awesomeness can even compare, and he still does not come close. Zohan's most badass feat is shown in a flashback when after being captured and having a hand cut off, said severed hand flies up, chokes his interrogator to death and then fetches Zohan a drink. To top it off, he's surprisingly effeminate.
Mordechai in The Hebrew Hammer if he is really an Israeli, the movie is kinda vague about the location. But he even has his parody of the Shaft theme.
Gisele Yashar in Fast Five is a sexy ex-Mossad agent (played by real Israeli actress Gal Gadot).
Referenced in City Of God. Part of the sales pitch for some Brazilian arms dealers is to point out the Star of David on an Uzi to note that the gun is "Jewish."
Eyal in Walk On Water begins the movie as a straight example but is gradually deconstructed. In the film, he is forced to take on lighter work until he can pass a psychological exam, and ends up pretending to be a tour guide for the grandson of a Nazi war criminal still at large.
The shotgun-toting Rabbi in Lucky Number Slevin certainly qualifies. Some of his Orthodox Jewish henchmen are also pretty tough.
To varying degrees this applies to all members of the assassination squad in Steven Spielberg's Munich. Avner and Steve are both ex-Mossad while the rest of the squad make up for in guile and viciousness what they lack in military experience.
While the male protagonist in the film Ushpizim is living a quiet religious life, backstory reveals that his temper was once feared throughout Eilat's criminal element. Even after years within a religious community, his career-criminal friends find his rage terrifying.
The Israeli animated documentary Waltz with Bashir deconstructs the image of the badass Israeli soldier, looking at how the 1982 Lebanon War changed various soldiers, and in particular the events surrounding the Sabra and Shatila massacre (which was carried out by a group of Lebanese Christians) that Israel did nothing to stop.
Ex-Mossad (or perhaps not-quite-ex-Mossad) agent Levi Abrams in the Babylon Rising series.
Major Kabakov in Black Sunday. When a perp won't talk, he suggests offering the man some refreshments. "Call me when he has finished eating his testicles."
In the Burke books by Andrew Vachss, Burke sometimes asks for and receives help from Israeli spooks working in the US.
Ender's Game Invoked. There is a myth that "Jewish generals never lose".
Exodus by Leon Uris is Very Loosely Based on a True Story, namely, the founding of the State of Israel after World War II. The characters all take levels in badass, going from "trapped in a Russian ghetto" to "walking across Eurasia" to "taking on an entire village with just a whip" to "running an unarmed freighter through the whole Royal Navy." Then, the newly-formed nation fights off the combined force of the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi armies.
Ernest K. Gann's The Antagonists, a semi-fictionalized account of the siege of Masada, features an entire mountain full of badasses. Said mountain is so impenetrable that they had to flatten out one side of the mountain into a ramp to reach them.
Heidi shrugged out of her leather jacket, tossed it aside, and pulled her black T-shirt off, revealing an olive-drab bra that looked as combat-ready as any bra Hollis had ever seen. "Nice bra." "Israeli."
In the How to Ruin series by Simone Elkeles, Amy's Israeli boyfriend Avi.
In The High Crusade, Israel is actually shown as the ruler of a starfaring empire.
In the Burn Notice season 1 episode "Family Business", the episode's antagonists are The Zamar Family:Arms Dealers". The family members have varying levels of badass; the father is ex-Mossad, but the younger son is not too terribly bright, so the Guile Hero mostly deals with the latter and stays the hell away from the former.
How does he stop them? He doesn't, he just spooks them with some random explosions, and not letting them know who's after them. They leave to find safer territory, and do the same general thing somewhere else
Annie from Covert Affairs works with Eyal Lavine, a Mossad agent, in one episode, and he's unimpressed with her amateurish ways. Later she grows on him.
In further episodes Eyal appears as either an ally or a Worthy Opponent depending on the vagaries of the spy game.
The Entourage gang suspect that Vince has a stalker, so they go overboard and hire a hardcore Israeli security team.
Hana Gitelman from Heroes. Granted, she showed up mostly in the Graphic Novels, but she was awesome nonetheless.
The sexy neighbor in Hung is a very fit and sexually aggressive Israeli former Squadette, with strong opinions about hummus.
Mikel, Elliot's female Israeli muscle counterpart, in the Leverage episode "The Two Live Crew Job" .
Mad Men referenced this in an episode where executives of the company try to learn about Israel while considering how to pitch it as a tourist destination. All they can figure out on their own is that the women are attractive and have machine guns. When asked for her opinion on Israelis, a New York Jew can only advise Don Draper not to cross them.
Ziva David, who is so badass that Gibbs has to remind her to slash the FBI's tires, not their throats. Heck, when she's left out of missions, it's for the suspect's safety, not hers.
Ziva's brother Ari.
Michael Rivkin despite his unpleasant looks and personality could be interpreted more as a Worthy Opponent than a villain. He was still doing his job, the prey he was pursuing were dangerous enemies, not innocents, and he was effectively doing the same sorts of things Ziva did before she switched jobs. At least until he attacked Tony. He was drunk out of his mind when he did that though, but was hiding it really well.
Eli David's bodyguards were Badass Israelis. They were also nicer than Michael and one is a beautiful Lady of War.
In a fourth season episode of Queer As Folk, when a man is bashed on the street, an angry gay man tries to convince the community that they should stop being such "wimps" and defend themselves. The example he uses to protest against gays taking offensive slurs lying down: "Try calling an Israeli a kike! Man, they'd blow your ass right off the face of the Earth!"
Israeli bombshell Yael in Weeds takes this in interesting directions, especially in her story about her dead commanding-officer boyfriend; apparently when she brought a man in for a threesome, he shot her in the shoulder, but she admits that if he hadn't she would've thought he was a pussy. Plus this whole speech begins with "Israeli men are so macho."
Eton Ben-Eliezer, the Greek's drug lieutenant in The Wire.
Meta-example: The titles of the American, Australian, British, Thai, and Vietnamese versions of Iron Chef are all more or less direct translations of the original Japanese Ryōri no Tetsujin. The Israeli version, however, is called Krav Sakinim—"Knife Fight".
In Andromeda one of the Nietzchean Prides is named "Sabra". As Nietzchean naming customs always seem to relate to Badass stuff, they must hold Israelis in high regard.
Texas country singer James Mc Murtry's "Choctaw Bingo" contains the lyric: "...and a Desert Eagle, that's one great big ol' pistol/I mean, .50 caliber made by badass Hebrews..."
Appropriately enough, given the country. The Old Testament in The Bible is the Ur Example , which portrays the Israelites as a Proud Warrior Race. Of course, it was written by the Hebrews for the Hebrews, so its possible that their objectivity might not be all that it could be.
As just one example, Samson kills a thousand soldiers with the jawbone of a donkey...and follows up with a pun.* It even works in English: "With an ass's jawbone I have made asses of them." He also lifted two-ton doors and took them for a hike, lifted a loom by his hair, tore a lion apart with his bare hands, and, imprisoned, blinded and chained to a wall for his enemies to laugh at, simply yanked the chain hard enough to pull down the entire building.
Earlier in the same book, the first example of Mossad-style infiltration and assassination is done by a short, left-handed dorknamedEhud. (He is said to have invented the double-edged sword.)
There is also Shamgar, mentioned only in one verse. All it says is he took an ox goad (which is essentially a stick with a pointy end, and a hooked end) and singlehandedly slaughtered a group of 300 Philistines.
Don't forget Deborah.
Or her contemporary, Jael—killed Sisera the nasty general by tiring him out with sex, stuffing him with heavy food and milk to put him to sleep, and driving a tent stake through his head. This single-handedly won a war.
Barak is something of a double subversion, though. He refused to go into battle against the Canaanites unless Deborah agreed to go with him, which she did. Of course, this only further cements Deborah's own badassery.
The bit with the sciatic nerve, by the way is why Jews don't eat it—meaning, thanks to the economics of removing the blasted thing, that they don't eat the hindquarters of most four-legged animals (they generally elect to sell the bits to some very pleased Gentile neighbors).
Elijah's successor Elisha could summon she-bears to attack those who insulted him. Granted, he seems to have been over-sensitive since he set those bears on a group of boys.
Judas (no not THAT Judas.) who started the rebellion against the Greeks, aka Judah the Hammer/Yehudah Ha Maccabee.
During the training mission in Hitman: Codename 47, the main character has a chance to try out an Uzi, the voice over the loudspeaker notes that it" "must be a fine weapon if the Israelis use it with such zeal".
In the Rainbow Six series, Ayana Yacoby is portrayed as a upper to top tier special forces commando, and in the story driven Lockdown shown to be not only Bad Ass, but bitchy as well.
Subverted, if not outright averted in The Salvation War, as the author has a far more negative view of the Israeli military qualitatively (not morally): an Israeli helicopter raid to take the Minos Gate is successful (though with unfortunate collateral damage), but he Israeli army is regarded by other countries' armies as brave to a fault but reckless (with both driving and fire discipline), and the Israeli Navy is outright dangerously incompetent. Basically all the badassery isn't worth a damn when that attitude led to, in trying to avoid Rear-Echelon Motherfuckers (REMFs), getting rid of the ethic needed for seemingly "unmanly" staff work... like keeping track of your own nuclear submarine!
According to a more properly-trained general at the Israeli central headquarters, no one would have found it plausible if it were written fiction, yet here it was happening before his very eyes. According to him (and the author out-of-character), the USS Liberty incident was due to a previous catastrophic failure on the Israeli Navy's part.
Israel has been involved in seven conflicts that it recognizes as "wars" since its inception, plus any number of violent conflicts with its neighbors and internal strife that it doesn't think of as wars. But the three that cement Israel's reputation are these:
The 1948 War of Independence: the newly-formed state had to fight off basically all the countries around it. Highlights include 150 soldiers, not all of whom were even experienced soldiers, achieving "tactical stalemate" against Syrian forces consisting "of one infantry brigade, one tank battalion, two armored vehicle battalions, and one artillery battalion."
The Six-Day War: Egypt and Syria massed their forces for an invasion after Soviet intelligence incorrectly told Egyptian Vice-President Anwar Sadat that the Israelis were planning an invasion of Syria. Israel launched the most impressive preemptive strike in modern history, destroying the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian Air Forces in a matter of hours. Iraq attempted to send in reinforcements to assist the Arab armies, but before they could fire a single bullet, they were halted by Israeli aircraft raining down napalm upon them. The war ended up with Israel capturing the entire Sinai peninsula, Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank (including all of Jerusalem, reuniting the city), tripling its territory. On the seventh day, they rested.
The Yom Kippur War: Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel during the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, when a large percent of the population would not have been anywhere near a phone and were fasting. Israel knew there was something coming, but could not launch a a preemptive attack without sacrificing American support. By the time a ceasefire was reached, Israel was within 50 miles of both Cairo and Damascus. Even at this level of success, Israel still regarded the war as a failure and a blow to their aura of invincibility.
In this case, it's rather justified that they call it a failure: while the Syrian forces were a bit of a joke to begin with, the Egyptian forces should have been able to hold the Sinai—but the general in charge of the Third Army was a dithering, indecisive fool who managed to get this gigantic force completely encircled. Along with other bad generalship, the Egyptians fought far worse than they should have (probably because Sadat had kicked his best general upstairs for political reasons, and his second-best general was killed by an Israeli shell while visiting a trench during the War of Attrition). Had the Egyptians been able to put up a competent resistance to the Israeli counteroffensive, it might (paradoxically) have been better for Israeli post-war morale (since they would have fought an enemy who actually knew how to fight back, rather than...well...that general).
Moshe Dayan, mastermind of the pre-emptive strike in the Six-Day War, complete with Eyepatch of Power.
Golda Meir, one of the first female heads of state of the modern world (nicknamed "The Iron Lady" before Margaret Thatcher), was involved in the founding of Israel.
Imi Liechtenfield, a boxer who lived in Bratislava during anti-Semitic riots, developed the close-combat style later called Krav Maga with other Jewish athletes. He emigrated to Israel after the war and became the head of the IDF's physical training program... meaning that everyone in the IDF learns at least some Krav Maga, so they can break people into pieces with their bare hands should the need arise.
Tourists going to Israel really should get used to seeing uniformed soldiers all over the place, often carrying even when off duty. Remember also that, outside of the ultra-Orthodox, nearly all Israelis are trained in combat, and that all of the various wars over the years have meant that a high portion have seen combat. Plus the ones who grew up with enemy soldiers taking pot-shots at them from across the border or launching missiles. A book of tourists' Hebrew contains, "Would you please move your gun?" as useful vocabulary for the bus. Israeli soldiers packing assault rifles are a common sight on public buses.
Before anyone cries Gun Safety violations: they keep the guns unloaded unless they're on duty at a post to guard. But the idea is that in case a terrorist manages to get in, a soldier can at least defend him/herself and others until help arrives.
Another reason for the guns off duty is that a soldier cannot leave his or her gun at home unless they have so much security that no thief could possibly get at it. Since few soldiers can guarantee that their gun could not be stolen from their homes, having their guns with them at all times means that the weapons stay in authorized hands.
It should be noted that a citizen of Israel is required, by law, to serve in the military once he or she reaches 18. Yes, both men and women have mandatory service.
One side effect of universal, co-ed conscription is the number of action girls with machine guns sunbathing on Israel's topless beaches.
The Israeli reputation for attractiveness is at least partially Truth in Television; since all but the ultra-religious must go through boot camp and most go on to a few more years of intense physical activity, Israelis in their late teens and early twenties are usually physically fit.
According to "The Xenophobe's Guide to the Israelis," Israeli culture is in large part based on the ideal of "not being a doormat." They are not kidding. There was a senior Israeli politician on TV saying: "This is the Middle East, a place with no mercy for the weak."
Before modern Israel was created, Jews sometimes achieved a reputation for toughness that belies the Jewish and Nerdy stereotype.
Jewish mercenaries were highly prized during ancient times. The Romans needed 12 legions to take down the Bar Kokhba revolt.
The first time Rome had to use the army dislocated on the Parthian border, that just happened to be the best troops they had. Using their four best legions, an auxiliary force just as big and reinforcements from allied countries, it took them four years to destroy the Jewish armies and another four to stop the survivors from attacking them. It makes sense that Rome would use overwhelming force, just in case...
Hanukkah is the story of a Jewish rebel army led by Judah Maccabee (Judah the Hammer) who staged a successful revolution against the much larger and stronger Syrian Greek empire. The rabbis of the Talmud made the oil lasting for 8 days be the miracle because they didn't like the idea of a holiday about killing people.
The Khazars were a dynasty of Turks in the Ukraine who converted to Judaism in the early middle ages while still keeping an empire that maintained the peace along the trade routes in the area. They were both a Proud Merchant Race and a Proud Warrior Race.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Jews achieved a reputation for being expert grapplers within the German school of fencing. There were a number of Jewish ringen masters, including Ott Jud.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in which the Jews who had been rounded up into Warsaw fought back against the Nazis. In spite of being severely outgunned, the resistance lasted several months before finally being crushed by the Nazi army. The Israeli Holocaust Memorial day is commemorated every year on the same day as the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Israeli Fighter Pilots are badass not just for their dogfighting abilities and numerous kills. They actually prefer gun kills over missile kills. In fact, the very first confirmed gun kill by an F-15 Eagle in live combat was by an Israeli pilot, to the envy of his wingmen, who each made the aircraft's first missile kills in live combat. And all that happened on the aircraft's very first live combat mission. Even within the IDF, the flight schools are considered hardcore and is the most difficult course to join.
Preference for gun kills wasn't just exagerrated machoness. Missiles before the '80s could often be less reliable then guns and there was the danger of UnfriendlyFire. In any case new military technologies often make soldiers nervous. American fighter pilots preferred guns in Vietnam and were disgruntled at being issued a fighter that had no gun option.
The top scoring jet ace in the world (the so called "ace of aces") is Giora Epstein, an Israeli. Originally rejected as physically unfit, he fought to get a slot as a fighter pilot after serving for a time as a paratrooper. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he was separated from the other fighters in his group and took on eleven Egyptian MiGs single-handedly near the Great Bitter Lake. He killed four before running out of targets and fuel. Flying home, he asked the flight controller if there were any more targets he could take on the way.
In wake of the Transportation Security Administration's decision to start groping airline passengers, many (even at least one Congressman) have called for airline security modeled after Israel's, citing that they have an amazingly safe airline for all the people that want them dead.
There's a lengthy security process to get to the terminal, which includes x-raying the bags, checking the bags for bombs, even opening them for inspection, and questioned by the staff on what you were doing in the country, several times (the same questions too, and if you answer them differently, let's just say you'll miss your flight). And this is before you can check in.
There were two reasons that the US didn't adopt this, by the way (besides inertia):
In the US, there were some questions about whether the Israeli policy would violate the Constitution. The US has a written constitution; Israel does not (because the various parties and interest groups literally could not stop arguing about it).
Another example would be Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She emigrated to Palestine after WW 2 where she joined the Haganah (a Jewish paramilitary force that later became the basis of the Israeli defence forces). Due to her small size (being less than 5' tall), she was trained as a scout/sniper. Westheimer was seriously wounded in action by an exploding shell during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, and it was several months before she was able to walk again.
Strangely, she moved to France two years later, and then in 1956 moved to America...where she became a sex therapist of all things.
This trope may have been the deliberate attempt by modern Israel to subvert an older trope dating from the Middle Ages onward, that Jews are somehow meek and incapable of fighting, which shows up in much literature through early 20th century. (for example, Hemingway makes prominent reference to the oddity of Cohn being a Jewish boxer in The Sun Also Rises)
Ironically, people like Cohn were rather common in late 19th and early 20th centuries, as many European Jews became particularly interested in physical athletics, precisely to counter the meekness stereotype. At the end of 19th century, for example, Jewish semipro football/soccer teams in several Central European countries were the toughest of the lot. In mid-20th century, there were so many Jews in basketball that Jewishness and basketball were thought to have some intrinsic linkage.