צבא הגנה לישראל Tzva Haganah LeYisra'el,note known in English as the Israel Defense Forces, or Tzahal (from its Hebrew acronym) to its friends, is the integrated armed service of the State of Israel. Formed in 1948 from the various factions of the time, involved in at least one war per decade, usually against numerically superior Arab forces. 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 excellent record against Arab aircraft, although said aircraft are typically downgraded export versions of Soviet stuff—though for most of the wars, Israel's aircraft were even worse. (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 should be the first place you check.
The State of Israel uses universal conscription for all Jewish citizens. This has resulted in the IDF gaining a reputation for hot female soldiers, although many women, particularly religious ones, fulfill this obligation by doing national service instead of joining the armed forces. 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, dispelling the popular perception that the entire Israeli population is combat-ready.
Until 2014, many Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews) were excused from service in order to study at religious schools. This was extremely controversial among secular Israelis, who objected to the Haredim getting a free pass, and there have been significant efforts to combat it. These culminated in the passing of a bill according to which their exemption was ruled unconstitutional, and will be phased out over time. Israeli Druze must also serve, as well as male Circassians (a mostly Muslim minority from the Caucasus, who moved to Israel after their homeland was invaded by Russia in the 19th century). Non-Druze Arabs are excused, although some volunteer (largely Bedouins and Palestinian Christians).
Israel's principal military supplier until the early 1960s was France. This began to change in the wake of the Six Day War (1967), as the United States increased their dealings with Israel, becoming the nation's top supplier of military aid. Since 1962, Israel has received nearly $100 billion in US military aid, a sum roughly equivalent to 3% of its GDP during that period. This proved extremely valuable to the country's nascent arms industry, which has since flourished, developing a number of local aircraft, a series of tanks and APCs, several types of missile boat, various firearms, rocket and missile systems, combat-related robots, electronic warfare systems and a wide range of UAVs. Despite this, the IMI Uzi remains the best-known weapon developed in Israel.
Although the IDF has achieved international fame for its state-of-the-art equipment, and its many notable military victories, it has a history of controversy over issues of discipline. A number of units - the elite Golani Brigade, for example - have been known to place esprit de corps ahead of strict adherence to protocol, sometimes leading to incidents of insubordination, or violent behavior against civilians. Units deployed to internal security duties in the Occupied Territories are frequently accused of unwarranted violence and brutality against Palestinians and of complicity with residents of the illegal settlements to intimidate, harrass and steal land.
Officially Israel neither confirms nor denies possessing nuclear weapons. Everyone is pretty sure they've got them anyway. note
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 extremely efficient in their work.
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.
- Lebanon: The 1982 Lebanon war through the perspective of a tank crew.
- 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 The Sum of All Fears opens during the Yom Kippur War, where a nuclear armed IDF aircraft is lost in action, providing the MacGuffin for the plot. In modern times, as part of the peace agreement the US Army's 11th Cavalry is stationed in Israel, and as part of their training plays wargames against the IDF.
- 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 Dick" in Hebrew slang, so that makes it a Bilingual Bonus with several layers.
- "Ziyun" is the Hebrew for "armament" too, so yeah.
- 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 and Patrick Larkin. 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.
- In How to Ruin series by Simone Elkeles, Amy spends a summer in Israel and meets a guy named Avi, who is in the military there. In the third book in the series, she follows him back to Israel and signs up for military training.
- Mentioned briefly in Black Lagoon by Ibraha, who calls them "Those monsters from Jerusalem!". Unfortunately, they're never actually seen.
- Like with most world militaries, the IDF makes an appearance in The Salvation War. However, they are not shown in the kindest of lights.
- The IDF appear as a counter-terrorist faction in Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
- Jane's IAF: Israeli Air Force is an aerial combat simulator featuring both historical scenarios, like the 1982 Lebanon War, and hypothetical conflicts as campaigns available for the player.
- Sabaton has the song Counterstrike, which is about the Six-Day War.