Military and National Service in Israel

Experience the ultimate journey of dedication and service with the IDF - Israeli Defense Forces (Tzahal), a transformative experience in Israeli society. Serving in the IDF is more than a duty; it’s a rite of passage representing deep national pride and significance. The experience allows you to contribute to Israel’s defense, build lasting friendships, and gain skills and values that profoundly impact personal and professional lives.

Photo by Jonatahn Weitz

By joining the IDF, you’re not just protecting the nation but becoming part of a legacy that binds generations together to build a strong, resilient Israel as we recover from the tragedies of October 7th. The IDF is truly a people’s army and an inclusive force, offering a role for everyone, with the ability to rise in military ranks regardless of background or identity.

The Defense Ministry’s national service program (sherut leumi) offers a volunteering alternative for those who choose not to enlist in the IDF or for those who do not qualify. This program allows volunteers to dedicate their efforts to various sectors of Israeli society, embodying the spirit of selfless service central to the Israeli ethos, while being recognized as military service.

General info on enlistment

Military Summons

Your journey with the IDF begins with a big first step- receiving your Military Summons (Tzav Rishon), or a ‘first call’ for enlistment. This is Israel’s way of officially inviting you to safeguard its borders. For many young Israelis, the Tzav Rishon marks a significant first transition from civilian to military life. It’s an official notification from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to those who have reached the age of eligibility, signaling the start of their enlistment journey about 1 year before the enlistment itself.


The IDF recognizes that not all individuals are suited for combat roles requiring specific physical capabilities. To assess this, the IDF uses a system known as ‘profil’ (a Hebrew adaptation of the word ‘profile’) to evaluate an individual’s physical fitness, health, and mental state, for combat duties. This system’s highest possible health level is rated at 97, acknowledging that absolute physical perfection is rare. A lower health profile score indicates more limitations regarding eligibility for combat roles, ensuring that each person is assigned duties that align with their physical and health capabilities.

Evaluating Cognitive Capabilities (Dapar)

The IDF, known for its physical demands in specialized units and other various positions in the army, also strongly emphasizes mental capabilities. To assess these, the IDF conducts the Dapar test, which includes quantitative, verbal, and formal assessments designed to evaluate problem-solving abilities and cognitive processes. These tests are administered at the Recruitment Center (Lishkat Giyus), and your resulting Dapar grade reflects your performance.

The grades range from 10, the lowest, to 90, the highest, in intervals of 10 points. It’s important to note that the Dapar score is a component of the Quality Index (Kaba score) used within the military framework. It is specific to your time in the IDF without bearing significance post-discharge.

Basic training

After completing your Tzav Rishon, your next step is basic training (Tironut). Basic training in the army is an initial period of intensive military training that all recruits undergo. It is designed to prepare individuals physically, mentally, and emotionally for the challenges and demands of military service. During basic training, recruits learn essential skills such as discipline, teamwork, weapons handling, first aid, physical fitness, and basic combat techniques. They also undergo physical conditioning, drill exercises, and classroom instruction to develop their understanding of military operations and protocols.

Makeup of IDF


Top 10 Elite IDF Units
A blend of bravery, skill, and steadfast commitment is essential in Israel’s elite military units. To join these ranks, candidates undergo the Yom Sayarot, a rigorous assessment and selection program. Below is a list of Israel’s top 10 special ops units, each distinguished by its unique role and expertise:

1 Egoz

An elite infantry unit specializing in guerrilla warfare, counter-terrorism, and reconnaissance missions. They are trained to operate in various terrains, including dense forests and mountainous areas, conducting stealthy operations behind enemy lines.

2 Duvdevan

An undercover special forces unit renowned for its urban warfare and counterterrorism expertise. They specialize in conducting covert operations, including targeted arrests, intelligence gathering, and infiltrating enemy strongholds in urban environments.

3 Maglan

A special forces unit specializing in long-range surveillance, intelligence gathering, and deep infiltration missions. They operate behind enemy lines in small teams to gather critical information and carry out precision strikes on high-value targets. Maglan soldiers are trained in advanced navigation, demolitions, and combat tactics.

4 Canine Unit (Oketz)

The IDF’s Canine Unit, specializing in training and deploying highly skilled dogs for various operational tasks, including search and rescue, explosive detection, and apprehending suspects.

5 Alpinist Unit

Responsible for conducting operations in snowy mountainous and rugged terrains, utilizing specialized climbing and mountaineering techniques to enable effective combat and logistical support in challenging environments.

6 Air Force - Unit 669 (Search and Rescue)

The IDF’s elite search and rescue unit is trained to perform complex rescue missions in hostile environments, including combat search and rescue, evacuation of injured soldiers, and civilian emergency response.

7 Air Force - Shaldag (Aerial Reconnaissance)

An elite special forces unit within the Israeli Air Force specializing in surveillance, target acquisition, and airborne commando operations, providing critical intelligence for air operations and special missions.

8 Navy - Shayetet 13 (Reconnaissance)

The IDF’s elite naval commando unit, trained in maritime counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering, and special reconnaissance missions.

9 The C4I

Not all elite IDF units demand physical prowess. Some demand brains. That’s what the C4I, an elite unit dedicated to empowering commanders with cutting-edge technology for optimal combat management, looks for. With a focus on initiating, developing, exploiting, and enhancing the IDF’s technological integration system.

10 Sayeret Matkal

The IDF’s most renowned special forces unit, specializing in intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism, and deep infiltration operations behind enemy lines.

National Service/Volunteering

National Service

According to the Security Service Law, those who have received a military exemption for either health reasons, conscientious reasons, religious reasons, or were released from security service duty are given the option of joining the country’s National Service (sherut leumi) program.

National service members volunteer across a wide range of sectors of Israeli society, including:

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • NGOs
  • Agriculture
  • Social services
  • Aliyah

National Service Organizations

Meet the Organizations Working to Optimize the National Service Experience

The National Service has developed a sophisticated means of identifying volunteers and placing them in meaningful roles. They provide personal and group support to volunteers throughout their service period in collaboration with the National Civil Service Authority, with a focus on two central tenets: educational commitment and social sensitivity.

Many organizations are available to support those volunteering in national service. Please note that the following links are in Hebrew:

  • Shel-Shiloh – Shel-Shiloh assigns thousands of volunteers every year in various fields. The organization, which has received approval from the Ministry of Welfare, is supervised by the National Civil Service Authority. Shel-Shiloh deploys volunteers to various government bodies, including the Ministry of Defense, Supreme Court, Israeli Knesset, President’s Office, hospitals, and more. They also send volunteers to various municipalities throughout the country.
  • Ofek – A placement agency for national service volunteers. They are responsible for recruiting, selecting, training, placing, and supporting young volunteers during their national service.
  • Shlomit – Integrates thousands of young men and women between the ages of 18-24 for various national-civil service assignments throughout the country. These young adults volunteer in approximately 240 communities, undertaking a wide range of meaningful roles in places such as regular and special education schools, Magen David Adom (Israeli emergency medical services), Fire and Rescue Services, and more.
  • Amindav Volunteer Association – A religious Zionist volunteer association that operates in accordance with the principles of the Torah. It empowers the volunteer to make meaningful contributions to Israel. The volunteers are at the forefront of public action in the fields of education, healthcare, welfare, immigrant absorption, and more.
  • Magen David Adom – Although Magen David Adom is a medical non-profit organization that provides first-aid to trauma victims, it also has a robust national service program. This program is unique in that tourists may also volunteer as medics in their ambulance fleet.

Studies - Postponing Draft for Academic Pursuits

New Olim who wish to complete an academic degree before starting their military service have the option to defer their enlistment (Atuda). Known as Atudaim, these individuals can participate in the Atuda program, which allows them to pursue higher education while postponing their service in the IDF. After finishing their academic studies, they are then integrated into the IDF, with roles assigned based on their area of study within the Atuda framework.

Learn more about postponing military services

Rights and Benefits for Olim Soldiers

Rights provided by the Ministry of Aliyah

Some of the rights provided by the Ministry of Aliyah for soon-to-be Olim soldiers include:

  • Pre-military preparatory programs
  • Orientation for parents of recruits (malshabim)
  • Service deferrals for academics
  • Fixed income and supplementary income benefits

To contact or to learn more about the privileges they offer Oleh soldiers, click here.

Tzav Rishon Rights for New Olim

How will your experience differ from that of your Israeli counterparts?

New olim serving in the IDF are entitled to certain privileges, such as recognition as a lone soldier, financial assistance, housing and more, all of which are not available to native-born Israelis. The IDF categorizes a ‘newcomer’ (oleh) as an individual born outside of Israel who has made Aliyah and resided in the country for less than 7 years.

Duration of service for Olim

To understand your commitment before joining the military, it’s important to know the duration of the service you’ll be required to complete.

Before you put on the IDF’s olive green, gray (Air Force), or white uniform (Navy) and adjust to early mornings and standing at attention, it’s essential to understand the length of service required of you as an Oleh. Below is a detailed breakdown of the expected service duration for protecting your country.

As of today:

  1. An unmarried man between 18 and 19 must serve for 24 months.
  2. An unmarried man between the ages of 20-21 must serve for 12 months.
  3. A married man with children aged 22-27 can volunteer for 24 months.
  4. Married women are exempt from service.
  5. Women with at least 1 child are exempt from service.
  6. Men aged 28 and above who request to volunteer will have their requests reviewed individually.
  7. Men who make Aliyah after the age of 18 with at least 1 child, are exempt from service.
  8. Married men with at least 1 child are exempt from service.
  9. Men aged 30 and above are exempt from service.

Please note that the above requirements could be subject to change. For information on other IDF programs available to Olim and tourists, click here

Garin Tzabar

Join the IDF in a community of like-minded Anglos

If you’re living abroad and considering enlisting in the IDF, several programs are designed to facilitate this process. For those seeking a community of like-minded Anglos and a comprehensive support system, the Garin Tzabar program stands out as a popular choice.

Tzofim Garin Tzabar specializes in providing a supportive peer community, guiding participants through Israeli civil services, and IDF bureaucracy, and ensuring smooth integration into Israeli society. This program offers pre-Aliyah assistance, full-board accommodation in Israel, and the chance to forge strong bonds within a welcoming host community.

It’s an ideal path for those looking to embark on a meaningful journey in the IDF with the added benefit of belonging to a supportive group. To explore the Garin Tzabar program and apply, click here.

Lone Soldiers

Soldiers with no Family in Israel

The IDF might be the only military in the world that has a special category for soldiers whose parents don’t live in the country. They are referred to as lone soldiers (chayalim bodedim). Many lone soldiers from America have obtained this status via programs like the Garin Tzabar.

As newcomers, lone soldiers are offered several privileges and benefits that their native Israelis are not. Lone soldiers may be without families, but special benefits ensure that they won’t be lonely. They include:

  • Day of errands (Yom sidurim) Since lone soldiers often have to run errands that soldiers who still live at home with their parents don’t, they are extended a monthly day off (24 hours) to run whatever errands they need to.
  • Lone soldiers are also granted a 30-day leave to visit their family abroad. Leave may also be granted during visitation within Israel.
  • Financial Aid
  • Psychological support
  • Kibbutz living and more for lone soldiers


Kibbutz living for lone soldiers

Some lone soldiers prefer to live in the city, while others prefer the country. For those preferring the latter, the ‘Hamsa’ program offers accommodations in kibbutzim, providing a communal and supportive environment.

Interested in the Hamsa program? Click here (Hebrew site) to apply or learn more.

Discharged Olim Rights and Benefits

Rights and assistance for Discharged Soldiers

The State of Israel, under the ‘Discharged Soldiers Law,’ offers special benefits and financial assistance to individuals who have completed their army service or National Service. These benefits encompass a release grant (Hebrew site), a personal deposit, and an additional assistance fund.

The release grant and deposit amount is determined by multiplying the number of months served in the military by a set monthly rate. This financial assistance is disbursed monthly and is provided automatically to eligible individuals.

The ‘Discharged Soldiers Law’ ensures that the assistance given to discharged soldiers does not reduce or conflict with any support the Oleh might be eligible for from the Student Authority. Essentially, this allows Oleh students to benefit from both the discharged soldiers’ assistance after completing their military or national service and the full assistance from the Student Authority (Minhal hastudentim) for their academic studies, based on their eligibility.

Rights for Discharged Lone Soldiers

Because lone soldiers still need support when they finish their service

A lone soldier’s appreciation doesn’t end with their discharge. After completing their service, they are still eligible (and deserving of) support. That’s why the Defense Ministry extends the following benefits to those who finish their service:

  • Release Grant – The Release Grant will be directly deposited monthly to the veteran’s bank account. The amount of money and duration of the deposits depends on the nature of the service and seniority. The grant lasts anywhere from 10-12 months and is offered to all soldiers, regardless of Olim status.
  • Bonus – An initial bonus will be granted to soldiers. The amount of money given depends on the orientation of the service. A combat soldier is entitled to an additional bonus, which can be spent on one of the following:
    1. Academic studies
    2. Trade school
    3. Their wedding
    4. Real estate purchase
    5. Establishing a business
    6. Driving school
  • Residence – Discharged soldiers will have up to 3 months of rental assistance, including help with purchasing essential household furniture equipment from government resettlement funds and a rental apartment assistance grant for discharged lone soldiers.
    To learn more about the bonus and other benefits awarded to lone soldiers, click here.
  • Grants for vocation – A one-time grant of 5,000 NIS will be provided to newly released lone soldiers for vocational assessment.
  • Preparatory studies – Newly released lone soldiers are eligible for a 1,500 NIS for a psychometric preparatory course.

Organizations Assisting Current and Discharged Lone Soldiers

Support groups for Lone Soldiers
IDF troops without family in Israel won’t be left to navigate their service alone. In addition to the Hamsa program and all the benefits mentioned, several non-profit organizations are dedicated to supporting lone soldiers in need. These organizations provide a range of resources and assistance, including:

  • Ach Gadol (big brother) – Offers unparalleled support, guidance, and personal counseling to lone soldiers by providing them with ‘Big Brothers’, who are more than just volunteers. They were once lone soldiers themselves, having completed their military service. With their firsthand experiences and invaluable insights, they possess the power to equip each lone soldier with the essential tools they need to thrive.
  • Habayit shel Benji – Named after a lone soldier killed in battle, Habayit Shel Benji (Benji’s house) is a house in Ranana for lone soldiers to live and relax during their time off from military service. Every soldier is treated to the utmost comfort and convenience with an air-conditioned sanctuary, complete with cable TV and a wireless internet connection. Throughout the entire service, soldiers can savor the delights of home-cooked meals and the luxury of having their laundry meticulously taken care of by dedicated volunteers.
  • A Warm Home for Every Soldier – Provides lone soldiers with services such as accompanying and aid for injured soldiers, solving any payment issues with service providers, providing adoptive families for lone soldiers, and providing them with vital tactical equipment.
  • Thank Israeli Soldiers – The non-profit organization, Thank Israeli Soldiers, offers free services to discharged lone soldiers. This includes money management, work placement to cash in on your NIS 10,000 bonus (Avodah Muadefet), leadership seminars, and transition to civilian life seminars.