World War II included the largest, most organized campaign of genocide in human history. The Shoah was the crescendo of thousands of years of persecution, pogroms, and inquisitions; the Jewish people decided they would endure it no longer. The modern nation of Israel was formed in1948, with the approval of the United Nations-and despite the protests of the surrounding Arab countries. War immediately broke out between the newborn country and its neighbors. Over the next few decades, Israel demonstrated battlefield cunning and unflinching resolve. Today, Israel is smaller than New Jersey and has fewer residents than London; but it is a military giant in the Middle East.
Israel practices universal conscription: all Jewish men and women over the age of 18 must enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces. Most non-Jewish minorities, notably Israeli Arabs, are not required to serve, but may enlist, and serve side by side with Jewish recruits. After initial entry training, men and women serve two or three years on active duty; after this period of regular service Israelis become reservists and can be called up for a month of active duty each year until their mid-forties.
Limited deferments are available for those deemed physically or psychologically unfit for military service. However, a lack of military service carries several subtle disadvantages, ranging from exclusion from certain government positions to ineligibility for a commercial driver’s license. Employers typically examine an applicant’s service record for indicators of character, so lack of military service often limits job opportunities. An employer can specify that they will only hire candidates with military experience- this is sometimes perceived as a statement that “non-Jews and draft dodgers need not apply.”
The Israeli Defense Forces are well equipped and well trained; they have the latest weapons and they know how to use them. They use many of the same weapons systems and fighting vehicles as the United States, including the M16 assault rifle, M4 carbine, and the F-16 fighter aircraft. Other equipment is homegrown, like the venerable Uzi. Israel is known to have nuclear capabilities, though the government neither confirms nor denies this; the size and extent of its nuclear warhead stockpiles are unknown to the general public, and quite possibly to most intelligence agencies as well.
Israel has waged war often in its short history, usually in response to border pressures or terror attacks from neighboring nations. But its most persistent enemy lies within…