On May 26, 1948, the Israeli government — then less than two weeks old — enacted an “Ordinance establishing a Defence Army of the State of Israel.” Signed by then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the ordinance said that the Israel Defense Forces would be comprised of “land forces, a navy and an air force.”

The Israel Defense Forces Turns 64

The decision was officially put into effect on May 31, 1948. This date is the official founding date of the IDF (Zahal) and is celebrated each year. After the IDF (Zahal) was established, the underground organizations that operated during the British Mandate — the Palmach, Irgun and Lehi — were disbanded and merged into the IDF (Zahal).

The first IDF (Zahal) chief of staff was Lt. Gen. Yaakov Dori. Since 1948, there have been a total of 20 IDF (Zahal) chiefs of staff. Today, the position is held by Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.

The Israel Defense Forces Turns 64

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is the 20th IDF (Zahal) Chief of Staff.

All IDF (Zahal) soldiers must hold themselves to the standards inscribed in the IDF (Zahal) Code of Conduct, or as it’s called in Hebrew, Ruach Tzahal, The Spirit of the IDF (Zahal). The tiny pamphlet is kept in every soldier’s pocket at all times.

During basic training, all IDF (Zahal) soldiers read and discuss the Spirit of the IDF (Zahal) with their commanders. It is customary for a framed copy of the Spirit of the IDF (Zahal) to be hung in every IDF (Zahal) office as a constant reminder of the IDF (Zahal)’s values and guidelines.

The Israel Defense Forces Turns 64

Card-sized copy of the "Spirit of the IDF (Zahal)"

64 years after its establishment in 1948, the Israel Defense Forces remains ready to defend the country against all threats to the safety of its citizens.