Thursday, October 25, 2012

Paratroopers-What it Takes Part 2

Competition for acceptance into the paratroopers is fierce. Normally there are 5 times more
applicants than can be accepted and the weeding out process is most stringent. The reason so
many 18 year olds want to join is because of the rigorous training, precisely the reason that 80%
will not make the grade and will be referred to other IDF units.

The training regimen is very tough and it reflects the versatile role these soldiers will play when
they are called into battle. The boys who very quickly mature in to manhood are exposed to
enormous doses of physical exercise and strenuous workouts. They acquire mastery of a broad
range of firearms, learn topography, and are trained to excel at mobile, airborne, heliborne and
amphibious operations. Their training prepares them to integrate with armor and artillery, day
and night combat against an array of objectives, and includes the IDF’s famous Jump School.
The qualities necessary to become a paratrooper include: innate leadership, the ability to adjust
to and improvise solutions when faced with unanticipated situations, the ability to make on
the spot difficult decisions quickly and accurately, professionally combat ability and extreme

While most instructors are men who have distinguished themselves in combat operations, there
is an increasing number of female instructors in areas such as marksmanship, anti-tank missiles,
and in other educational, administrative and technical roles. Women also serve as parachute
riggers and inspectors, and are required to undergo the jump course to increase their empathy
with the men whose lives are literally in their hands.

More than many other IDF units, paratroopers consider themselves members of one very large,
extended family whose members are linked by shared experiences and blood, shed in battle.
It is normal for paratroopers to continue serving with their units long after they are forced to
retire due to age. And this is true for career soldiers and officers as well as those who served
only in the reserves.

The qualities outlined above serve to explain in part the great and headline grabbing successes
that the paratroopers have been credited with. Just to name a few:

The convincingly effective and daring reprisal raids against a constant barrage of Fedayeen (Arab
terrorist group) raids into Israel in the 1950’s, which had resulted in untold accounts of murder,
pillage and sabotage.

The Mitla Pass jump of the 1956 Sinai Campaign in which a battalion of 495 paratroopers were
dropped into the heart of the Sinai at the beginning of the war to prevent the Egyptian army
from getting to the vital Mitla pass. Despite its success, this was the last time an entire battalion
actually jumped into combat.

The unification of Jerusalem in 1967

The airlifting of an entire Soviet radar station out of Egypt in 1969

Commando raid against terrorist headquarters in the center of Beirut, Lebanon;

The courageous decision to lay a bridgehead across the Suez Canal onto Egyptian territory
in the heat of the Yom Kippur that paved the way for the Israeli victory over the Egyptians
in a war that threatened to be Israel’s first major military disaster. 

And the legendary rescue of the passengers and crew of the Air France
plane that had been hijacked to Entebbe, Ethiopia, named in memory of
Yonatan Netanyahu. 

In his book, Ariel Sharon Warrior, Israel’s most famous soldier states, ”starting in 1957, the
paratroopers carried out almost every single operation undertaken by the Israeli army”. If not
literally the case, there is certainly a good deal of truth in those words.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IDF Paratroopers-What it Takes

IDF Paratroopers – What it Takes
Part 1 of a 3-part series

The IDF Paratrooper’s red berets set them apart from many other fighting units in Israel’s armed forces. But if you know a little about these tough young fighters and the elite brigade they belong to, you begin to appreciate how dominant a part they have played in making Israel the secure country it is today. And that has been no small accomplishment.

Instead of dwelling on the demanding conditions that accompany them through the gruesome eight months of their training, let’s start at the challenging exercise that caps their training, their 90 km. (51.1 mile)”Masa Kumta” (beret march) which they are required to complete. This is an all-night march in full gear in whatever weather conditions prevail which marks the end of their training and admission into the coveted paratroopers brigade. The march ends with a ceremony at which they receive the coveted red berets that they will wear with great pride for the rest of their military service.

The march starts in the evening with great enthusiasm, camaraderie, and a touch of excitement.  Within a couple of hours they start feeling the strains of fatigue and for many, exhaustion.  By daybreak, still hours from their destination, they feel the aches and pains in every bone and muscle. And they push on, one step after the other.  As they make their way along the final stretch along the ascent to Jerusalem, those that are starting to wonder if they will make it are helped by their friends who, in hallowed IDF tradition, won’t leave any man behind.
Within sight of their final destination, the soldiers stop as their commanders call for an exercise break – as if all they needed now was a set of 100 pushups in full battle gear – to use up any reserve energy that might have survived the march.

But their moment of glory is about to arrive.  Standing in formation, after eight exhausting months of training and a night spent marching and running, they have finally earned the right to wear their red berets!
However the red beret is merely a symbol as it distinguishes these soldiers from other combat units.  The IDF paratroopers are recognized and respected for the discipline, courage, initiative, dedication, traits that have kept them at the forefront of Israel’s infantry.

Much of their training is devoted to overcoming minefields and obstacles, to engage in combat either alone or integrated with forces from other combat units.  They move into battle either by helicopter, dropped behind enemy lines, or landing from the sea. They fight from jeeps and other vehicles.

Image courtesy of the IDF

Monday, October 15, 2012

Heroines in the IDF

In Israel, military conscription is virtually a national consensus. Not that every 18 year old enlists, because there are broad exemptions to the compulsory military draft law. But there is a consensus within the broadest reaches of Israeli society that serving in the army is a badge of honor – a responsibility and a privilege.

Periodically the issue of the draft of the ultra orthodox attracts headlines and even now there is talk and serious differences of opinion regarding that contentious issue. But an even more interesting and provocative issue is the role played by religious women in the army, particularly in combat units. This subject gained national prominence several weeks ago when a 19 year old female combat soldier of the Caracal Battalion killed two terrorists who had shot Cpl. Natanel Yahalomi one of her male colleagues as they advanced into Israeli territory. It was her decisive response that saved her fellow soldiers during this Egyptian border clash.

A Hebrew website is helping influence religious high school students by encouraging them to consider military and even combat service instead of opting for National Service – Sherut Leumi - which was the service option most religious women chose. Sherut Leumi girls work in hospitals, schools, nursing homes and a broad range of important social service organizations, and their contribution makes a valuable impact on the lives of tens of thousands of needy Israelis, but it’s not the same as being inducted into the army. Given the work they are doing, some believe that their contribution to Israeli society exceeds that of most soldiers. Indeed, Sherut Leumi volunteers work with their hands, brains and hearts, but they don’t carry rifles!

The motivation of many of these young women was captured in a blog post written by E., a religious woman who is about to complete her final year of training to become a pilot, who wrote: “Being religious should not prevent you from making an important contribution. Army service for us looks difficult, even impossible. But when you get to that bridge you find a way to cross it. And many positive things come to you on the way, good friends and help from above. Believe in yourself and don’t fear the big challenges.”

E. is not the only one heeding her own advice. Currently, 1500 religious women enlist annually. Over two years of service there are 3,000 religious women soldiers, plus another 1,000 officers, a total of 4,000 religious women in uniform. They work in education and training, intelligence, the ground forces, in combat, computers, the Medical Corps, as military welfare counselors. But military service isn’t the best choice for every religious woman, and those who have done it are the first to make that point. According to Michal, who served as a combat reconnaissance instructor, “if you can’t stand up in front of a classroom of male reservists who haven’t seen a woman for a long time, or if you need to be in a religious environment, the army isn’t for you”.
Photo courtesy of the IDF

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Mossad: Israel's Eyes and Ears all over the World

The Mossad: Israel’s Eyes and Ears all over the World

Photo courtesy of the Israel Defense Forces Facebook Page
In the wake of the terrorist attack on a tour bus carrying Israelis last week in Burgas, Bulgaria, news agencies reported that the Mossad  joined U.S. and local intelligence services in their attempt to determine the origin of the perpetrators. That information came as no surprise to those who follow Israel’s intelligence community.  Indeed the only surprise was that out of countless terror attempts that are launched against Israeli interests, this time the criminals succeeded.  Through its 60 year history, the Mossad has earned the reputation of being Israel’s eyes and ears all over the world.

Commenting on the attack, an Israeli official said, “the Burgas attack was part of an intensive wave of terrorist attacks around the world carried out by two distinct organizations, the Iranian Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Hezbollah.”  “This attack”, he added, “had the modus operandi of the later.”

This attack occurred two weeks before the opening of the Olympic games in London.  The Olympics stir terribly mixed emotions in the minds of the Israeli public.  This is the 40th anniversary of the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 competition, an event which lives in infamy.  No less significant is the concern that Israelis visiting London as well as its athletes competing in the games could be targeted once again by Islamic terrorist fanatics. 

One of the Mossad’s most effective weapons is the element of surprise and unpredictability.  So no one is privy to what its members are planning.  But with rumors and news reports that police are hunting throughout Europe for the terrorists’ accomplices. What they are doing and how they are doing it is anybody’s guess, but Israelis have learned to put their trust and faith in the Mossad. 

What we do know is that the Mossad has a number of departments, of which the so called, “Collections Dept.”, with offices all over the world and charged with collecting intelligence information, is the largest.  The department consists of a number of desks which are responsible for specific geographical regions, directing case officers based at "stations" around the world, and the agents they control.
Mossad activities and investigation most often take advantage of some of the most high tech tools available, many of which are designed and produced by Mossad itself.  One analyst summed up their methods as a combination of cunning and hi tech, that is the formula for Mossad's success in most projects it undertakes.

So, as Israelis use the remainder of the summer vacation time to tour, travel and enjoy a break from the hectic pace of their normal lives, they will be relying on the Mossad to keep a keen open eye on the potential dangers that can entrap them, wherever they are and assure them that they will vacation in security and return to Israel safely.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sharing the burden

Making Sense out of the Sharing the Burden Issue in Israel

Photo courtesy of the Israel Defense Force Facebook page 
This is the first in a series of articles which will help explain one of the issues confronting Israeli society, where the burden of conscription falls to a great extent on the modern orthodox and secular members of Israeli society, to the almost near exclusion of the ultra orthodox community.

Israel, which has always been considered by the outside world to be an egalitarian society, is beginning to cope with some inner tensions and dissension as the issue of the inequality of the military service burden takes the limelight in mini yet tangible expressions of social discontent.  The summer of 2011 was known as the summer of discontent as tens of thousands of Israelis protested on the weekends over financial and economic disparities within society.  This summer, while the numbers of protesters is noticeably smaller, the issues on the protester’s agendas now include the near automatic deferment that a segment of the Israeli population receives from military conscription, a duty enforced upon the majority of Israelis aged 18 and above.

The deferred consist of two diverse communities within Israeli society: the so called ultra   orthodox and the country’s Arab citizens.

When the country was officially declared in May of 1948, an immediate state of emergency existed because the neighboring Arab countries attacked literally as the country was being founded, and military conscription was a matter of national and personal survival.  During Israel’s war of Independence, all able bodied Jewish citizens were enlisted.  In retrospect, some of the period’s most poignant photos show bearded and secular soldiers fighting side-by- side in their desperate and valiant military campaigns. 

Israel’s success in that war led to a lessening of tensions until the country’s second war for survival broke out in 1956.  Here again there was little difference in conscription rates, although there was a negligible number of ultra orthodox citizens who were granted military exemptions because they were yeshiva students.  At the time the subject of Israeli Arab conscription was a non starter, questions of dual loyalty put the issue beyond the realm of consideration.

By 1967, the ultra orthodox community through the growing political power of its elected representatives, started exercising latitude in claiming military service deferments, a process which continued unabated and literally (figuratively) snowballed.  

Today it is estimated that over 25% of the 18 – 21 year old population, the majority of which made up of the ultra orthodox – find a way to avoid the draft. And although there are indications that an increasing number of ultra orthodox do enlist, on a percentage basis, the trend keeping them out of military service is only growing.     

Needless to say, there are growing numbers of passive enlisted soldiers who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as a lack of fairness in sharing the military defense burden in this country.       

If you have an opinion and would like to share it with us, please feel free to comment on this blog.  A follow up article will present a different perspective on this many faceted issue. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Mossad

The Mossad

In all probability, the Mossad’s reputation far exceeds its actual accomplishments.  But then again, no one is really sure by what degree.  Think of some of the most daring acts of international espionage, the car bombing of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hizbullah military chief in downtown Damascus or the killing of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, conventional wisdom blames or credits (depending upon your point of view) the Mossad.   
Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter if they did it or not.  The very fact that everyone assumes they did it, or could have done it, is enough to act as a deterrent.   And that’s what Israel has strived to achieve.  When asked to comment on both attacks an official Government spokesman neither confirmed nor denied Israel’s involvement.  As one defense official put it, “Let them think we did it, even if we didn’t”.

Principally the Mossad is responsible for collecting intelligence, covert operations and counterterrorism.  It was founded in December 1949 as the central body to coordinate cooperation between the existing security forces.  

The largest department in the Mossad is Collections, responsible for intelligence gathering overseas.  Other departments are Research which produces intelligence and Technology which develops tools for Mossad activities.

Some of its best known activities include:
-Abducting the famous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina and smuggling him to Israel where he was tried and convicted.

-In August 2001 the Mossad cautioned the FBI that it had picked up indications of what it called a “large scale target” and that upwards of 200 terrorists had entered the U.S.  One month later the world witnessed the devastating attack on the World Trade Center in N.Y. and the Pentagon building in Washington.

-In 1992 and ’93 the Mossad was instrumental in evacuating Bosnian Jews from war torn Sarajevo to Israel.

-In 1969 – the smuggling of Israeli Navy boats out of Cherbourg, necessitated by the French embargo against Israel.

-1972-’72  Killing of the terrorists involved in the murder of Israel’s athletes at the Munich Olympics.

-Sending a letter bomb which maimed Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner.

-Abducting nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu from Rome.

-The Mossad was instrumental in helping the U.K’s M15 in tracking down the brains behind the 7/7 bombings in London.

The Mossad kept ongoing contacts with Russian Refusenicks in the USSR during the crackdown against the Jews in the decades between the 50’s and the 80”s.
These plus spectacular acts of heroism in the Arab lands since the founding of the State, have earned the Mossad an enviable reputation among similar organizations around the world.

This week, Israel Military Products is proud to feature a special sale on Mossad sweatshirts and T shirts. Show your pride in this great institution and your affiliation with its members who struggle against almost immeasurable odds to guarantee the safety and security of Jewish life. 

and get a free mossad t-shirt with your order (free t-shirt will be the same size as the sweatshirt).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Krav Maga-Making your point quickly and effectively

Krav Maga – Making your point quickly and effectively

It ranks among Israel’s top 64 exports.  Along with PillCam - a pill sized imaging device that takes real time pictures of the inner working of your stomach, the mobile phone – the compact size we take for granted, and Emergency Bandage, the super bandage  credited with saving the life of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot,   Krav Maga an Israeli hand to hand combat system has been ranked as one of Israel’s 64 most enduring contributions to life on the planet.
What is there about Krav Maga that has earned such respect and awe?  The fact that it is used by the IDF, the Mosad, and the Shin Bet undoubtedly endows it with a mark of distinction.  The fact that the CIA, FBI, U.S. Marshals, police and SWAT teams have adopted it as part of their personal combat arsenal lends it the credibility it deserves.

But most of all the reason it is so respected is because it is considered the world’s most devastating self defense system.  It is a “no frills” combat system involving elements of striking, wrestling and grappling.  The philosophy behind Krav Maga is self defense in face of an attack. Once activated, it combines threat neutralization with aggressive defensive and offensive maneuvers.   
Its purpose is to defeat unarmed attackers, resolve ground fights and deal with knives and guns.  It is gender neutral offering the same type and level of training to men and women.

The goal of Krav Maga is winning a fight as quickly and convincingly as possible.  All attacks are aimed towards the most vulnerable parts of the aggressor’s body.  It is not a sport and it doesn’t observe rules.  The object is to walk away as quickly as possible leaving your opponent on the ground and incapable of continuing their attack.

One of the methods employed is “using the nearest tool for the job” - using your limb that is closest and most adaptable to inflicting the initial response to an attack. 

Unlike martial arts with which it is commonly confused, Krav Maga has no sporting Federation or costume and courtesies like removing footwear are not part of its combat culture.  While there are organizations that recognize achievement through rank badges, levels and colored belts, these are by no means strictly adhered to.   Krav Maga has no niceties and virtually no protocol.  It isn't about kata's and fancy moves. As one instructor noted, "if it looks great, it's probably not Krav Maga".

This week through June 22, Israel Military Products is running a BUY 1 get 1 FREE sale on all krav maga T-shirts.  Show your affinity to the State of Israel and your appreciation of its defense forces  by wearing a Krav Maga T shirt proudly. - Headlines