When Israeli army units go into battle, or on patrol, Man's Best Friends often go with them. In fact, these canine members of a special unit known as OKETZ (Hebrew for sting) have been so successful that when they are killed in action they are buried in special military cemeteries and receive full military honors.
Although dogs have been used by the Israeli military and police units for some time (police have their own K-9 units which are similar to those in the USA and other countries), the present format of the Oketz units have proven themselves to be invaluable in both locating explosives and other dangerous objects, as well as locating terrorists and other enemy persons during patrols into areas such as Gaza and the West Bank, not to mention during wartime. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Oketz unit dogs were invaluable in finding explosives as well as during night patrols into enemy territory. Although several different kinds of dogs have been used for this kind of duty, including Rottweilers and German Shepherds, the most suitable breed is the Malinois or Belgian Shepherd, due to it's size, short fur, and color.
Belgian Shepherd pups are chosen at an early age and sent to special training schools which last several months. During this training period, each dog is assigned to a soldier who has also undergone a special preliminary training course prior to being assigned his or her "buddy". Both dogs and their handler literally live and work together and form a close bond with each other. This relationship becomes so close that both animal and human literally depend on each other for survival when on duty.
Often, the dog becomes the personal pet of his trainer after leaving active duty.
When an Oketz dog is killed during a patrol or other operation, they are buried in a special pet cemetery located in the central part of the country. The cemetery is a special memorial place for these fury heroes, and includes a special inscription at the cemetery entrance, that translated into English reads: Walk softly, for here lie soldiers of Israel. On each miniature tombstone is inscribed the dog's name, date of death, and that the dog died during military action.
The use of these dogs has become so successful that they are hated by Arab in areas where the dogs are often sent on patrol, due to the Arab's frequent acts of violence during political and similar demonstrations, especially in the West Bank. Despite the occasional controversies surrounding their use, these brave "dogs of war" have proven their value time and time again, and have saved many human lives. Their use by the Israeli military will continue to be an outstanding contribution to helping to preserve the future of the State of Israel.