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
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.