When Israeli males and females reach the age of 18, they are conscripted into compulsory military service. The Israeli defense service law has set a term of 3 years for men, and 2 for women. However, several surveys of the motivation of potential conscripts to serve in the Israeli army (Gal, 1986; Mayseless, Gal, & Fishoff, 1989; Ezrahi & Gal, 1995) show that for the vast majority of Israeli youth (around 90% in surveys taken since 1975), conscription has been subjectively construed as fulfillment of personal duty. As noted by Gal, military service has become “part of the Israeli ethos – an integral phase in the life of any Israeli youth” (1986, p. 59). Dissidence, when occurring, has been limited to a small number of reservists (86 during the war in Lebanon and 165 during the Intifada) who refused active military service on moral grounds (Linn, 1996) and viewed their refusal as an unavoidable expression of their sense of duty and continued contribution to Israeli society (Helman, 1993).
The Hebrew expression is “to go to the army.” In practice not everybody “goes,” and “army” is a generic term also embracing the air force and the navy. Excluded from service are individuals disqualified for physical or psychological reasons, and groups exempted by virtue of their nationality (Israeli Arabs), gender (Druze females), family status (married women, fathers of six or more children), and religiosity (orthodox Jewish females, ultraorthodox females and males). Of those eligible for conscription, 99% report to service (Gal, 1986).