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Disclaimer

This website is intended only for viewing and retrieving information. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org does not guarantee that information on this website is accurate, timely, valid or complete, although Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org strives to meet those criteria.

Regarding the Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org website
Qualification
Fitness and health
Initial questions
Before enlistment - in Israel

Enlistment

Women
Lone Soldiers (Chayalim Bodedim) privileges
Pre-basic and basic training
Active service
Discharge
Miscellaneous

About the Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org website | What can it do for me?

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org is the leading guide for all overseas would-be enlistees (non-Israelis and Israelis) prior to joining the IDF and liaising with all official and private organizations and individuals facilitating the enlistment.

Amongst others services, Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org offers you an online registration without any commitment and will pre-check your eligibility for the IDF overseas program you have choosen in the registration; Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org will then refer you to the next stop such as the Ministry of Defense, the IDF etc.

After enlistment, overseas volunteers have the same rights and duties as conscripted Israeli soldiers and serve in units side-by-side with Israeli soldiers.

Over one thousand young people from more than 40 countries have already joined the IDF through its exciting programs for overseas volunteers.

Note: The services of Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org are free of charge. Donations are not accepted. All Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org personnel are volunteers and fund their activities as a gesture of esteem and gratitude to the noble IDF overseas volunteers.

Launched in 2002 as our domain Mahal2000.com, this website got the "Jewish Agency Top Site 2005" award. Today this forwards automatically to our new domain Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org.

Usage statistics for 2011: more than 500,000 visits and 13,000,000 hitsGoogle ranks on Aug 30, 2011:

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What should be my very first step?

We strongly encourage you to search and study the Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org website and especially the pages entitled Who Can Volunteer?, Your Service in the IDF, Volunteering Step-by-Step, Register Online, FAQ and the external links like the informations for Chayalim Bodedim (Lone Soldiers).

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Is Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org's "Forum" a reliable source of information?

In general, yes.

While Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org understands that most postings are placed by well-meaning people, the way to hell is sometimes paved with well-meaning postings. Usually the postings are anonymous and/or their accuracy and validity can not be verified and/or it is unclear how typical or applicable the alleged experience is.

The IDF is a huge organization and in any case emigration to Israel, even when not for good, is a complex matter. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org cooperates with the IDF, Ministry of Interior and many others in order to facilitate the enlistment of overseas volunteers. Therefore, only specialized organizations like Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org can see the whole picture and give reliable advice.

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I am an IDF soldier/veteran. I would like to post on the forum.

We welcome sharing your thoughts. However, Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org does not monitor the postings. The enemy does. Loose lips sink ships!

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I am not Jewish and I do not have at least one Jewish grandparent. Can I volunteer for the IDF?


Unfortunately not, unless you already have Israeli citizenship. If you are not Israeli and none of yor grandparents is/was Jewish - please click here.

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Who is a Zakai Aliya?

Zakai Aliya is a non-Israeli overseas resident, not necessarily Jewish, who has at least one Jewish grandparent. This makes that person eligible for immigration to Israel under the Law of Return and also for IDF service.


One of my parents is not Jewish. Can I volunteer?

Yes. The bottom line of the following is that you are eligible if you are Jewish, one of your parents is Jewish or one of your grandparents is Jewish.

If you are a member of an overseas Jewish community (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist): get a confirmation stating that you are Jewish, signed by a rabbi residing outside Israel. The confirmation must have a detailed letterhead with name of the Jewish community, address, phone, fax and email. The exact name of the rabbi must be clearly readable.

If you are not a member of a Jewish community:

  • if your mother is Jewish, get a confirmation stating that she and you are Jewish, signed by a rabbi residing outside Israel. The confirmation must have a detailed letterhead with name of the Jewish community, address, phone, fax and email. The exact name of the rabbi must be clearly readable.
  • if your father is Jewish and your mother is not, you are eligible as a Zakai Aliya. Get a confirmation stating that your father is Jewish, signed by a rabbi residing outside Israel. The confirmation must have a detailed letterhead with the name of the Jewish community, address, phone, fax and email. The exact name of the rabbi must be clearly readable.

    The rabbi's confirmation is a prerequisite for the confirmation issued by the Israeli Interior Ministry that you are entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return (Zakai Aliya Lefi Hok Hashvut), which is a prerequisite for enlisting in the IDF. All these are quite simple but sometimes time consuming procedures.

    Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org can not confirm the validity of documents for the purpose of Israeli immigration. This will be done by the Israeli Ministry of Interior after your first stop in Israel (the meeting at the Ministry of Defense). However, if you know for sure that your father is Jewish but you do not know how to validate this, please contact the Jewish Agency Aliya Representative for your country which may be able to assist you.

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I am a convert to Judaism. Can I volunteer?

Is your overseas conversion legitimate for the purpose of aliya (immigration to Israel)? If yes, as is usually the case, there is no difference between born Jews, converts of the Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Orthodox streams of Judaism and Zakaiei Aliya (persons with at least one Jewish grandparent) - all qualify for Mahal IDF programs.

According to a 1988 Israeli Supreme Court decision, the criteria determining the aliya eligibility of converts are that the overseas community and rabbi through which they converted must be recognized as legitimate, and that in turn, the community and rabbi recognize the convert as a Jew and a community member in good standing.

For Conservative and Reform converts the verification process is simplified by the centralized community bodies for each religious stream, which can easily confirm whether someone has converted through their offices.

The lack of a central umbrella body for all Orthodox communities makes this verification much harder for Orthodox converts, resulting in the confirmation of aliya eligibility of these converts being contracted out to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Historically, instead of addressing the legal requirements as stipulated by the Supreme Court, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate approved or rejected a convert’s aliya application based on its own criteria. Due to this, Orthodox converts found it much harder to make aliya than those who had converted through other streams of Judaism.

In cases in which the Jewish Agency cannot verify an Orthodox conversion, the Interior Ministry may consult with the Chief Rabbinate.

Needless to say, also when your conversion is legitimate, you must get a confirmation stating that you are Jewish, signed by a rabbi residing outside Israel. The confirmation must have a detailed letterhead with the name of the Jewish community, address, phone, fax and email. The exact name of the rabbi must be clearly readable.

You do not qualify for Mahal IDF programs if your conversion process is not complete yet or the conversion is not legitimate for the purpose of aliya (immigration to Israel) eligibility Israel. In such cases please do not register on our website. Neither Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org nor the IDF can check the legitimacy of your conversion. If you want to pre-check the legitimacy of your conversion for the purpose of Israeli immigration (and IDF service) before arriving in Israel, please send your conversion certificate to the Jewish Agency Aliya Representative for your country.

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I am 24 (man) | 21 (woman), or older. Can I volunteer?

Please click here

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I am an Israeli citizen. Do I qualify for the Mahal IDF program?

No. Israeli citizens might be eligible for the short path for overseas residents with Israeli citizenship who were not residents of Israel after their 10th birthday and the Tzofim Garin Tzabar program or regular IDF service. Note: The regular IDF service called Shlav Bet, might be shorter than the Tzofim Garin Tzabar program.

How can I check if I (or one of my parents) ever had Israeli citizenship?
The Israeli diplomatic mission can check your and both of your parents citizenship status. This might take a few weeks, or even longer.

I am not an Israeli citizen. If I made aliyah (opted for Israeli citizenship) upon my arrival to Israel, would I qualify for the Mahal IDF program?
If you prefer the Mahal IDF programs, do not opt for Israeli citizenship upon your arrival in Israel but only after discharge from the IDF.

It is not your aliya, but Israeli citizenship which is relevant. Volunteers with Israeli citizenship do not qualify for the 14 (18) months IDF service through the Mahal IDF programs. Note: the regular IDF service called Shlav Bet, might be shorter than the Mahal IDF programs for non-Israeli citizens and the Tzofim Garin Tzabar program for Israeli citizens.

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Could I receive officer training?

The Mahal IDF programs are too short to include a course of officer training. If you are qualified and sign on you could become an officer.

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I would like to volunteer for a longer / shorter period of time. Is that possible?

Serving for longer periods is never a problem. The IDF will gladly retain motivated soldiers, especially volunteers.

Staying for a shorter period is not possible.

If you would like to volunteer, but you don't have 14 (18) months to spare, please check out our "Other Volunteer Programs" section.

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I am not interested in working as a part time volunteer at a Jewish community. Can I still volunteer for the IDF?

Yes. Many Mahal volunteers will volunteer some of their time to their communities upon returning home. Past experience has shown that the benefits, both to the community and to the volunteers themselves, are great, but it is not mandatory.

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What is a "Lone Soldier" (Chayal Boded)/ To which privileges and financial assistance is a Chayal Boded entitled?

A Chayal Boded as a soldier who has no family (parent, brother, sister, husband, wife) in Israel. Most Mahal volunteers fall into this category. If you have family in Israel that cannot support you and you live alone, you might be recognized as a Chayal Boded. The status “Chayal Boded” is formally established by the IDF following enlistment. Click here to find out more about the privileges and financial assistance to which a Chayal Boded is entitled.

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Where can I stay during the time I am required to spend in Israel before enlistment?

Please read through our page Accommodation in Israel.

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Who will take care of my personal affairs (medical insurance, accommodation, etc.)?

After your enlistment, the IDF will take care of your medical treatment, accommodation, etc.

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How physically fit do I have to be?

Unless you are really out of shape, working out is not necessary. If you are assigned to a combat unit, the IDF will train you starting from zero until you reach your optimum fitness level. The IDF will not judge you by the number of pushups you are able to do, but by your motivation and determination.

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What should I bring with me?

Remember you have to care for yourself during time in Israel before you join the IDF. Bring whatever you will need for this time.

On your first day in the army, the IDF will supply you with the following items:

  • Dog Tag (to wear on your neck and for your boots)
  • Duffel bag
  • Towel (medium size)
  • 3 pairs of underpants, 3 khaki T-shirts and 5 pairs of army socks (gray)
  • 3 pairs of army pants, 3 shirts and 1 belt
  • 1 beret
  • 2 pairs of army boots
  • Small bag full of useful accessories (extra buttons, elastic bands, needle and thread, toothbrush)
  • 1 bandage
  • 1 sweater (upon request)
  • 1 winter jacket
Here is a list of useful optional items you might consider bringing with you:
  • Electric razor
  • Flashlight
  • A few nylon bags (for dirty laundry, garbage, etc.)
  • Cutting knife
  • Lighter
  • Magic Marker
  • Pen
  • Notepad
  • Additional 5 white and / or khaki T-shirts
  • Shorts and sneakers (for exercise classes)
  • Toilet paper / Tissues
  • Sheets
  • Shower clogs
  • Laundry soap
  • Book and / or discman for waiting time
  • Talit & Tfilin (if you're religious)

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Should I volunteer for the IDF before college or after college?

Both alternatives will be a meaningful and unforgettable experience. However, joining before college is preferable because Israeli soldiers enlist at 18 and the closer your ages are the easier it is going to be for you to relate and form friendships.

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Is the Nahal Infantry Brigade a good unit?

The IDF is renowned worldwide and all units are good. The IDF will decide in which unit you are needed and train you accordingly. Usually Mahal volunteers serve in the Nahal Infantry Brigade. All IDF infantry brigades are popular with almost no difference - see numbers of candidates per available place (Yediot Achronot, Nov 21, 2005): Golani Infantry Brigade (1.7), Nahal Infantry Brigade (1.6) and Givati Infantry Brigade (1.5.):

From the post of Aug 13, 2004 on Mahal’s discussion forum: “In the Nahal we were in Gdud 50. I would put this unit up against any in Givati or Golani or Nahal for that matter as far as difficulty of training goes. … Our soldiers carried and were trained on the exact same weapons as other infantry units. … I was a Magist so were two other Mahalnikim, another in our plugah was the RPGist, another 2 were Negevistim. Mahalnikim also had Margamot (mortars), Matolim (grenade launchers) and a few snipers. One of our squads won the bochan tironim, a contest between the squads in all the infantry units. There were 4 Mahalnikim in that kita. 4 Mahalnikim from my unit went to course mefakdim and one went on to be a mefaked machlaka. I tell you as right as rain...that unless you want to go to a special forces unit you should seriously consider Mahal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Nahal...in fact it is damn tough and damn proud."

Standoff In Nablus

Inside the War on Hamas

IDF to award 12 soldiers bravery citations

 

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How long should I plan to stay on my own between the Hebrew studies in Israel and enlistment?

No need for extra time, everything can be arranged during your Hebrew studies in Israel.

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When should I submit the online registration up form?

If you are seriously interested in volunteering now or at a later date, please submit your registration now. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org will examine your qualification and inform you about the necessary next steps on the way to volunteering for the IDF. The registration has no legal significance before signing up with the Ministry of Defense - in person in Israel.

In any case, your qualification is subject to final approval by the Ministry of Defense/IDF at the time of the actual IDF enlistment and is automatically revoked, if you don’t enlist before your 24th birthday (man) | 21st birthday (woman).

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When does my Israeli A1 (Temporary Resident) status change?

You are A1 for three years or less. If you remain in Israel for more than the full three years of your A1, you may want to apply for Israeli citizenship. If you do nothing, your status will change automatically to Permanent Resident. In any case, consult the Israeli Ministry of Interior Before your A1 expires, the rules in three years might be different.

If you left Israel with the status of A1 or Permanent Resident, request the Israeli diplomatic mission in your country to delete you from the Israeli Population Register. You should receive a letter confirming your change of status.

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When does my Israeli A2 status change?

If you remain in Israel after discharge from the IDF, you will have the following options: B2 (Tourist), A2 (as a student), change to A1 (Temporary Resident) or Israeli citizenship. Consult the Israeli Ministry of Interior.

If you leave Israel with A2 status, you need not do anything.

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Do I have to give up my citizenship if I serve in the IDF?

No.

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Do I have to live in Israel after I serve?

No.

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Who would I stay with during pre-basic training?

The IDF provides accommodation for all soldiers.

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By volunteer do you mean help out on a base, or actually serve in the IDF?

Mahal volunteers are regular soldiers and serve in the IDF side-by-side with conscripted Israeli soldiers.

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How long is a volunteer not in training?

There is no special training for Mahal volunteers except the pre-basic training. You will get the same training as every Israeli soldier with the same job. If you serve in the Nahal Infantry Brigade you are usually not in training about 9 months of active IDF service (or 12 1/2 months if non-combat profile).

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Is Mahal the same as Nahal?

No. The similarity of the names Mahal and Nahal is pure coincidence. Mahal is the Hebrew acronym for Overseas Volunteers (Mitnadvei Hutz-La’aretz). Nahal stand for Noar Halutzi Lohem. Mahal volunteers serve in various units of the IDF. One of the units of the IDF is the Nahal Infantry Brigade where most Mahal volunteers with combat profile serve.

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Do Mahal overseas volunteers receive the same training, pay/benefits, and positions as Israeli draftees?

Yes.

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Do Mahal overseas volunteers serve exclusively in the Nahal Infantry Brigade?

They usually serve in Nahal but Mahal volunteers have served in most units of the IDF, combat and non-combat.

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Are Mahal volunteers eligible for any sayarot (Special Forces)?

Yes, if ready to serve longer than 14 (18) months, depending on the unit.

If so, what are the physical and mental qualifications?

The requirements differ from job to job.

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Is it possible to serve in the IDF for more than 14 (18) months, either through Mahal or otherwise without becoming an Israeli citizen?

Yes, once you are enlisted you can opt for longer service at any stage.

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Can I get an upfront commitment from Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org or the IDF to place me in a specific unit or location?

The IDF will decide where you are needed, and only after enlisting. While attempts are made to accommodate individual preferences or needs, the IDF cannot commit itself to fulfilling these requests.

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I am over 23 (man) | over 20 (woman). Whom can I petition to allow an exemption from the enlistment age limit?

As decided by the IDF, only men in the age bracket 18-23 (women 18-20) are eligible for volunteering for the IDF. This means the maximum enlistment date limit is the 24th birthday for men and the 21st for women. Unfortunately no exception can be made.

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org is presently lobbying the IDF and the Border Police to enlist also "older" Jewish overseas volunteers. Any change will be published on the homepage of our website.

For perseverant Israeli do-it-yourself-guys: try, again an again, to meet a senior figure of Lishkat Hagiyus (IDF Enlistment Center). Do not get upset if the answer will be “no”, or you receive no answer. "Older" Israelis who were perseverant have been accepted by the IDF.

In any case, you can help Israel in many other ways. Please take a look at the "Other Volunteer Programs" section of our website.

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Can I be placed in a tank unit through the Mahal program?

Yes, if the IDF decides you are qualified for it, and you are needed there.

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Do I have other options than infantry or non-combat?

The IDF decides after your enlistment where you will serve. This includes all other IDF units that are not infantry or non-combat, like artillery, tanks etc.

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Which Hebrew Study Program (ulpan) is best?

Israel maintains an incredible infrastructure for intensive Hebrew language training which has been enhanced over years of experience and millions of new immigrants.

However, Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org recommends the free IDF Ulpan only. Details here.

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Can I enlist at the age of 24 and 3 months?

No.

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Are there any vision requirements, or restrictions for those who wear glasses (particularly in the sayarot)?

Yes, in principle. It is the prerogative of the IDF to decide.

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How does the IDF determine where to place you? Does one have any say in where he/she is placed?

Your preferences play a role in the IDF’s decision. The IDF has the last word, after your enlistment.

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What are the military's fitness standards (run times and distances, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups etc)?

The IDF will bring you in shape starting from zero.

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What legal status do Mahal volunteers have in Israel?

Mahal volunteers will most likely enter Israel with a B2 (tourist) visa, and change that at the Interior Ministry to A1 or A2 visa. The A2 status can be easily changed to a A1 (temporary resident), but the A1 cannot be changed easily to A2.

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Will it be possible to open up a bank account?

Yes.

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Are Mahal volunteers required to pay taxes?

There is no tax on your IDF salary and gifts you receive while enlisted.

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What happens if a Mahal volunteer dies in Israel? Who has custody over the body?

The parents. We are not aware of any Mahal volunteer who died while serving in the IDF.

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Where can I obtain information on various contracts available to Mahal volunteers (if one would want to serve for a longer period of time, whether in a regular unit or due to acceptance into a Sayeret)?

Ask the IDF. In principle you can get all contracts available to regular soldiers. Don’t be disappointed if you do not get an answer before enlisting.

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When and how do I get the status “Chayal Boded” (Lone Soldier)?

You will be interviewed for Chayal Boded status following your medicals. If not, request such an interview. Otherwise, you will have to wait until the pre-basic training. The Mashakit (similar to an army social worker) will check your eligibility and give you official confirmation that you are a Chayal Boded.

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Am I eligible for benefits after discharge from the IDF?

Please note that following is only general information, and you should check for details before your discharge: Discharged Mahal volunteers enjoy various benefits for discharged soldiers. If you opt for an "upgraded legal status in Israel" after discharge from the IDF (from A1 or A2 to “immigrant”) you become eligible for assistance from the Student Authority including exemption from university tuition fees for up to three years. The Student Authority tries to help all students in pre-academic programs and during their first year of studies to find housing in the student dormitories at a subsidized rate. Priority is given to students whose parents live abroad. "Lone" immigrants are entitled to assistance with rental fees for four years from immigration.

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Do Mahal volunteers serve in the IDF like the conscripted IDF soldiers?

Yes, aside from the few weeks of pre-basic training and the length of service.

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I have done the Marva program/another program. Does that change the length of my service?

No.

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I might not be eligible for a combat unit for health reasons. How could I help out in a non-combat unit?

Most jobs in the IDF are non-combat, and the IDF has countless options.

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If I make aliyah does this alter the requirements for military service?

It is too complicated to outline here all theoretical scenarios. This is complicated and requires that you consult regarding your individual case. If you remain non-Israeli the service through Mahal is 14 - 18 months (or longer, if you wish). If you get Israeli citizenship you are eligible for Shlav Bet, however the enlistment is delayed in many cases for about a year.

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My Hebrew is pretty good, so do you suggest I do an advanced ulpan, or just try and immerse myself in the culture in order to become fluent?

There is no point in delaying your IDF service for improving your Hebrew from reasonable to very good.

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I have problems with my health. Can I still volunteer?

Yes, if you are not significantly handicapped. The IDF’s medical decisions are made case by case, and there are no “pre-rulings”. However, we do not know of anybody who the IDF refused for lack of medical fitness, particularly since volunteers are known to be extremely motivated.

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Why does the Nahal Infantry Brigade’s insignia have a sickle on it?

Historically, Nahal soldiers used to defend Israel by establishing agricultural outposts and working there as part of their service. Today that has changed and Nahal is just like all the other brigades, both in terms of training and service.

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Does the IDF have any units for English speakers?

No. But most Israelis speak some English.

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If I have one or two years of military service in my country of origin, will that affect my IDF service?

No. You must go through basic training, regardless.

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I served in the army of my country of origin and was told that I can not serve in the army of another country.

The IDF will enlist you.

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Is it possible to become a police officer in Israel after serving in the IDF through Mahal?

Yes.

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Am I obliged to do miluim (reserve duty) after the Mahal program?

Generally yes, if you opt for Israeli citizenship after the IDF service and remain in Israel. If you leave Israel or do not become an Israeli citizen/permanent resident of Israel, reserve duty is not required.

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Do I have the option to return to my country of origin after the service in the IDF?

Yes. Your are free to go wherever you like after discharge from the IDF.

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If I choose to become an Israeli citizen after the 14 (18 ) months of service through the Mahal IDF paths, do I have to do additional military service?

Click here

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What would be the exact date of my enlistment?

Go to Volunteering Step-by Step to find the final enlistment dates as received from the IDF and also indicative dates. There might be changes; before booking your flight recheck with the Ministry of Defense.

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I would like to study at the university in Israel after my service. Is tuition free? If so which universities and what programs?

Discharged Mahal volunteers enjoy various benefits for discharged soldiers. Opting for an upgraded legal status in Israel after discharge from the IDF (from A1 or A2 to "immigrant") makes you eligible to assistance from the Student Authority including exemption from university tuition fees. Please study the website of the Student Authority for further details.

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Can I volunteer for less than 14 (18) months service in the IDF?

There is no IDF option for overseas volunteers under 14 (18) months. However, the regular IDF service "Shlav Bet" might be shorter than the Mahal IDF programs.

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Can Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org help me find out my health profile?

No. Your health profile (physical/psychological assessment) is evaluated by the draft board of the IDF at your enlistment, and not by Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org. Generally, males with high health profiles will serve in combat units such as the Nahal Infantry Brigade and those with low health profiles in non-combat jobs that will be determined by the IDF depending on the army's needs and your personal abilities and ambitions. Female soldiers usually serve in non-combat units.

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Can a woman serve in a combat unit?

Yes. The IDF does not ask women to serve in combat. Many women do serve in combat units as volunteers, for example in the Nahal Infantry Brigade unit called Karakal. This is a unit for women (97 profile women) and 72 profile men. They have red boots and short M-16s, they do Efes Chamesh tironut, etc. and they usually secure the border with Jordan and Egypt.

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Does Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org have representatives in other countries than Israel?

No.

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I would like to speak with somebody from Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org.

Mail us your questions and we will put you in touch with an expert, if you confirm that you studied the whole website including the FAQ.

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If I opt for Israeli citizenship after discharge from the IDF, do I have to live in Israel?

No. Like in all democratic countries you can leave the country whenever you desire.

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Can I buy a car free of tax or with a tax discount in Israel? Do I have other benefits?

Yes and a lot, depending on your status (Tourist, A1, A2, Immigrant, Returning Resident etc.) – see Department of Customs links. If benefits are limited for a certain period, generally your time in the IDF is added. Because of the complex issues, different personal circumstances and frequent changes, Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org cannot give further advice on the subject of taxes. However, the authorities and immigrants’ organizations listed on our "Zionism & Aliya" page might help.

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Do I loose benefits because of my service in the IDF?

If benefits are limited for a certain period, generally your time in the IDF is added. In addition, you are entitled to benefits for active soldiers and discharged soldiers from the authorities and private organizations listed on our Help IDF Soldiers page.

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Do Israeli conscripts do the IDF pre-basic training (trom tironut) of about a month?

No. This is for non-Israeli volunteers specifically for smoothing their way into the IDF. After the trom tironut your service is identical to other Israeli soldiers, depending on the job which the IDF will assign you.

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Can I get any trouble in my country of origin for serving in the IDF?

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org is not aware of any problem encountered by over one thousand volunteers from more than 40 countries.

In some countries, serving in a foreign army may jeopardize citizenship or result in other problems. For example, one of the grounds for involuntary loss of United States citizenship is joining the armed forces of a country at war with the U.S. Citizenship Laws of the World (pdf, 1.74 MB) - click here. Concerned volunteers are advised to clarify this matter in their country of origin.

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org is releasing information to the Israeli government only.

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I am Shomer Shabat (religious)/what is Mahal Hesder?

All Mahal IDF programs are fully suitable for Shomrei Shabat since the IDF is Shomer Shabat. However, Shomrei Shabat can choose to combine Tora study with IDF service in a separate program Mahal Hesder. Mahal Hesder takes 6 1/2 months at an Israeli yeshiva plus 14 months in a IDF Hesder unit. For more information contact Igud Yeshivot Hesder (54 King George St., Jerusalem, Israel, phone: +972-2-6209010, Fax +972-2-6221743, no email address, no website).

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If I serve in the IDF Nahal Infantry Brigade, can I serve as a paratrooper (tzanchan)?

Nahal has a paratroop unit.

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Can I enlist before my 18th birthday?

Only adults can enlist in the IDF, and you will have to wait for an enlistment date that is after your 18th birthday (Gregorian or Hebrew calendar). A difference of a few days might not matter. Click here for Gregorian/Hebrew calendar converter.

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Do Mahal/Nahal Infantry Brigade soldiers see any action? Do Mahalniks really serve in hotspots?

Yes.

Nahal Infantry Brigade video

Golani Givati Nahal video

Standoff In Nablus

Inside the War on Hamas

IDF to award 12 soldiers bravery citations

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I already have two years of army experience and want to enlist only if I can be placed in a specific unit.

You have only two choices. You can either enlist and hope that the IDF places you where you want (and take the chance of being disappointed) or drop your plans to join the IDF.

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What will the IDF provide?

Practically everything you need, like accommodation, insurance, medical care, food, clothing, transportation etc.

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Will there be any salary?

While enlisted you get a monthly salary and other benefits, after discharge a grant and other benefits. The figures vary depending on many factors, like Chayal Boded status, length of service, combat/non-combat etc. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org estimates that usually a Chayal Boded will get monthly about 1,300 NIS in cash plus extra money for rent if you rent a place.

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What extras do you suggest I bring?

In principle, the IDF should provide you with everything you really need. For an external list of extras click here. Some say that this list is outdated and the only extras you must bring is green t-shirts, white t-shirts, talcum (baby) powder, books to read, a digital watch with stopwatch, a cheap lighter or two, a pocket knife. There are stores in Israel which carry everything soldiers need. Much depends on the individual, but avoid expensive items that can be easily lost.

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I do not have an email address. Can I get your information by snail mail?

No. There are numerous websites which offer free mailboxes. We suggest to obtain an email address because all available information is on our website or in personal emails sent to you.

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Can Mahal volunteers become combat medics (chovesh kravi)?

In principle, the position of chovesh kravi (combat medic) is open to Mahal participants. The IDF will decide at the time of your enlistment what job you get.

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Can I get training in English?

No. Your training will be in Hebrew.

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What do I do if Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org does not have the information I require about the IDF service?

Contact the Ministry of Defense, for contact details check our reply to your registration. If you did not register yet, please register here.

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Can I enlist without the consent of my parents?

Yes. If you are not an only child, your parents’ consent is not needed for any IDF assignment including combat. If you are the only child of your parents click here.

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I am the only child of my parents. Can I enlist without the consent of my parents?

Yes, the IDF will enlist you in any case. According to the “ben yakhid (only child) regulation” the IDF will assign you to a combat unit only with your and your parents’ consent. Any of you can withdraw their signature at any stage (and with that cancel the whole document of consent). However, the IDF has asked rarely Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org-“only-child”-volunteers to prove their parents’ consent.

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Do combat engineering and infantry units get the same training?

Combat engineering units get the same basic training as chir (infantry), plus demolition. Their service is varied because they support all the other combat units.

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What kinds of placements do women get in the IDF?

The IDF can place women practically the same jobs that men do (with the exeception of combat units). Women are eligible for combat units, if they volunteer for it.

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Perhaps I will not like it. Can a volunteer get discharged early?

Since volunteers serve as regular soldiers like Israeli conscripts, volunteers will only receive early discharge under the same conditions according to which conscripts are discharged from the IDF (for example in case of illness)

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What does a female volunteer have to do to get a non-administrative job?

Very simple: declare your desire to be placed in a combat unit on the forms you fill out when enlisting.

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Can somebody from Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org contact me by phone?

Contact Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org by phone only after studying extensively the website and FAQ page. Due to budgetary, staff shortages and different business hours worldwide, it is difficult for Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org to contact you by telephone or to return calls.

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Can Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org put me in touch with present volunteers or veterans?

For security and legal reasons, Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org can not publish names and contact details of volunteers or what they do or did in the IDF. Loose lips sink ships!

However, over one thousand young people from more than 40 countries have already joined the IDF through Mahal IDF programs.

See the the Jerusalem Post article about overseas volunteers for the IDF, published on August 22, 2004, click here.

For links to overseas IDF veterans click here.

I am not Jewish. Can I volunteer if I convert to Judaism?

Yes, if the conversion is valid in Israel. However, Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org does not encourage converting for the purpose of enlisting in the IDF. In any event, the conversion to Judaism is a long and complicated process, often taking you beyond the age limit of the Mahal IDF programs. However, there are numerous other ways to help. Take a look at "Other Volunteer Programs" in Israel.


How do I enlist?

After registration, the Ministry of Defense will arrange your visit to the Induction Center (Lishkat Ha’Giyus). There you will take a Hebrew test, undergo medical exams which will determine your medical profile, take psychometric exams (similar to IQ tests), and fill out forms which allow you to state your preferences for type of service, etc. You should declare any medical problems or conditions which affect you.

I am not an Israeli citizen. If I make aliya (get Israeli citizenship), can I enlist in the IDF directly (not through the IDF Mahal programs)?

In principle, yes. However, in our experience you will have to wait for about one year to be enlisted. In addition, the IDF service will be up to three years depending on your age upon arrival, profile and family status on the date of the enlistment, rather than the flat min. 14 (18) months as in the Mahal IDF programs for non-Israeli citizens.

The IDF Mahal programs are the fast lane for enlistment. After you enlist, you can get Israeli citizenship.

If you have Israeli citizenship and reside overseas you might be able to join the IDF through the path for overseas residents with Israeli citizenship who were not residents of Israel after their 10th birthday.

Who would pay for my travel expenses (or other cost)?

The volunteer must cover his own travel expenses. If you need assistance, you should consult the Jewish Agency Aliya Representative for your country and other organizations and your Jewish community. We know that these organizations have helped in the past including with scholarships, but we do not know any further details but they must be contacted directly.

Is there a precedent for a Mahalnik serving in XYZ unit?

Most Mahal volunteers serve in the Nahal Infantry Brigade and significant numbers served in a great variety of other units, combat and non-combat. The IDF can assign you to any job that can be done by an Israeli soldier under comparable circumstances.

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org cannot assess the probability of what a specific volunteer will do in the IDF nor detail the units in which Mahal volunteers served in the past.

I want to serve in the Mahal Hesder or Nahal Haredi special IDF programs for religious soldiers. Will Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org help me?

Yes. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org will help any overseas volunteer for the IDF, regardless of the program chosen. You can choose any program for which you qualify.

Are the Sar-El, Marva and Mahal programs the same?

If you show motivation, and you truly believe that your feet won't bother you enough to interfere during your service, you should be all set --- most people with flat feet get an 82 -97.

And lets say you have serious flat feet problems and a low profile, you'll go to shiryon (tanks) and become a tank fighter, or maybe tothanim (artillery).

Would a Mahal volunteer be in a unit with Israelis?

Yes, there are not separate units for volunteers.

I am a secular Jew and not religious at all. Can I volunteer?

Yes, if you get a confirmation stating that you are Jewish, signed by a rabbi residing outside Israel. The confirmation must have a detailed letterhead with name of the Jewish community, address, phone, fax and email. The exact name of the rabbi must be clearly readable.

Most Jewish Israelis are probably secular. However, service in the IDF is fully compatible with adherence to Jewish religious law (like shmirat shabat, kashrut etc.).

My regular discharge date will be about two weeks after the beginning of my school year. Can I be discharged earlier for this reason?

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org is aware of many cases in which the IDF has shown great flexibility. You should submit your request with exact documentation about three months prior to your earlier discharge date. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org will support your request, if necessary. However, there is no guarantee that you will be discharged earlier.

Making aliya during the IDF service or after discharge

We encourage you to make aliya (= opt for Israeli citizenship or Israeli permanent residency) before or after discharge, but this is and remains a voluntary act; at no stage do you have such obligation.

Non-Israelis who opt for Israeli citizenship or Israeli permanent residency while in the IDF or during the two years following discharge and younger than 24-men | 21-women are expected to complete the IDF service time mandatory for their age at the time of their first arrival in Israel.

The extra service time varies due to individual factors; as you can calculate for yourself, this may also be zero.

If you leave Israel after discharge for two years, you will not be liable to extra service time. We heard that also staying in Israel after discharge on a visa for tourists (B2), temporary residents (A1), students or volunteers (A2) may have the same effect, since apparently the law for compulsory service does not apply on these.

In any case, if you opt for Israeli citizenship or Israeli permanent residency, you will be assigned to a Reserve Service unit; the IDF does not, however, always call up all of their reservists every year, and a variety of exemptions are available.

Note: the above is our educated guess of the result of the present IDF rules. The final decision lies exclusively with the IDF.

Before requesting more information from Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org ...

Please search and study the Mahal website and especially the pages Who Can Volunteer?, Your Service in the IDF, Volunteering Step-by-Step, Register Online, FAQ and the external links like the informations for Chayalim Bodedim (Lone Soldiers).

Because of the volume of queries we receive and the small size of our volunteer-only-staff, Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org regrets that it may not be able to respond to you as quickly as both we and you would like. Generally we will not respond personally to you, if the answer to your query is available on our website.

Is there more information about specific IDF units ?/I do not know what choices I have.

Check our military related links. The IDF is a huge organization with innumerable choices. Most of the information is classified and in any case, the IDF will make the final choice, after your enlistment. But your preferences play a role in the IDF’s decision. Usually Mahal volunteers serve in the Nahal Infantry Brigade. As a matter of fact, Mahal volunteers served in most units of the IDF, combat and non-combat.

Can you apply to the navy and the army simultaneously?

The navy, army and air force are part of the IDF. Therefore you always start by enlisting in the IDF.

I am the only child of my parents. Can I serve in a non-combat unit?

Apparently if you insist on the IDF’s “only-child” regulation you will serve in a non-combat unit, and needless to say also if your profile is non-combat.

Do I need a driving licence?

  1. You do not need a driving licence for enlistment in the IDF.
  2. Having a driving licence at arrival in Israel is advantageous: if you intend to buy sooner or later a new car, it saves you a lot of money for customs. Customs related issues - click here.
  3. Validity of foreign driving licences in Israel: In case you stay in Israel as tourist for less than one year your foreign driving licence is recognized as valid. If you are a resident in Israel you have to apply for an Israeli driving licence within one year. For up to date information contact the Licencing Office Tel Aviv: Tel Giborim, POB 90, Holon 58100, Tel. 03-502777 or 03-5024000.

Can I enlist if I have a tattoo?

Yes.

Would I have to get Israeli citizenship in order to qualify?

No.

Where do I report broken links, suggest improvements etc.?

Please write to [email protected]

I prefer to serve in the USA.

From post on the Forum by Mahal veteran Dan from Boston, December 12, 2005:

"Both countries are doing great and important work today which benefits both nations as well as the entire world.

I'll probably be joining the US military within the next two years, and I view my experience in the IDF through the Mahal program as an invaluable education. The training for infantrymen in the IDF is longer and vastly superior to the training provided to regular infantrymen in the US Army and US Marine Corps. And on top of that, the minimum commitment for Mahal volunteers is short enough that it allows young men and women the chance to see whether the military life may be for them. It isn't for everyone, but I think it is for me. Without my service in Israel I'm not sure I would be ready to make the decision to serve in America."

I would like to serve in a special operations unit.

If you would like to serve in a special operations unit you should indicate at your interview at the Ministry of Defense that you would be willing to sign the additional time required should you be accepted into a special operations unit. The total service time required is apparently no less than 2 1/2 years.

Does the IDF decide where to place you after the enlistee nominates which units he would like to serve in?

Yes, usually.

If I enlist with a friend is it certain or likely that we will serve together in the same unit?

It is quite likely if both have the same profile.

I want to make a donation to Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org.

We do not accept donations. If you wish to donate for overseas volunteers directly we will be happy to help you.

Should I take ulpan even after having learnt Hebrew in Jewish day schools?


Probably you don't need an ulpan, if you can communicate well in Hebrew.

How much Hebrew do I have to know? What happens if my command of Hebrew is not reasonable, at the time of the enlistment? | Army ulpan

In our experience, most volunteers assess their Hebrew skills quite realistically. If you are interested in this issue, you probably believe that your Hebrew skills do not suffice; in this case, you can avoid unnecessary delays and hassle by choosing from the outset an enlistment date with free IDF Ulpan. Details here.

Only one of my grandparents is Jewish. Can I volunteer?

Yes, since you are a Zakai Aliya. The bottom line of the following is that you are eligible if you are Jewish born or converted, one of your parents is Jewish or one of your grandparents is Jewish.

Get a confirmation stating that your grandparent is (or was, if deceased) Jewish, signed by a rabbi residing outside Israel. The confirmation must have a detailed letterhead with name of the Jewish community, address, phone, fax and email. The exact name of the rabbi must be clearly readable.

The rabbi's confirmation is a prerequisite for the confirmation issued by the Israeli Interior Ministry that you are entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return (Zakai Aliya Lefi Hok Hashvut), which is a prerequisite for enlisting in the IDF. All these are quite simple but sometimes time consuming procedures.

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org can not confirm the validity of documents for the purpose of Israeli immigration. This will be done by the Israeli Ministry of Interior after your first stop in Israel (the meeting at the Ministry of Defense). However, if you know for sure that one of your grandparents is Jewish but you do not know how to validate this, please contact the Jewish Agency Aliya Representative for your country which may be able to assist you.

Do I have to prove that I am Jewish or Zakai Aliya?

By the time you sign up with the Ministry of Defense in person in Israel you have to submit a confirmation stating that you are Jewish (or if you are Zakai Aliya that one of your parents or one of your grandparents is/was Jewish), signed by a rabbi residing outside Israel. The confirmation must have a detailed letterhead with name of the Jewish community, address, phone, fax and email. The exact name of the rabbi must be clearly readable.

The rabbi's confirmation is a prerequisite for the confirmation issued by the Israeli Interior Ministry that you are entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return (Zakai Aliya Lefi Hok Hashvut), which is a prerequisite for enlisting in the IDF. All these are quite simple but sometimes time consuming procedures.

Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org can not confirm the validity of documents for the purpose of Israeli immigration. This will be done by the Israeli Ministry of Interior after your first stop in Israel (the meeting at the Ministry of Defense). However, if you know for sure that one of your grandparents is Jewish but you do not know how to validate this, please contact the Jewish Agency Aliya Representative for your country which may be able to assist you.

Is there a difference between Mahal and the other IDF programs for which I can register on this website and regular IDF service?

Mahal and the other IDF programs on this website are only administrative gates for the simplified enlistment of non-Israelis and overseas Israelis. The actual service of the volunteers is shoulder to shoulder with regular Israeli soldiers, even if the minimum service time is usually shorter than the regular IDF paths. Otherwise there are no major differences.

There are no separate "overseas" (or even English speaker) units or jobs but the overseas enlistees serve always shoulder to shoulder with regular Israeli soldiers.


I am not Jewish or Zakai Aliya, my spouse is Jewish. Can I volunteer?

Unfortunately not, unless you are already an Israeli citizen.

I am an Israeli citizen residing overseas. After my 10th birthday I was never a resident of Israel, but I visited. Does my visit change my status?

Yes. But only if you stayed more than 4 uninterrupted months. In this case you do not qualify for the short IDF path for Israeli citizens residing overseas, children of overseas Israelis etc. but for the regular IDF path.

I am an Israeli overseas resident (or the child of an Israeli). Will Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org help me?

Yes. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org will help any overseas volunteer for the IDF, regardless of the program chosen or citizenship. You can choose any program for which you qualify.

Should I join prior enlistment a pre-army program (mechina) or Hebrew study program (ulpan)?

No. You should be able to complete and pass all IDF enlistment procedures within about 6 weeks after your arrival in Israel. But, if you think your Hebrew language skills are not up to par for IDF service, make sure to choose an enlistment date marked with Free IDF Ulpan - here. The IDF Hebrew studies program operates in combination with pre-basic training, which includes handling weapons, and both are part of your military service. From the date of your enlistment you are an Israeli soldier with all the privileges and obligations. Therefore, the IDF will pay you both a monthly salary and a generous grant upon completing service, including payment for the additional months spent in the IDF ulpan. More details here.

What is the difference between the advertised alleged "Mahal pre-military" civilian program and the official IDF Mahal recruitment programs that Mahal-IDF-volunteers.org promotes?

For over a year, civilian organizers have been advertising an alleged "Mahal pre-military" program without it ever having taken place in reality at all. They are also using a website address similar to ours and are even asking for donations, while making the outrageous claim that "program participants will carry on the tradition of the 1948 volunteers, and walk in the footsteps of Mahal members from 1948 until these days". Please note that Mahal volunteers, called Mahalniks, have been coming to Israel since 1948 to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, but not in tourist programs.

The expensive 5-months-civilian-touristic-program advertised is not a bona fide IDF Mahal program. The organizers charge considerable sums of money for services automatically provided FREE OF CHARGE to IDF soldiers. All services stipulated on our Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org website are provided free of charge: we NEVER ask for, nor accept, donations.

If you wish to volunteer for service in the IDF, don't waste your time and money on make-believe "Mahal pre-military" programs for civilians. Register online here now, get our pre-check of your eligibility and information, choose a suitable IDF enlistment date, come to Israel and enlist, a few weeks after your arrival, in the Israel Defense Forces. When accepted, you will be provided with an IDF uniform, service weapon, and with military training, enabling you to personally fight for our country. Needless to say, the IDF does not charge soldiers for this service. On the contrary, the IDF pays its soldiers a monthly salary and provides a generous grant upon completing service. Other free of charge benefits include: IDF Hebrew studies (ulpan), pre-basic and military training, accommodation, food, insurance, fitness training, bus and train tickets and much more.

More details - here.

Why should I enlist in an IDF Hebrew studies program (ulpan) and not in any other Hebrew study program?

Studying Hebrew before enlistment is not a bad idea, but no civilian program can guarantee you that your newly acquired Hebrew skills will suffice for passing the IDF Hebrew test. This puts the participants of any civilian "pre-army" program at a distinct disadvantage. If you choose an enlistment date NOT marked with Free IDF Ulpan - here - and fail the IDF Hebrew test, which some participants of civilian programs do, you will have to wait an additional 2 months for the next enlistment date marked with Free IDF Ulpan. As a result, prior to your enlistment you will have spent at least 5 months in the civilian "pre-army" program + 2 months waiting for the next enlistment date = 7 months, as well as a considerable sum of money.

Financially, civilian programs have a double disadvantage: you pay a lot for participating but you also lose what the IDF would have paid you had you enlisted in the IDF in the first place – namely, a monthly salary and a generous grant upon completing service, both calculated on basis of the number of months you served (including the time in the free IDF ulpan).

If, despite these explanations, you chose to consider a civilian "pre-army" program, do not sign a contract with the organizer before checking the terms with a lawyer. Check with us if that organization has a proven track record for organizing "pre-army" programs. Do not agree to pay any sums before you have officially completed and passed the required IDF Hebrew test.

More details - here.

How does my IDF profile influence my job assignment?

Wikipedia - IDF medical profiles: H, Ru

For which IDF units/jobs am I eligible, when eligible for IDF enlistment?

The assignment to a specific IDF unit or job is based on a few factors such as the army’s needs, your medical profile as determined by IDF tests during the enlistment procedures (in Israel), your min. service time, and your preferences. The final decision relies exclusively with the IDF.

Following is a partial overview for guidance purposes only; it is not a guarantee for any specific unit or job:

Combat jobs (men)
Usually, men with a profile between 97 and 72 will be placed in a combat unit.

  • 97 - Golani Infantry Brigade
  • 97 - Givati Brigade (infantry and amphibious force)
  • 97 - Nahal Infantry Brigade
  • 97 - Kfir Infantry Brigade
  • 97 - Mishmar HaGvul (Border Police)
  • 97 - Paratroopers Brigade (2 years min.)
  • 72 - Armored Corps/Heil HaShirion (battle tanks)
  • 72 - Artillery Corps/Heil HaTotchanim (medium and long-range artillery)

Combat jobs (women)

  • Caracal Battalion (infantry)
  • Oketz Unit - independent canine special forces (sayeret)

Non-combat jobs (women and men with low profile)
Usually you receive a questionnaire listing appropriate options. Some involve further testing or tryouts, for example, if you are interested in being a Madrich or Madricha (teacher). If you don’t pass one of the tryouts, you can often apply for a different position.

  • N.C.O. (non-commissioned officer)
  • instructor for various combat activities such as sniping
  • Sar-El instructor

Should I contact the MoD from overseas and schedule an appointment?

Contact the MoD from overseas to reconfirm/check for changes and schedule your first appointment; this is not strictly necessary, but it helps particularly if your schedule is tight.

However, you can schedule your appointment also after arriving in Israel and even visit the MoD office without any appointment; in the last case be prepared for a longer than usual waiting time or for having to return on another day.

You got the MoD contacts including the map in our reply to your registration. If you did not register yet, please register here and we will mail you the MoD contacts and other important information.

What will I be free to do in the period from my first visit at the MoD office until the enlistment date?

As detailed here, after your arrival in Israel you have to visit a few offices in order to be able to enlist on the enlistment date of your choice. Usually, each stop is a prerequisite for proceeding to the next one. Your first stop in Israel is the visit of the MoD office which will guide you until your date of enlistment.

As a gross estimate, you will have to visit these stops in total 10 times and you may need a few hours to a day for each of your visits. So let's say about 10 days in total.

In-between, while waiting for the completion of your issue at the current stop, you can do whatever you like. You can even leave Israel for short periods.

In any case, keep in mind that also in Israel it is important to follow up and persist if you want things to be done, particularly if you schedule is tight. Everybody wants to help you, but sometimes also IDF clerks are overworked or chaotic; don't expect them to contact you always in time or even to chase you in the whole world. Therefore, follow up by checking politely once in few days if your current issue was completed to the stage enabling you to proceed to the next stop.

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