The Israel Defence Force and the Foundation of Israel

The Israel Defence Force and the Foundation of Israel

The Israel Defence Force and the Foundation of Israel

The Israel Defence Force and the Foundation of Israel

Synopsis

This book discusses the contribution of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to the building of the social and educational foundations of the country, and its role in the area of immigrant absorption and settlement during the first years of the Israeli State. The author examines how under the guidance of David Ben-Gurion Israel was able to utilize the values of military organization to combat severe, economic, and social difficulties, and build a civil society to underpin the new state.

Excerpt

Immediately following its establishment in 1948, the State of Israel was forced to contend with a number of very complex problems. Foremost among them was the struggle for its existence, which required the mobilization of all human and material resources. However, this did not prevent the fledgling State from opening its gates to massive immigration at the height of its War of Independence and from continuing with this influx of human capital following the cessation of hostilities. During the first year of independence Israel took in more than 100,000 olim (immigrants) and by the end of 1951, 700,000 olimhad entered the country. in the course of its first three years, the State's Jewish population more than doubled. Policies pursued at this time in the immigration and absorption, social and educational fields, and the resultant settlement programmes, gave shape to the geographic, social, economic and security landscape of the Israeli State for years to come.

David Ben-Gurion, acting simultaneously as Prime Minister and Defence Minister of the new State of Israel, stood at the centre of these historical processes and played a leading role in their formulation. He sought to build a new society, an Israeli society possessing unique characteristics, and he awarded the army a special place in the realization of this goal. His visionary utopia was dressed in military attire. the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was envisaged as a state instrument of the first order, fully detached from the political system and party pressures. Preliminary steps toward this objective began to crystallize when Ben-Gurion boldly disbanded the Palmach (a strike force of the Hagana), the very same body he had deployed to break up Etzel (the National Military Guard) and Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel). According to Ben-Gurion, this instrument was designed to secure not only the survival and safety of the State but also to serve as the standard bearer in the pioneering areas of education, immigrant absorption and settlement.

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