A while ago I was on the phone with Jack Murphy talking about the history of the IDF, its ops and other bits of information he was interested in when he asked me why is it that Israel has so many SOF or special operations capable units. This is a question I am asked a lot so I figure it was time to write about it.

Now, this is by no means an “official” answer. This is my own opinion after having lived in Israel for many years and having served in the IDF, sometimes attached to some of those SOF units.

Israel is a small country with a population of roughly 3+ million that can serve in the IDF both as active duty or as a reservist. The IDF is not a big military and has historically been composed of small units that can perform very specific tasks and be “regular” infantry when needed as well. Like in the Marines, every IDF soldier is a rifleman.

Israel is surrounded by hostile countries and enemies that do not share the same restrictions the IDF has. These enemies do not care about collateral damage, they do not care about using children, women and elderly people to perform acts of terror. Their tactics and techniques are constantly evolving, changing and new threats are often introduced. Israel has to adapt, and do it fast,

On top of that, most operations are conducted on urban terrain or locations where town and cities are under constant threat – i.e. our own back door. Israel doesn’t fight on a far-away land. Israel fight right in her own backyard and often inside her house. Everyone serves. Everyone gives. That’s the reality of the land.

Because of the very small number of soldiers on active duty at any given time, the warfare landscape, and the tradition of special operations started by the Haganah and other early IDF precursor organizations, the IDF prefers to create new units that can handle a very specific threat the best way possible and not rely on bigger, heavier, slower to move regular units.