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Israel Defense Forces

Tzvah Haganah LeYisrael, ZAHAL, IDF

Last modified: 2011-07-08 by andrew weeks
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[Army Flag (Israel)] 8:11
image by Željko Heimer and Miles Li, 9 August 2008


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Description

This is the flag used by the army (together with the national flag). There is also a yellow device in the lower fly end, consisting of a sixpointed shape with a sword and an olive branch, and a ribbon with the text TZVAH HAGANAH L'YISRAEL that would be Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The flag is 6:11 proportioned (unlike the national flag which is 8:11), and has yellow fringes around three edges. Here I came onto a question: are the lengths of yellow fringes included in this proportions, or not? A much more interesting question would be about fringes altogether. Are they part of the flag specification, and how obligatory etc.
Željko Heimer
, 1 April 1996

Recently I was in the Army doing reserve service, and I looked in the Army Regulations for flag-related ones. I found the answer to the questions mentioned above. The size of the flag is 220 × 160 cm, the canton with the national flag is 110 × 80 cm. The fringes are 8 cm long and are not included in the 8:11 proportions. And I would say that they are obligatory if they are mentioned in the Regulations (as are fringes of some other flags). The pole is 350cm long and has the IDF badge on top, from the IDF parade. These measurements refer to the official IDF flag that was given to the army by the President of Israel during Independence Day parade in 1951.

The IDF also have an official national flag, taken from the IDF march in Tel Aviv, 1949. Each year a different corps or command safekeeps these two flags, and the transfer is done as part of the ceremony that opens Independence Day. In Israel Independence Day is preceded by Memorial Day. This year Memorial Day was Sunday, May 11. According to Jewish law the day starts at sunset, so Independence Day started on Sunday at sunset. There is an official ceremony —one of the very few we have in Israel— which is held at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. This ceremony separates Memorial Day from Independence Day and it starts with hoisting the flag from half-mast to full-mast. One part is the transfer of the flags, this year from Central Command to the Navy. Besides the two official flags there are also flags (colours?) of the various corps, commands etc.
Nahum Shereshevsky
, 31 May 1997

Is the Israeli Army flag routinely flown outdoors on its own? When used in military parades, etc., is it carried on its own or with the national flag? If it is used alone, I would call it [in vexillological terms] the war flag, i.e. a variant of the national flag for use by the armed forces, whereas the US Army Flag is merely an organizational flag.
Tom Gregg
, 17 September 1998

Well, the IDF flag is not flown regularly. It is used mainly in ceremonies together with the national flag. You can call it also an organizational flag. Usually, in ceremonies the flag is with fringes but I did not see a word about fringes in the regulations. The regulations specify that the national flag will be flown at all army bases, and there is no obligation to fly any other flag. In many bases, you can see that they fly the branch of service flag or a banner with the branch of service colours (like black and green triangles that make a rectangle for the armoured units) but usually no IDF flag. Nahum Shereshevsky has got the full range of IDF flags.
Dov Gutterman
, 18 September 1998

Army Regulation 33.0401 paragraph 1c2 clearly says that the flag has an 8 cm fringe. The colour of the fringe is not specified. Actually it should be former regulation 33.0401. I recently found out that a number of army regulations concerning flags were abolished and replaced by one regulation that specifies procedures. The descriptions of the flags were moved to Maintainance Corps Regulations. The reason given, as far as I remember, was that these are technical/production details.
Nahum Shereshevsky
, 19 September 1998

Correct, the flag is 160 cm × 220 cm with 8 cm fringes on three sides.
Dov Gutterman
, 19 September 1998

The above image of the IDF flag is wrong in several respects. Firstly, it has an 8:11 ratio including the fringe, which implies that the ratio is wrong. Secondly, the canton is not half (80/160) the length of the flag.
Santiago Dotor
, 8 November 2002

While visiting a friend, I found out that his late father covered one of the walls in his study with photos from historical events of Israel. I was caught by a photo showing the IDF flag hoisted on the 1st IDF parade that was held in Tel Aviv on 27 July  1948. I couldn't find a photo on the net and got only partial photo from the second parade (4 May 1949) at Tel Aviv municipal website. (go to <tel-aviv.millenium.org.il> and click the sixth link a the bottom).
The flag was the national flag with the IDF emblem at the center.
Meanwhile I located  IDF GHQ order no 33.0401 from which I learned that the current flag of the IDF was presented  by the President (Hayyim Weitzman) to the IDF at the IDF parade held on Jerusalem on 4 Iyar 5711 (10 May 1951).
The description of IDF is as follows:
Art. 31: "Its length 220 cm. Its width 160 cm.  The background is "Tkhelt" (light blue/azure) and in its top left corner, near the hoist - the national flag in length of 110 cm. and width of 80 cm. On the bottom right corner, near the drummer - there is the IDF emblem in length of 70 cm. and width of 68 cm.
At the ends of the flags there are fringes, 8 cm. wide.
The flag will be attached to a poll 0f 350 cm. long with the IDF metallic emblem attached to its top side".
Dov Gutterman, 15 March 2009


Military Flags - Overview

GHQ order #33.0602 is dealing with IDF unit flags. The order deals with three types of unit flags:
1) Commands flags (sec. 7.4)
There is no descriptions of those flags. There are seven commands that have such flags: North, Central, South, Homefront and Field Forces Command as well the Air force and the navy. The three territorial commands' flags are quite similar to the IDF flag but with their emblems at lower fly and crimson background.
2) Service flags (sec. 7.6)
Flags of forces/services
Service flag is described as a flag in the service colors with the service emblem in its top fly side. There are also decoration flags without the emblem.
3) Unit flags
No description of those flags (usually they are the same as the command/service flag with the unit emblem).

Interesting that according to the orders, only battalions or equivalents will have flags and bigger units (Regimants,Divisions,wings etc...) will have only a metal made standard. However, all of them do have unit flags....
Therefore, officially, only those units can have unit flags: Infantry,paratroops,communication, artillery, armour, engineers and NAHAL battalions. Air force squadrons, navy flotillas, military schools, pre-military boarding schools, training bases, medical battalions, logistics battalions, ordinance battalions, inelegance battalions, supply centers, logistic bases and equivalent units.
All unit flags must be approved by the IDF's Symbols and Flags Committee.
Dov Gutterman, 17 February 2005

The IDF is combined of "professional" Arms (Land, Air and Sea), Territorial Commands (North,Central, South and Homefront) and HQ wings. Each headed by an officer with rank of Major General. Arms and Commands have distinctive flags. The commands flags are crimson with national flag in canton. The "Land Arm" is quite a new feature, replacing the "Field Forces Command" and therefore it a quite new flag.
Dov Gutterman, 20 November 2005 2005


Unidentified Staff Flags

I lived in Israel from 1988 to 1990, and at the time there were two army flags (as I get them from memory):

  • The first was, I think, the army staff flag (red with the national flag in the canton and the golden army device on the lower fly). I also saw a variant, red with a navy officer's device at the lower fly.
  • The second one was blue with an officer's device at the lower fly, and a white triangle against the hoist.

Roberto Rossetti, 8 May 1998

The only red (actually, crimson) IDF flag that I know of is the Chief of Staff flag, which Roberto Rossetti describes as with a navy officer's device which actually is a combination of a sword, wings, an anchor and an olive branch, representing the entire IDF (including Army, Air Force and Navy).
Maybe the first flag he describes is a unit flag of the General Staff.
The third flag he describes is probably the Commander of the Navy flag. The device is a sword with an olive branch and an anchor. It is the naval ensign with the device added.
Nahum Shereshevsky
, 8 May 1998


Branch of Service and Unit Flags

I compared the shades of colour used in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to denote branch of service or corps, with those used in the US and British Armies to see if there are any similarities. Well, there are not. I guess there are no universal colours like the red berets of parachutists or black berets of armor. So here are the colours used in the IDF. They are used for unit flags, shoulder patches (sometimes) — and for painting things at camp! Each corps has two colours, and there are decoration flags with these. The flags are rectangular, 90x120 cm and divided diagonally by a line going from the upper hoist to the bottom fly. In the following list, the first colour is that of the lower triangle (the one on the bottom hoist).

  • yellow/green - infantry
  • [purple/white - Giva'ati infantry brigade]
  • red/white - parachutists
  • green/black - armour
  • black/red - artillery
  • black orange - engineers
  • red/dark blue - military police
  • white/red - medical corps
  • red/yellow - ordnance
  • yellow/blue - maintenance
  • green/white - intelligence
  • blue/yellow - general corps
  • light blue/white - adjutancy
  • white/light blue - education
  • red/green - listed as civil/regional defence, but these formations are now part of Homefront Command. I don't know if the colours are now used by them.
  • orange/brown - women's corps. I heard that that formation is going to be abolished soon.

Communications, electronics and computers corps (it is one corps, not three — that is the official name) uses a flag with a different pattern: dark blue with a white diagonal line. It would be interesting to compare those to colours used in other countries.
Nahum Shereshevsky
, 23 June 1997

Yesterday was Jerusalem Day which commemorates the unification of the city in 1967. Every year there is a parade in the city, in this year there were also army units there — with their flags. It reminded me the parades that used to be on Independence Day until 1968. That was my first chance to see real army flags, since I became flag-conscious, anyway.

The field of the flags is divided diagonally between the two colours of the relevant corps. The main element of the flag is usually the shoulder patch or a similar design. Since these are awarded to brigade-level (or equivalent) formations while flags are awarded to regiment/batallion-level formations, the latter flags have additional elements to distinguish the specific battalion. I was able to see clearly only one example: Transportation Centre, which is equal to a brigade, has a flag of yellow/blue (Maintainance Corps) with their patch (elephant). There were about five flags like that, each with a combination of coloured bars, belonging I suppose to the individual bases.

The finials are in the shape of the corps emblems and attached to them are campaign streamers. I have read about that in the Army Regulation but it is the first time I actually saw this.
Nahum Shereshevsky
, 25 May 1998

The yellow/green is infantry force in general, however all four infantry regiments have their own flags too:

Also, the Education Force is now Education and Youth Force.
Dov Gutterman
, 11 November 2002

One more to add the the bicolors military flags. Anti-Aircraft Corps (part of the Air Force) - Diagonaly divided Blue-Black
Source: author observation 15 December 2003
Dov Gutterman
, 15 December 2003

The Homefront Command use diagonaly divided orange-light blue.
Dov Gutterman, 5 June 2007


WWII Russian Veterans in Israel

[WWII Russian Veterans in Israel]

Attached image of some WWII Russian veterans in Israel. Anyone know the flags or can read the inscriptions?
Jaume Ollé
, 22 February 1999

It is in Hebrew, on the front flag is written Shnilkhamu (Who fought), on the back flag is written MeBrih"am (From USSR).
Dov Gutterman
, 27 February 1999