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Armed Forces (Israel)

Israel Defense Forces, Tzvah Haganah L'Yisrael

Last modified: 2006-03-04 by santiago dotor
Keywords: israel | idf | israel defence forces | tzvah haganah l'yisrael | haganah | irgun | hexagon (yellow) | sword (yellow) | branch: olive (yellow) | scroll (yellow) | canton: israel | star: 6 points (blue outlined) |
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[Army Flag (Israel)] 8:11
image by Zeljko Heimer

See also:


There are no Army, Navy and Air Force as separate bodies. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF or Tzvah Haganah L'Yisrael) is divided into forces two of which are the Air Force (Heyl Ha'avir) and Navy (Heyl Ha'yam, literally sea force).

Dov Gutterman, 26 September 2002


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.

Zeljko 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

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

Irgun Underground Organisation

The Jewish underground organisation Irgun fought in the 1940's against British domination in Palestine. The emblem shows the contours of the British Mandate of Palestine, claimed by the Irgun. This emblem had been placed on a white cloth with two small blue stripes. (Source: Spiegel 32). [translated from German by Jarig Bakker]. Shows an Israeli national flag, fringed, with a map including Israel and Jordan in the middle, instead of the Magen David. On the map is a hand holding a rifle.

Jaume Ollé, 11 September 1999

Jewish units in the British Army

An old-timer told me he was in the British Army during World War Two, serving in a few units. He said that companies of Jewish soldiers from Palestine used to have an unofficial flag — a Union Jack with the blue-white flag in canton. Some of the British commanders forbade the use of the flag, some ignored it.

Nahum Shereshevsky, 30 June 1997

According to the Jewish Encyclopaedia, white and blue flag was adopted by Jewish Brigade Group in WWII (like the current one?). The white flags with (blue?) David star, and with a small UJ in the canton show in photo of a Chaplain in Sabbath service of the 38th Royal fusiliers (WWI).

Jaume Ollé, 31 May 1998

I am not sure what flags are being referenced here, because British brigades do not carry flags. Battalions carry a King's Colour and Regimental Colour, but I don't think these Jewish units of the British Army were every issued any because they disbanded too soon.

In WWI, the Royal Fusiliers (a London regiment) formed three Jewish battalions in Jan. 1918. The 38th Bn was composed of Jewish immigrants from Russia. The 39th was composed of US and Canadian volunteers. The 40th was actually formed in Palestine when the battalions arrived there in June. Many of the 40th Bn had served in the Ottoman Jewish police, and therefore the 40th Bn appropriated the latter's "Hashomar standard". Collectively the three battalions were known as the "Jewish Legion". The badge of all three battalions was a menorah on a scroll inscribed in Hebrew "Kadima" (Forward). The battalions disbanded in Palestine in 1919, and most of the soldiers settled there.

In WWII, the British Army formed The Palestine Regiment in Palestine in Sept. 1942, consisting of Jewish and Arab battalions. Their badge was an olive tree in a circle inscribed "Palestine" in English, Hebrew and Arabic. When the badge was issued, some 60 Jews mutinied because it contained an Arabic inscription, but there was no further trouble in the regiment. In Sept. 1944 the three Jewish battalions were grouped into the independent "Jewish Infantry Brigade Group" in Egypt. The Palestine Regiment disbanded in Aug. 1948, and its personnel provided a trained nucleus for the Israeli army. British divisions and independent brigades wore shoulder sleeve "formation signs". The Jewish Brigade formation sign was a yellow Star of David on a blue-white-blue vertical tricolour square patch. In most photographs the blue stripes are barely visible whereas the star is very evident. This leads me to believe that the star must have been heavily fimbriated, or heavily embroidered so as to cause shadows.

[Formation sign of British Army independent Jewish Brigade Group]
by T. F. Mills

The brigade held a victory parade in Antwerp, Belgium at the end of the war. A photograph shows them saluting a dipped Zionist flag as they march past. I would guess that this flag (which was not the brigade's) was blue and white like the current Israeli one, but the stripes are a little thinner, and the lines of the star are very thin.

T. F. Mills, 31 May 1998

Nimtza-bi 1948 (Ha-Degel) shows a photo of that white and blue flag and the text "Flag hoisting ceremony at the Jewish Brigade Grup HQ, at the presence of Moshe Shertok (later Moshe Sharet, first foreign minister of Israel) and Brigadier Benjamin. The flag was not used as a unit flag but as a national flag and it was carried by the Brigade in the victory parade in London."

Nahum Shereshevsky, 2 June 1998

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