Ever since the War of Independence in 1948, ongoing conflict has been a major force in Israeli life and has influenced art as well. Military strength has always been essential to protect the land and each decade has witnessed at least one major war. Not surprisingly, the presence of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) pervades daily life in Israel. All citizens, including women, are required to serve and the equipment and routines of military life are ubiquitous.

As the army developed its great prowess, the IDF became an important factor in shaping the "new Jew." Refuting previous definitions of the Jew as victim, the Israeli soldier cultivated the aura of a fierce, macho warrior. Tales of military heroism have functioned as a unifying force in Israeli society, overriding generational barriers and religious differences.

Over the years, however, public opinion about the mythic status of the military has undergone a radical transformation. The contrast between the euphoria after the Six Day War (1967) and the trauma of the Yom Kippur War (1973) spurred conflicted feelings among many Israelis. These feelings intensified after the Lebanon War (1982) and grew even stronger following the Palestinian uprising known as the Intifada (1987). In addition, economic prosperity and political maturity have bolstered Israel’s sense of self-assurance. This newfound confidence has enabled Israel to gain perspective on its own myths— including that of the military. Contemporary depictions of military life have somewhat diminished the glory of the IDF, mirroring the shifting attitudes of Israeli society.

Gil Shachar

Nir Hod