Israel Table of Contents
Traditionally, conditions of service in the IDF were Spartan; Israeli soldiers served out of a patriotic desire to defend the homeland rather than for material benefits. During the 1980s, however, as manpower needs of the IDF grew substantially-- particularly the requirement to attract skilled technicians from the civilian sector--material considerations became more important. The nearly continual cycle of increases in pay and benefits were meant to attract additional manpower and to compensate for the ever-rising cost of living.
Salaries for career soldiers were linked to salaries in the civilian sector; thus, compensation for education, skills, and responsibilities in the IDF was at least commensurate with that in the civilian sector, where wages were largely standardized. In spite of the relatively high pay and allowances, conditions of service were often onerous and comforts were few. Accommodations within units were austere. Extended separations from family and frequent relocations were common. Career soldiers received supplements and benefits unavailable to civilians, but it was difficult, if not impossible, for a career soldier to moonlight, a practice prevalent among civilians.
Basic pay was low and, because it changed more slowly than other salary components, had become progressively less significant in the soldier's total pay. Supplements were added for cost of living and families, based on size. Costs of higher education and free medical care were provided for all family members, and exchange and commissary facilities offered substantial discounts on purchases. The IDF subsidized housing in three ways: the IDF could provide base quarters at minimal rents, long-term, low-interest loans for purchase of homes, or assisted rentals in the civilian market. A generous retirement program covered those who had completed ten years of service and reached the age of forty. Every officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel or above had a car for both official and private use; lower-ranking officers had the use of cars on a shared basis. During annual leave, an officer could go to one of several seaside family resorts operated by the IDF.
Conscript soldiers received pay and benefits far below those of the career soldier. Pay was minimal, amounting to about US$25 a month for a private in 1986. Married soldiers received a monthly family allowance based on family income, as well as a rent and utility allowance. A demobilization grant was paid upon discharge, and unemployment compensation and a partial income tax exemption were available for up to one year. Discharged soldiers theoretically received preference in hiring. Former conscripts choosing to settle in development areas could obtain loans to purchase apartments.
Pay and benefits for the reservist while on active duty also were less than for the career soldier. Reservist pay was supplemented by pay from civilian employment. Employers regularly contributed a small percentage of the employee's salary to the National Security Fund, from which the employer then drew to pay the reservist while he or she was on active duty. Self-employed reservists could put money into the fund to receive a salary while on duty; if they chose not to contribute they received only subsistence pay while on active duty. Reservists could use the post exchange only while on active duty.
Retired officers received from 2 to 4 percent of their final pay for each year of service, depending on their job. Retired pilots, for example, received 4 percent and were said to live quite comfortably in retirement. In addition, retired officers and NCOs continued to receive a reduced portion of their in-service benefits. Disabled veterans received extra allowances and benefits. Retiring officers usually sought a second career; the IDF helped the transition into civilian life by offering occupational training (a course in business management, for example) and by paying the retired officer's full salary for up to one year depending on rank and seniority, while the officer searched for satisfactory civilian employment.
Data as of December 1988
Israel Table of Contents