The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has a unique rank structure. Because the IDF is an integrated force, ranks are the same in all services (there is no differentiation between army, navy, air force, etc.) The ranks are derived from those used in the pre-state paramilitary Haganah, which operated during the Mandate period in order to protect the Yishuv. This is reflected in the slightly compacted rank structure: for instance, the Chief of Staff (rosh ha-mate ha-klali, initials: Ramatkal) is seemingly only equivalent to a lieutenant general in other militaries.
|Category||Rank name, rank equivalent and NATO code||Insignia|
Rav aluf (initials:Ra'al)
(Commanding general of a branch of arms (ground force, air force or navy) or a regional command.
Tat aluf (initials:Ta'al)
(Commanding general of an arm of service (service corps) or division commander)
Field grade officers
|(אלוף משנה (אל"מ
Aluf mishne (initials:Alam)
Sgan aluf (initials:Sa'al)
(Executive officer of a brigade; Battalion Commander)
|(רב סרן (רס"ן
Rav seren (initials:Rasan)
(Battalion XO [Executive Officer])
(Major, equivalent to NATO OF-3)
Company grade officers
Segen — [Since 1951]
(1948-1951) סגן ראשון,סג"ר
Segen mishne (initials:Sagam) — [Since 1951]
|(קצין אקדמאי בכיר (קא"ב
Katzín akademai bakhír (initials:Ka'ab)
(Professional officer of the first class in the reserve — equivalent to a brevet captain.)
|(קצין מקצועי אקדמאי (קמ"א
Katzín miktsoí akademai (initials:Kama)
(Professional officer of the second class in the reserve — equivalent to a brevet first lieutenant.)
Rav nagad (initials:Ranag)
|(רב-נגד משנה (רנ"מ
Rav nagad mishne (initials:Ranam)
|(רב-סמל בכיר (רס"ב
Rav samal bakhír (initials:Rasab)
|(רב-סמל מתקדם (רס"מ
Rav samal mitkadem (initials:Rasam)
|(רב-סמל ראשון (רס"ר
Rav samal rishon (initials:Rasar)
Rav samal (initials:Rasal)
|(סמל ראשון (סמ"ר
Samal rishon (initials:Samar)
|(רב טוראי (רב"ט
Rav turai (initials:Rabat)
Officers (ktzinim): Volunteers who have completed the officer's course. Officers serve for at least 36 months (3 years) for women in non-combat position and 44 months (3 years, 8 months) for men. Positions in specialized units require their officers to serve for more than this (for example, seven years for pilots). Promotions are based on ability and time served. It takes about a year to be promoted from 2nd lieutenant to 1st lieutenant and three years to be promoted from 1st lieutenant to captain. Army officers have bronze-metal insignia (replaced with subdued black-metal insignia in 2002), air force officers have silver metal insignia, and navy officers have gold-metal insignia or gold braid bars. Officers without a university education can be promoted to a maximum of Rav Seren (Major), although the IDF often sponsors the studies for their majors.
Academic officers (ktzinim akademaim): Special rank given to soldiers who are delaying completing officers' training so they can complete a professional education (usually in engineering, medicine, or law). A kama is equivalent to a 2nd lieutenant, and a ka'ab is equivalent to a 1st lieutenant, but are treated as if they were breveted to the next higher rank. Officers of these ranks are considered professional manpower and rarely take posts of command. Upon finally completing officers' training, an academic officer is immediately awarded the corresponding next "real" rank due to their experience in grade. Their insignia bars are embossed with scrolls (megilot) rather than laurel branches (aronot).
Non-commissioned officers (nagadim): The professional non-commissioned and warrant ranks, drawn from volunteers who signed on for military service after completing conscription. They usually are assigned to head-up the headquarters staff of a unit. Samal is a Hebrew abbreviation for segen mi-khutz la-minyan, which translates as “supernumerary deputy”; it is a Field NCO rank equivalent to a British or Commonwealth "Sergeant". Rav samal translates as "chief sergeant"; it is a career NCO rank equivalent to a British or Commonwealth "Staff Sergeant" or "Sergeant Major" / "Warrant Officer". Nagad is a variant of the biblical word nagid, which means "ruler" or "leader". Rav nagad is a senior staff NCO rank equivalent to the American ranks of "Chief Warrant Officer" and "Master Warrant Officer".
Enlisted (hogrim): The conscript and field NCO ranks. All Jewish or Druze conscripts must start their compulsory service at 18 (unless they receive a deferment); Christians, Muslims, and Circassians may volunteer at 17 or older. Enlisted male conscripts serve for 32 months (2 years and 8 months) and female conscripts serve for 24 months (2 years). In the IDF enlisted ranks are earned by means of time in service (pazam), rather than by a particular post or assignment. After 4 to 12 months the conscript is promoted to rav turai, after 18 to 20 months promoted to samal, and after 24 to 32 months is promoted to samal rishon. (This means that female conscripts can reach no higher than samal during their compulsory service, unless they serve in combat positions).
Field NCOs (samal and samal rishon) who command sub-units (fire team or squad, respectively) are called mashak. This is an abbreviation that translates into English literally as "non-commissioned officer". It is a term of respect like the French Army's chef ("chief").
Recruits (tironim): Upon enlistment to military service in Israel, all soldiers begin a basic training course and undergo several weeks or months of 'integration' from citizens to soldiers. This course is called tironut ("recruit training") and the soldier being trained on this course is called a tiron (or "recruit"). This is often erroneously interpreted as a rank, similar to the US Army's private (E-1); tironim are ranked as turai (private), the same rank and paygrade as newly trained conscripts.
Both officers and enlisted personnel have an obligation to serve in the Reserves after completing their active military service. Male personnel serve until 41–51 years old while female personnel serve until 24 years old.
|Category||Rank name, rank equivalent and NATO code||Insignia|
|(ממלא מקום קצין (ממ"ק
Memale makom katzín (initials:Mamak)
(Acting officer or aspirant; A brevet officer ranking below a junior lieutenant)
|(סמל בכיר (סמ"ב
Samal bakhír (initials:Samab)
(First Sergeant, NATO OR-8; it translates as "Senior Sergeant")
|(רב טוראי ראשון (רט"ר
Rav turái rishón (initials:Ratár)
(First corporal, NATO OR-3; it translates as "chief private first class")
|(טוראי ראשון (טר"ש
Turai rishon (initials:Tarash)
(Private E-3 or private first class, Nato OR-3)
The rank of memale makom katzín, initials:Mamak (ממלא מקום קצין) or "substitute officer", was created in the 1960s. The rank was considered below a 2nd lieutenant (initials:sagam). It indicated a cadet in the Israeli army who had finished the basic preparation for an officer rank (קורס קצינים בסיסי), but for some reason abandoned their studies, failed to complete the professional officer preparation (השלמה חיילית), or completed it with a minimal passing grade but was still found worthy of command. They occupied the lowest officer posts until a normal officer rank was found for the position. Those who finished the officer preparation with a minimal passing grade and were substituting in a command position were eligible for promotion to normal officer rank after a set period. It was discontinued in 1994.
The rank of Samal Bakhír, initials:Samab ("Senior Sergeant") was used from 1948 to 1952. It was the equivalent of a US Army First Sergeant. It was replaced by the rank of Rav Samal Yekhidati ("Unit Senior Sergeant"), similar to a British or Commonwealth Army Warrant Officer II (Company Sergeant Major).
The rank of rav turái rishón, initials:Ratash, or "chief private first class", was used from 1972 to 1982. There was an expansion of staff NCO ranks during this period and the higher rank was offered to conscripts who planned to enlist after completing their national service.
The rank of turai rishon, initials:Tarash, or "private first class", was disestablished in the Regular IDF in 1990. It still continued to be used in the Reserves until it was finally discontinued in 1999. Privates now retain their rank until promoted to corporal, usually after 10 months of peacetime service or 6 months for support roles or 4 months for combatants during hostilities. Corporals in combat units traditionally do not wear their rank insignia, remaining without insignia until they are promoted to the rank of sergeant.
- Black cord: Instructors at the various Military Schools.
- Blue cord: Staff at the various Military Schools.
- Brown cord: A soldier or commanding officer serving as part of the psychological branch.
- Red cord: Instructor at the Airborne Schools and senior instructors at the Naval Training Schools.
- White cord: Educators and trainers in the Education and Youth Corps.
- White & blue cords: Mefaked mishma'at ("discipline commander"; soldier in charge of unit discipline who assists the unit NCO-in-charge). When worn by hogrim, it reflects completion of tironut level 2.
- Blue & red cords: Military police.
- Diced blue and red cord: Prison service
- Green cord: Mefaked ("commander"), worn by Hogrim that went through a commanding course, soldiers that did not go through officers course and that are in mandatory service of three years (for men and women in combatant units) or two years (for women in standard service). It is worn by combat leaders on the fire team (Sergeant), squad (Staff Sergeant), platoon (Lieutenant), company (Captain) and battalion (Major or Lieutenant Colonel) level.
- Purple cord: Service rights staff. The mashak tash ("male service rights staff NCO") / mashakeet tash ("female service rights staff NCO") is an NCO whose job it is to help conscripts settle into military life and handle any of their complaints or grievances. A specialized staff NCO who deals with the needs and rights of foreign volunteers is called a mashak/mashakeet aliyah, although they wear either white or green lanyards. There is one mashak/mashakeet assigned to each company HQ.
- Purple & blue cord: Reserves office staff. In charge of coordinating and keeping track of a unit's reserve forces.
When the IDF was created in 1948, there were 7 enlisted and NCO ranks, and 8 officer ranks. The ranks were as follows:
|Rav samal (ras) [1948–1951]
("Chief sergeant", master sergeant)
Rav samal rishon (rasar) [1951–1955]
("chief sergeant first class", master sergeant)
|An oak leaf within a laurel wreath on a red cloth circle (sleeve) 
An oak leaf over a sword within a laurel wreath (cuff) 
A vertical entwined sword and olive branch in a Star of David within a laurel wreath (cuff) 
2 chevrons (epaulet) [1990–1998]
|Rav aluf ("chief general", lieutenant general)||An oak leaf within a laurel wreath |
An oak leaf over an oak leaf within a laurel wreath 
2 oak leaves over a crossed sword and olive branch 
|Rav samal (ras) [1951–1967]
("chief sergeant", master sergeant)
Rav Samal (ras) [1968–Present]
("chief sergeant", master sergeant)
|An oak leaf within a laurel wreath (cuff) 
An oak leaf in a Star of David within a laurel wreath (cuff) 
1 chevron (epaulet) [1990–1998]
|Aluf ("general", major general) [1950–present]||1 oak leaf over a crossed sword and olive branch |
|Samal bakhír [1948–1951]
("senior sergeant", first sergeant)
|A small oak leaf within a laurel wreath on 3 half chevrons||Aluf [1948–1950]
aluf-mishneh ("junior general", colonel) [1951–present]
|3 oak leaves|
("sergeant first class", staff sergeant)
|A small oak leaf on 3 half chevrons||Sgan aluf ("deputy general", lieutenant colonel)||2 oak leaves|
|Samal (sergeant)||3 half chevrons||Rav seren ("chief captain", major)||1 oak leaf|
|Rav turai ("chief private", corporal)||2 half chevrons||Seren (captain)||3 bars|
|Turai rishon (private first class) [1948–1999]||1 half chevron||Segen rishon (Lieutenant 1st class) [1948–1951]
Segen (lieutenant) [1951–present]
|Turai (private)||No insignia||Segen (lieutenant) [1948–1951]
Segen mishne (junior lieutenant) [1951–present]
IDF Ranks and their insignia were initially influenced by the British / Commonwealth model. This was due to the average Israeli servicemen's experience in the Commonwealth forces during World War Two.[dubious ] This was later reformed when the IDF started to adopt a rank system similar to the United States armed forces in 1973 and the 1990s.
Rank insignia were originally cut from cloth or embroidered onto cloth patches. Bronze-metal officer's rank insignia worn on a red cloth backing were introduced for the army in 1949. Enlisted stripes for all arms were originally individual white half-chevrons with space between them. In an economy move, senior NCOs were distinguished by using the same bronze insignia (an oak-leaf or oak-leaf-in-a-wreath) as senior officers pinned to their sleeve insignia. In 1951 the Navy adopted golden-yellow half-chevrons and the Air Force adopted blue half chevrons.
A samal rishon was equal to a British Army staff sergeant / colour sergeant or a US Army technical sergeant (sergeant first class) / platoon sergeant. For the other services, the bronze-metal oak-leaf on the army's samal rishon rank insignia was replaced with a yellow anchor in a white hexagon for the Navy and a blue Star of David on a white circle for the Air Force. This was later replaced in 1951 with a gold-metal oak leaf for the Navy and a silver-metal oak leaf for the Air Force.
A Samal Bakhír (1948–1951) was equivalent to a US Army First Sergeant. The rank insignia was a small bronze oak leaf in a wreath on 3 white half-chevrons for the Army; a yellow anchor in a yellow-bordered (1948) or solid-yellow (1950) hexagon on 3 white half-chevrons for the Navy; and a blue Star of David in a blue-bordered circle on 3 white half-chevrons for the Air Force. It was replaced by the reorganized Rav Samal rank in 1951 and the new Rav Samal Yehidati rank by 1955.
A Rav Samal (1951–1967) was equivalent to a British Army Warrant Officer II (Company Sergeant Major). The rank insignia was an Oak Leaf in a Laurel Wreath. It came in bronze-metal on a red enamel backing for the Army, gold-metal for the Navy, and silver-metal for the Air Force. It was worn on the lower right sleeve of the shirt or jacket or on a leather wrist strap when wearing short-sleeve order. It was divided into Rav-Samal Miktzoi ("Specialist Chief Sergeant"; a technical NCO) and Rav Samal Yekhidati ("Unit Chief Sergeant"; a command NCO) from 1955 to 1958.
A Rav Samal (1948–1951) was equivalent to a US Army Master Sergeant or Sergeant Major. The rank insignia was originally an oak leaf in a laurel wreath for the Army, a large yellow anchor in a yellow-bordered (1948) or solid-yellow (1950) hexagon for the Navy, and a large blue Star of David in a bordered circle for the Air Force. The rank was renamed Rav Samal Rishon (1951–Present) and was equivalent to a British Army Warrant Officer I (Regimental Sergeant Major). The new rank also received new insignia made of metal: an Oak Leaf over a vertical Sword in a Laurel Wreath. It came in bronze-metal on a red enamel backing for the Army, gold-metal for the Navy, and silver-metal for the Air Force. It was worn on the lower right sleeve of the shirt or jacket or on a leather wrist strap when wearing short-sleeve order. It was divided into Rav Samal Rishon Miktzoi ("Specialist Chief Sergeant First Class"; a technical NCO) and Rav Samal Rishon Yekhidati ("Unit Chief Sergeant First Class"; a command NCO) from 1955 to 1958.
Early ranks of the IDF (1948–1951)
From 1948 to 1951, IDF Ranks for each branch of service (the Ground, Sea, and Air Forces) had unique titles and distinct insignia.
|US Army Rank||IDF Army (Kheylot ha-Yabasha)||IDF Navy (Kheyl ha-Yam)||IDF Air Force (Kheyl ha-Avir)|
|Private||Turai||Malakh ("Crewman") [1948–1951]||Avirai ("Airman") [1948–1951]|
|Private First Class||Turai Rishon||Malakh Rishon ("Crewman First Class") [1948–1951]||Avirai Rishon ("Airman First Class") [1948–1951]|
|Corporal||Rav Turai||Rav Malakh ("Chief Crewman") [1948–1951]||Avirai Musmakh ("Able-Bodied Airman") [1948–1951]|
|Sergeant||Samal||Samal ("Petty Officer")||Samal Avir ("Aviation Sergeant") [1948–1951]|
|Staff Sergeant||Samal Rishon||Samal Rishon ("Petty Officer First Class")||Samal Tayas ("Flight Sergeant") [1948–1951]|
|Sergeant First Class||Rav-Samal||Rav-Samal ("Chief Petty Officer")||Samal Teufa ("Flying Sergeant") [1948–1951]|
|Master Sergeant||Rav-Samal Rishon||Rav-Samal Rishon
("Chief Petty Officer First Class")
|Katsin Avir ("Acting Aviation Officer") [1948–1951]|
|Officer Candidate||-||Meshit ("Junior Officer" - Midshipman) [1948–1951]||-|
|Second Lieutenant||Segen||Sgan Khovel ("Deputy Officer" - 'Ensign') [1948–1951]||Pakkad Avir ("Aviation Officer") [1948–1951]|
|First Lieutenant||Segen Rishon||Khovel ("Officer" - Lieutenant) [1948–1951]||Pakkad Tayas ("Pilot Officer") [1948–1951]|
|Captain||Seren||Khovel Rishon ("Officer First Class" - Senior Lieutenant) [1948–1951]||Pakkad Teufa ("Flying Officer") [1948–1951]|
|Major||Rav Seren||Rav Khovel ("Chief Officer" - Lieutenant Commander) [1948–1951]||Rosh Tayeset ("Squadron Leader") [1948–1951]|
|Lieutenant-Colonel||Sgan aluf||Sgan Kabarnit ("Deputy Captain" - Commander) [1948–1951]||Rosh Kanaf ("Wing Commander") [1948–1951]|
|Colonel||Aluf [1948–1950] /
Aluf Mishne [1950–1951]
|Kabarnit ("Captain") [1948–1951]||Rosh Lahak ("Air Command Leader" - Group captain) [1948–1951]|
|General||Aluf [1950–1951]||Aluf Yam ("Naval General" - Commodore) [1950–1951]||Aluf Avir ("Aviation General" - Brigadier-General) [1950–1951]|
|Chief of Staff||Rav Aluf ("Chief General" - Major General)||-||-|
Rank insignia for the Navy and Air Force mirrored those of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, respectively.
- The term "Aluf" which is used in military ranks is of Biblical origin and originally meant a tribal chief, either as a military leader or a clan's laird.
- In the IDF, the same rank titles are used throughout the military, including the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Navy. This contrasts with many other armed forces that have a separate rank system for different branches. Officer insignia are silver with a dark blue background in the Air Force and gold with a black background in the Navy. In the Army, both lieutenant ranks usually have the blackish-gold ranks (shown above) with an olive-green background, until promoted to the rank of captain. Enlisted ranks are green in the Army, blue in the Air Force, and golden in the Navy. Subaltern officers (lieutenants and captains) wear rank bars embossed with laurel branches (aronot). Field and general officers wear "pips" that look like an oak-leaf (alim).
- As the ranks of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are traditionally translated one-to-one to Western ranks then the rank of Aluf (אלוף) is translated as major general, and Rav Aluf (רב אלוף) is translated as lieutenant general. However, a more proper translation (in terms of both language and organizational role) of Aluf would be to full general (OF-9 in NATO terms). Similarly, as the Hebrew prefix Rav is equivalent to the English prefix arch- (as in archangel), a more fitting translation for the rank of Rav-Aluf would be Arch-General, or, more conventionally, field marshal (NATO OF-10).
- Enlisted rank insignia are worn on the upper arm of the sleeves whereas NCO and officer insignia are worn on the shoulders.
Synopsis of NATO code OF 1–10 to IDF ranks
|NATO code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student officer|
| United Kingdom
|Field Marshal||General||Lieutenant-General||Major-General||Brigadier||Colonel||Lieutenant-Colonel||Major||Captain||Lieutenant||Second Lieutenant||Officer Cadet|
| United States
|General of the Army||General||Lieutenant General||Major General||Brigadier General||Colonel||Lieutenant Colonel||Major||Captain||First Lieutenant||Second Lieutenant||Officer Candidate||Officer Cadet
|NATO code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student officer|
- "IDF Ranks". IDF 2011. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- Y Net, IL.
- The word Samal originated as an acronym for Hebrew: סגן מחוץ למנין segen mi-khutz la-minyan ("supernumerary lieutenant") (inspired by the abbreviation "NCO"). Nowadays is no longer treated as an acronym or an abbreviation. See e.g., Avraham Akavia, "Milon le-munakhey tzava" (1951), p. 220, 270; Avraham Even-Shoshan, "Ha-milon ha-khadash" (1967), vol. 4., p. 1814 ; Yaakov Kna'ani, "Otzar ha-lashon ha-ivrit" (1972), p. 4078; Zeev Shiff, Eitan Habber, "Leksikon le-bitkhon Yisrael" (1976), p. 114; "Milon Sapir" (ed. Eitan Avnian) (1998), vol. 5, p. 2019; Avraham Even-Shoshan, "Milon Even-Shoshan be-shisha krakhim" (2003), ISBN 965-517-059-4, vol. 4, p. 1302; "Entziklopedya Karta" (5th edition, 2004), ISBN 965-220-534-6, p. 409; "Milon Ariel" (ed. prof. Daniel Sivan and prof. Maya Fruchtman) (2007), ISBN 978-965-515-009-4, p. 765. (in Hebrew)
- Laffin, John. The Israeli Army in The Middle East Wars (1948-1973) (Men At Arms Series #127). Osprey Press: London (1982). Plate G5 and page 38
- Arik933 Israeli army ranks and what's what
- Kefitzat Haderech; How to Fight The System, #2 Mashakeet Tash
- tash is short for t’nai sherut or "service rights".
- Aliyah literally means "ascent"; it symbolically means to immigrate to Israel.
- Wallach, Jeuda; Lorekh, Netanel; Yitzhaki, Aryeh (1978). "Battles of the Jordan Valley". In Evyatar Nur (ed.). Carta's Atlas of Israel (in Hebrew). Volume 2: The First Years 1948–1961. Jerusalem, Israel: Carta. p. 91.