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Israel Defense Forces:
Ruach Tzahal - Code of Ethics


IDF: Table of Contents | Code of Tolerance | Wars & Operations


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Ruach Tzahal (Literally, 'Spirit of the IDF') represents the values of the Israel Defense Forces and stands as the foundation for the responsibilities of Israel's army. This overarching ethical code, and the guidelines and operation resulting from it, shape the mode of action applied by all IDF soldiers and units, both in peace and at war.
During basic training, every IDF soldier studies and analyzes the code of ethics together with their commanders. It is customary for a framed copy of the code to be hung in every commanders office as a constant reminder of the IDF's values and guidelines.


IDF Ethical Code Pamphlet given to all soldiers in basic training

Ruach Tzahal Draws from Four Sources:

  • The tradition of the IDF and its military heritage as the Israel Defense Forces.
  • The tradition of the State of Israel, its democratic principles, laws and institutions.
  • The tradition of the Jewish People throughout their history.
  • Universal moral values based on the value and dignity of human life.

From These Sources Come Three Fundamental Values:

(1) Defense of the State, its Citizens and Residents

The purpose of the IDF is to protect the existence of the state of Israel, its independence, and the security of its citizens and residents.

(2) Patriotism and Loyalty to the State

Service in the IDF is based on patriotism, commitment and devotion to the democratic State of Israel and to its citizens and residents.

(3) ‬Human Dignity

The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to preserve human dignity. All humans are to be valued, regardless of race, creed, nationality, gender, status or role

From These Fundamental Values Come Ten Additional Values:

(1) Human Life

The IDF serviceman will, above all, preserve human life, in the recognition of its supreme value and will place himself or others at risk solely to the extent required to carry out his mission.

The sanctity of life in the eyes of the IDF servicemen will find expression in all of their actions, in deliberate and meticulous planning, in safe and intelligent training and in proper execution of their mission. In evaluating the risk to self and others, they will use the appropriate standards and will exercise constant care to limit injury to life to the extent required to accomplish the mission.

(2) Purity of Arms

The IDF serviceman will use force of arms only for the purpose of subduing the enemy to the necessary extent and will limit his use of force so as to prevent unnecessary harm to human life and limb, dignity and property.

The IDF servicemen's purity of arms is their self-control in use of armed force. They will use their arms only for the purpose of achieving their mission, without inflicting unnecessary injury to human life or limb; dignity or property, of both soldiers and civilians, with special consideration for the defenseless, whether in wartime, or during routine security operations, or in the absence of combat, or times of peace.

(3) Personal Example

The IDF serviceman will comport himself as is required of him and will, himself, act as he demands of others, thoughtfully and dedicatedly, aware of his ability and responsibility to serve as a role model to those around him.

The personal example of the IDF servicemen is their acting as is demanded of them and as they themselves demand of others, their clear and convincing readiness to serve as an example to those around them, in their actions and comportment, to create, uphold and foster mutual identification and joint responsibility in properly carrying out their tasks and accomplishing their missions in all areas of military activity.

(4) Responsibility

The IDF serviceman will see himself as an active participant in the defense of his country and its citizens. He will carry out his duties decisively, resolutely and with vigor, within the limits of his authority.

The responsibility of IDF servicemen is their active partnership and their readiness to use their utmost abilities in the defense of the State, its sovereignty, and the lives and safety of its citizens, within the framework of authority granted them by the IDF. They will carry out their duties fully, diligently, and with determination, commitment and initiative, in clear awareness that they are answerable for any consequences.

(5) Comradeship

The IDF serviceman will always go to the aid of his comrades when they need his help or depend on him, despite any danger or difficulty, even to the point of risking his life.

The fellowship of IDF servicemen is their bond as comrades in arms. It is their unwavering commitment to each other, their readiness to extend appropriate assistance, to go to the aid of a comrade, and even risk their lives on his behalf. In all their actions they will uphold and strengthen the solidarity of their unit in full cooperation with other units, and in support of the overall goals of the IDF.

(6) Professionalism

The IDF serviceman will aspire to be familiar with and understand the body of knowledge pertaining to his military position and will master every skill necessary for carrying out his duties.

The professionalism of IDF servicemen is their ability to correctly perform their military duties through striving to constantly excel in and improve their unit's and their individual achievements. They will do so by broadening their knowledge, and increasing proficiency, based upon the lessons of experience and study of the heritage and by expanding and deepening their understanding of the body of military knowledge.

(7) Discipline

The IDF serviceman will execute completely and successfully all that is required of him according to the letter and spirit of his orders and within the framework of the law.

The discipline of IDF servicemen is their readiness to act to the full extent of their abilities, to carry out what is demanded of them completely, according to their understanding of the letter of the orders they have received, and successfully, according to the spirit of their orders. It is their readiness to obey orders amidst a constant striving to execute them with understanding and dedication. They will take care to issue only legal orders, and disavow manifestly illegal orders.

(8) Loyalty and Representativeness

The IDF serviceman will act with complete dedication in the defense of the State of Israel and its citizens, according to IDF orders, within the framework of the laws of the State and democratic principles.

The IDF serviceman will also constantly see himself as a representative and an emissary of the IDF. As such he will act solely on the basis of the authority he has been given and orders he has been issued.

The loyalty of IDF servicemen is their dedication, in all actions, to their homeland, the State of Israel, its citizens and armed forces, and their constant readiness to fight and devote all their power, even at the risk of their own lives, in the defense of the sovereign State of Israel and the lives and the safety of its inhabitants, according to the values and orders of the IDF, while following the laws and the democratic principles of the State.

The representativeness of IDF servicemen is their consciousness, expressed in all their actions, that the armed force placed in their hands and the power to use it are given to them only as members of the IDF and its authorized representatives, duly executing their orders in accordance with the laws of the State of Israel and is subject to its Government.

(9) Reliability and Trustworthiness

The IDF serviceman will strive in all his actions to fulfill his duties correctly and at the highest professional level, from exacting and thorough preparation to true, honest, complete and precise reporting.

The trustworthiness of IDF servicemen is their reliability in fully carrying out their charge, using their military skills, with the sincere belief and conviction that they are acting professionally. They are ready at all times to present things as they are, in planning, executing and reporting truthfully, completely, courageously and honestly.

(10) Perseverance in Mission and Dedication to the Pursuit of Victory

The IDF serviceman will fight and conduct himself with courage in the face of all dangers and obstacles; he will persevere in his mission courageously, resolutely and thoughtfully even to the point of endangering his own life.

The perseverance of IDF servicemen in their mission is their capability and readiness to fight courageously in the face of danger and in most challenging situations; to strive unremittingly to achieve the military goal effectively, with full regard for the particular circumstances, notwithstanding any difficulty, stress or adversity or even mortal danger. They will do so with proper judgment and with due regard for risks.

Basic Principles

1. The IDF serviceman will, in all his actions and conduct, express the basic values of the IDF:

Perseverance in the mission, comradeship, discipline, respect for human life, loyalty, personal example, professionalism, purity of arms, representativeness, responsibility, and trustworthiness, as defined above and as appropriate to the specific circumstances.

2. The IDF serviceman, when acting in the framework of his military role, will be ever cognizant that he bears responsibility not only for the outcomes of his acts and omissions, but also for the patterns of behavior which they help to create, whether by order or personal example, by direct or indirect influence, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

3. The IDF serviceman will view himself, in each of his actions, as bearing full responsibility for the lives and safety of the servicemen and all others who are dependent on his actions or decisions.

4. The IDF serviceman will be ready to place his own life at risk when confronting the enemy or to save human life to the extent required, but he will preserve his own life and that of others in all other military situations.

5. The IDF serviceman will take into account, in every practical context, not only the proper concern for human life, but also the influence his actions may have on the physical well-being and spiritual integrity and dignity of others.

10. The IDF serviceman will maintain the tradition of the IDF, will study the IDF's military heritage and will promote esprit de corps.

11. The IDF serviceman will carry out his military activities without obtruding his personal views in matters beyond his sphere of responsibility, authority and professional expertise. He will take special care not to inject his personal opinions on issues subject to public controversy of a political, social or ideological nature.

12. The IDF serviceman will make use of his military authority or status, whether command or professional, solely for the benefit of the IDF. He will never use his military authority or status improperly to advance a personal objective, or to go beyond the limits of his authority and responsibility, in letter or spirit, within or without the IDF.

13. The IDF serviceman will hold himself responsible for the outcomes of his orders. He will support those who have acted in accordance with those orders or as is proper, and will view himself as responsible for the patterns of behavior which he imposed.

14. The IDF serviceman will support his unit and its commanders in every way necessary to fulfill the unit's mission of building, promoting and employing military force. The serviceman will obey his commanders in accordance with the law and maintain respect for his commanders, peers and subordinates.

15. The IDF servicemen will never conspire to conceal any offense or mishap, and will not entertain any proposal to be party to such a conspiracy. When confronted with an offense or mishap, the serviceman will act as is reasonable and proper to correct the aberration.

16. The IDF serviceman who participates in a discussion or dispute dealing with an activity in which the IDF is involved, whether before, during or after its implementation, will express his views in accordance with his professional knowledge and conviction, with honesty, candor and courage.

17. The IDF serviceman will use the authority at his disposal towards others only as is fair, self-controlled, reasonable and professional. He will show due respect for the person and the privacy of those with whom he interacts.

18. The IDF serviceman will view his appearance in an IDF uniform as an expression of his loyalty to the values and basic principles of the IDF.

19. The IDF serviceman will use the force at his disposal, in all actr to correct the aberration.

16. The IDF serviceman who participates in a discussion or dispute dealing with an activity in which the IDF is involved, whether before, during or after its implementation, will express his views in accordance with his professional knowledge and conviction, with honesty, candor and courage.

17. The IDF serviceman will use the authority at his disposal towards others only as is fair, self-controlled, reasonable and professional. He will show due respect for the person and the privacy of those with whom he interacts.

18. The IDF serviceman will view his appearance in an IDF uniform as an expression of his loyalty to the values and basic principles of the IDF.

19. The IDF serviceman will use the force at his disposal, in all actions in the face of the enemy, manifesting perseverance in his mission, courage and judgment, always ready to carry out his duties despite danger to his life.

20. The IDF serviceman will be ready to do whatever is required, and even to endanger his own life, to come to the aid of his comrades or to recover wounded comrades from the battlefield.

21. The IDF serviceman will act, when confronting the enemy, according to the letter and spirit of the laws of war. He will adhere strictly to the principle of purity of arms and to the ethics of combat.

22. The IDF serviceman will treat enemy troops and civilians in areas controlled by the IDF in accordance with the letter and spirit of the laws of war and will not exceed the limits of his authority.

23. The IDF serviceman will act fairly with self-control, reasonably, and professionally, in carrying out the responsibilities of his position, in all his contacts with civilians in areas controlled by the IDF, whether in the course of battle or afterward. He will show respect towards the beliefs, values, sacred and historical sites of all civilians and military personnel as they deem proper and to the extent possible, in keeping with the values and basic principles of the IDF and in accordance with military needs and the given circumstances.

24. The IDF serviceman will fight and exert himself to the utmost, even placing his life at risk so as not to surrender to the enemy but to overcome him. He will not surrender as long as he has a chance of carrying out his mission. Even in the absence of such a possibility, he will not surrender as long as he has contact with his commander or the ability to extricate himself from his compromised position.

25. The IDF serviceman who, despite all efforts, has been taken prisoner will act according to IDF orders; responsibly, reasonably and honorably.

26. The IDF serviceman will give preference to promoting the IDF's goals, as is required of him, in accordance with regulations, orders, values and basic principles, over the advancement of the goals of any civilian body, in any instance of conflict of interests between the IDF's goals and those of that body.

27. The IDF serviceman, in all official contact with civilian bodies, will act professionally and without compromising the IDF's values, basic principles or honor.

28. The IDF serviceman may be involved in the activities of a commercial or civilian body only in accordance with the letter and spirit of existing orders and procedures, and within the limits of his position.

29. The IDF serviceman will refrain from receiving personal benefits as a result of his position, rank, status or actions. He will not request, nor will he agree to accept any favors from any agent, inside or outside the IDF, directly or indirectly, for himself or others, except in accordance with due orders and procedures.

30. The IDF serviceman will ensure that every public appearance, especially in the mass media, has prior approval, expresses outright and unreserved loyalty to the value and basic principles of the IDF, reflects the IDF's policies and decisions, and contributes to the public's confidence in the IDF.

31. The IDF serviceman will ensure that his behavior even in private circumstances cannot be interpreted as compromising the IDF's values or basic principles, does not detract from the public's confidence in the IDF, and will not contribute to the creation of patters and behavior that could harm the implementation of the IDF's values and basic principles.

32. The IDF serviceman, during his reserve duty, will act according to the same values and basic principles of the IDF as those that apply to servicemen in regular service.

33. The discharged serviceman may make private use of special or sensitive information which he gained or which came to his attention during his service only after he has received the proper authorization to make commercial media or other such use of such knowledge outside of the IDF framework.

34. The discharged serviceman may make use of his military status, including his reserve or retired rank, or may grant permission to others to do so, only in civilian contexts that do not compromise the IDF's values and basic principles, or its honor and the trust which it enjoys in the public mind.


Sources: IDF Spokesperson, Israel Defense Forces

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