IDF Decorations

After the creation of the Israel Defense Forces in 1948, it took a considerable time to develop a system of awards and decorations.
Several committees were appointed that were to propose awards for different levels of gallantry in battle, select layout for the decorations and decide on who of the several thousands of recommended soldiers would be entitled to a decoration. It was decided in the summer of 1949 that as "a temporary solution" only 12 decorations would be awarded to a selection of soldiers representative for the different IDF units. 

David Ben Gurion - Founder of Israel

The 12 soldiers, who had distinguished themselves by the highest level of heroism, were awarded the ribbon of "Hero of Israel". However after presenting these 12 decorations, the committee's work never made it to a successful end. Because of this, any other acts of extraordinary courage during the first years of independence of Israel could only be honored by citations by the Chief of Staff and other army commanders.

 

Ribbon - Hero of Israel

The ribbon of the decoration "Hero of Israel"
 

Read here more on the history of this decoration.

It was not before January, 1970 that the Knesset passed the Law of Decorations in the Israel Defense Forces and a committee was instituted to define the layout and rules of granting the decorations. In 1973 the government accepted the committee's recommendations. The law defined three types of decorations: Itur HaGvurah, Itur HaOz and Itur HaMofet, generally translated as the Medal of Valor, Medal of Courage and the Medal of Distinguished Service.

The medals and citations may be awarded to IDF soldiers as well as Border Policemen, if the act on account of which the decoration is granted, was done in accordance with IDF command, or in cooperation or coordination with IDF. The Law of Decorations relates to acts performed after June 4, 1967, but also to those earlier acts for which the title "Hero of Israel" or the Chief of Staff citation was given. These 256 citations were reviewed and most of them were "upgraded" to  one of the 3 decorations.

During April 1973, the first medals were presented. Thirty two Medals of Valor were presented, among these, twelve to the holders of the title "Hero of Israel". In addition to this, 113 Medals of Courage and 382 Medals of Distinguished Service were awarded. Of the 527 medal eligibles, 102 were no longer alive, including the three soldiers to whom more than one medal was awarded.

In addition to the above high decorations, several levels of citations were established. Click here to read about the citations.

Who determines the different decorations?
 

The Knesset, by law of 1970 Medal of Valor, Medal of Courage and the Medal of Distinguished Service
IDF Chief of Staff Citations
The Minister of Defense Campaign ribbons

   

Medals of Valor, Courage and Distinguished Service
 

Medal of Valor

Medal of Valor
The Medal of Valor is awarded by the minister of Defense, upon recommendation by the Chief of Staff, for an act of supreme heroism in combat in the face of the enemy, at the risk of life.

More on this medal

 

 

Medal of Courage
Medal of Courage, awarded by the Chief of Staff, for an act of gallantry at the risk of life, during fulfillment of combat duty.

More on this medal

Picture gallery of recipients wearing this medal.

 

 

Medal of Distinguished Service

Medal of Distinguished Service, awarded by the Chief of Staff for an act of exemplary bravery.
 

More on this medal

Picture gallery of recipients wearing this medal.

 

 

Material: The medals were originally made of silver, including the clasp. Since about 2004, the medals are made of nickel, with clasp of chrome plated metal. At the back of the medal a number is imprinted.

 

Multiple awards

If justified, more than once the same decoration may be awarded, however no additional medal can be presented. In this case a clasp of a miniature version of the medal should be mounted on the ribbon for any additional award. Despite this law, this clasp is not in use. As a matter of fact, pictures of multiple recipients may be found who wear two identical ribbons, as shown below.
Here is a list of people with multiple decorations.
 

Ribbon of the Medal of Courage

Ribbon of the Medal of Courage

Ribbon of the Medal of Courage - with clasp

Ribbon with clasp, indicating additional award

Lieutenant - General Lipkin Shahak

Lieutenant - General Lipkin Shahak,
twice awarded the Medal of Courage.

 

When can the decorations be worn?

IDF regulations allow wearing the ribbon of the decoration at all times, however the medal may only be worn on the following occasions:

  • Independence Day

  • Remembrance Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers

  • State ceremonies, military parades and IDF shows

  • Other occasions as determined by the Minister of Defense

In fact it is very hard, if not impossible to find a picture of someone actually wearing one of the above medals on a uniform. Usually only the yellow, red or blue ribbon is worn. The law forbids convicted criminals to wear the decoration, but does not annul the decoration after conviction.
See also Guidelines for wearing medals and decorations.

Ribbon sizes:
All ribbons (decorations, campaign and service ribbons, with the possible exception of "Hero of Israel") are sized 40 x 10 mm.

 

Samples:

 

Original versions of the three decorations as displayed in the IDF collection in Tel Aviv

 

Avigdor Kahalani

Brigadier General Avigdor Kahalani, awarded the Medal of Valor for his acts on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War and the Medal of Distinguished Service for acts during the Six Day War. The yellow ribbon is not clearly visible. The other ribbons are for Peace of Galilea War, Yom Kippur and Six Day War. Click here to see the correct order of the ribbons

   

Summary of numbers of Decorations and Chief of Staff citations awarded, of which data are published till 2010

 
Medal of Valor 40
Medal of Courage 224
Medal of Distinguished Service 603
Chief of Staff Citation 217
Total 1084

Click here for more statistics on decorations and Chief of Staff citations.

 

 

Chief Of Staff Medal of Appreciation

Besides the above decorations and citations that were instituted by law in 1973, the Government of Israel instituted on April 26, 1981 a decoration called the Chief Of Staff Medal of Appreciation (Ot haaraha).

This medal can be awarded for acts of superior importance that contribute directly or indirectly to the strengthening of the IDF and that significantly benefit the security of Israel.

More on this medal

   

Medal of Appreciation, awarded by a major general

Instituted by government decision of 27.01.2005, this medal can be awarded by a major general to a civilian as a token of gratitude for an act of great importance to the IDF or to the security of Israel. The medal will be awarded as a token of gratitude for an act of great importance for an act or conduct of the recipient, directly or indirectly, by strengthening IDF and contributing to the security of Israel, but not to the degree that would warrant award of the Chief Of Staff Medal of Appreciation.

The relevant major general can award this medal to citizen or permanent resident of Israel for an act or conduct in Israel, Judea and Samaria or in assistance to military action under IDF command.

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The Medal for Service in Israel

By government decision of 12.01.2007 a new medal, "The Medal for Service in Israel" was instituted to be awarded to foreign military attachés, on ending their mission in Israel, as a token of gratitude for their service in Israel.


More on this medal and ribbon