JERUSALEM (AP) — In its 65 years, Israel's military has fought a half-dozen wars, assassinated enemies, enforced an occupation of the West Bank and faced waves of suicide bombings and rocket attacks in its major cities.
It's no surprise that even in peacetime, the shadow of Israel's military past looms large over everyday life. War memorials dot the countryside. Decommissioned planes and tanks become landmarks. In some cases, rusting vehicles of war often become de facto jungle gyms in place of neighborhood playgrounds.
The military's influence is ever-present in Israeli civilian life. Most Jewish men are required to enlist at the age of 18 for three years of mandatory service followed by decades in the reserves. Women serve two years.
From an early age, Israeli children know their fathers may have to go away for yearly reserve duty. Older siblings in the army come home for weekends with olive green outfits and automatic weapons. While still in high school, some Israeli youths prepare for their draft with pre-army workouts. Becoming a commando or an air force pilot is among the highest status symbols in society.
Soldiers in uniform are a common sight in the street, at malls, even at the beach. Nearly every Israeli family has someone in service at any given moment. Even the national vocabulary is highly influenced by military jargon.
A standout military career is still a huge draw for political parties, and the upper echelon of government is sprinkled with ex-generals.
From large bases in the southern Negev desert, to isolated outposts on the northern border, to the sprawling military headquarters in downtown Tel Aviv, the Israeli military is intertwined with life in the country.
Here's a gallery of images by AP photographer Oded Balilty on the influence of the military in Israeli life.
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