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AP PHOTOS: Military ever-present in Israeli life

Wednesday - 10/30/2013, 4:39pm  ET

In this photo taken Sunday, May 26, 2013, a man walks by a Fuga aircraft placed as a memorial site for fallen soldiers at the "Air Force Garden" in the central Israeli town of Givatayim. During Israel’s 65-year history, the military has fought a half-dozen wars and carried out countless operations, and army service remains compulsory for most Jewish Israelis. Even in peacetime, the military’s influence seems to be felt everywhere, with uniformed soldiers seen at bus stations and shopping malls, and war memorials peppering the country. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

ODED BALILTY
Associated Press

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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