Top Military Museums in Israel

You cannot imagine the history of Israel as complete without its military. Not only is the military integral to Israel’s history and existence as a state, but it has also played a huge role in the country’s economy, politics, and culture.

Tiny Israel is considered one of the world’s strongest armies. Its rich military history dates back to the days of the Zionist underground resistance movement Haganah — which formed the core of today’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – when Israel was still under the British Mandate (Mandatory Palestine).

Compared to the other countries’ militaries, Israel’s army is quite small. However, it has mandatory military service (it is one of the only few countries that conscript women or deploy them in combat roles). It only means that Israel’s sizable population is prepared any time to defend their country and their fellow citizens if (and when) the country is under attack. 

Israel has also emerged as a high-tech military superpower, employing the latest and most cutting-edge technology as it adapts itself to the changes of warfare and its defense industry (we’re pretty sure you’ve heard of the Iron Dome).

It’s not a big surprise, as Israel is surrounded by its aggressive neighbors and has been constantly hounded by wars, bloody conflicts, and threats of terrorism for many years since its establishment as a state in 1948.

These are some of the reasons why Israel’s military is held in high regard by Israelis and foreigners alike. If you are a big admirer of Israel’s military history and the IDF, you should not miss visiting any of the top military museums in Israel. The top five ones listed here are only some of them:

1) Palmach Museum (Tel Aviv)

To give you a bit of history about the Palmach – it was the Haganah’s elite strike force established in 1941. Its two main aims were to stop the Axis forces from occupying Israel – then Mandatory Palestine – and protect Jewish communities from Arab attacks. The Palmach also helped organize what was then regarded as illegal immigration of the Jews to Mandatory Palestine (due to the “White Paper of 1939,” a policy which the British drafted to introduce restrictions of Jewish immigration into the region). 

Some of Palmach’s notable past commanders include Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Palmach Museum, opened in 2000, is dedicated to commemorating the Palmach’s contributions to the creation of the State of Israel. It houses a series of fascinating underground series of multi-media experience chambers, which start with the memorial of the fallen Palmach soldiers.

2) Ammunition Hill (Jerusalem)

The Ammunition Hill serves as a reminder of the valiant soldiers who led Israel to its stunning victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Located on the western slopes of Mount Scopus, the Ammunition Hill was a fortified military post in what was then Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem. It was the site of one of the fiercest and most decisive battles of the war, which led to the reunification of Jerusalem. For the first time in 1,900 years, Jerusalem fell once again under Jewish control. The Holy City was reunified when Israeli troops defeated the Jordanians in this heroic battle. The Israelis hid in a complex network of trenches to overrun their Jordanian enemies.

Apart from the trenches, the site also features reconstructed bunkers and pillboxes. There’s a memorial site and an indoor museum, both of which were inaugurated in 1975. There’s also an orchard of 182 olive trees, planted in memory of the 182 fallen soldiers of the Six-Day War.

3) Israel Air Force Museum

The Israeli Air Force Museum is located on the outskirts of Be’er Sheva on the edge of the Hatzerim Air Force Base. It was established in 1977 and has been open to the public since 1991.

The museum is located on the open expanse of the desert at the Hatzerim Air Base. There, visitors will get to see 150 aircrafts from various periods – from World War II-era Spitfires to the modern IAI Kfirs, Israeli and foreign aircraft, as well as aircraft arms. Guests also have the opportunity to watch local warplanes and training planes occasionally flying above the museum.

The museum chronicles Israel’s air force history (that also includes air force during its pre-state years) and the development of the Israel Air Force, from its establishment in 1948 to the present.

4) The Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun (Latrun)

Also known as Yad La-Shiryon or Latrun Tank Museum, the Armored Crops Memorial Site Museum at Latrun is Israel’s official site for fallen soldiers at the Armored Corps. Located on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, it displays more than 110 tanks and armored vehicles, it is considered as one of the most diverse tanks in the world.

Like in the case of airplanes, the tanks are either Israeli or acquired from other countries – either purchased from the allies (like the US Chaffee from the USA) or captured from the enemies (such as the Egyptian T-100).

5) Etzel House (Tel Aviv)

While the Etzel House is small, it is a tightly focused museum dedicated to one of the Zionist paramilitary organizations Etzel (also known as Irgun). It commemorates Irgun’s history and combat activities during the 1948 War of Independence and the fallen 41 soldiers who died in the battle to liberate Jaffa.

Also known as Beit Gidi, it is named in honor of Amichai Paglin, whose codename is “Gidi,” who served as Etzel’s leading officer.