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Oketz is a specialized IDF unit in which soldiers work with highly trained K-9 partners in the field for counter-terrorism missions, as well as Search and Rescue. The unit’s are qualified to work with dogs trained to provide solutions to specific needs, offering a significant advantage during combat operations. Oketz is considered to be one of the best K-9 units in the world and many military units from abroad come to learn from and collaborate with Oketz.
Although the dogs are, for all intents and purposes, military tools just like firearms or protective measures, they are a unique type of weapon – they are living creatures that receive personal attention, exceptional training and intensive coaching tailored to the tasks they will face in the field. The methods used to train the soldiers and their K-9 counterparts are complex and fascinating–some even top secret.
Beyond the K-9’s contribution to the success of the mission, these animals’ first purpose is to keep all of the soldiers in the squad safe and secure. Oketz soldiers and their dogs walk first, in front of the squad, leading IDF forces, along with the commanders of the operation, into the field.
Currently, K-9 soldiers are an integral part of almost every operation — locating terrorists, detecting explosives, assisting in capturing terrorists, searching structures before troops enter, and more.
Oketz is a highly decorated unit. In 2010, the unit received the Chief of Staff Award for expanding operations.
Oketz Unit had its roots way back in Mandatory Palestine time, when a Mrs. Rofoulfina Menzel founded the unit as a part of the “Haganah” organization in 1932.
At that time, before the establishment of the State of Israel and the IDF, and under the British Mandate he Jewish settlement in Israel needed more ways to defend itself and found the answer in the development of the canine unit.
The “Haganah” canine unit was located in the north of Israel by Haifa in Kiryat Hayim and had dogs that were trained for settlement protection, explosive detection, attach, and search dogs and more. With the foundation of the State of Israel and the establishment of the IDF in June of 1948 the unit had a formal place in the organization under the direct command of the office of the IDF’s Chief Of Staff. Later on the unit was transferred to the Military police until it was dismantled and closed in 1954, awaiting its and re-established in 1974.
In 1974, due to the large number of terror attacks throughout Israel it was essential to reestablish the unit once again. This time the units aim was for dogs trained for counter terror special missions, hostages’ events and more. At that time, the unit very small, soldiers and dogs alike, was very secretive and classified. In the 1980’s, and even more so during the First Lebanon War in 1982, the unit operated in an orderly and extensive manner and took an active part in ordinary security activity and special operations.
After Operation “Blue and Brown” oporation in 1988, the unit was exposed to the public.
Today the unit is an essential part of the IDF’s activities and works on a daily basis alongside all of the IDF’s combat units. The Unit and has taken a substantial part in Operation “Defensive Shield”, the Second Lebanon War, Operation “Cast Lead”, “ Shuvu Achim”, “Tzuk Eitan”, “Magen Tzafoni” and many more…