For many decades, cultural representations of the military and military service in Israel, particularly in films and television series, tended to focus on male Sabra (Israeli-born) soldiers and their combat experiences, portraying them from either a ‘heroic-nationalist’ or a ‘post-heroic’ perspective. However, several recent Israeli films and television series bring to the fore men and women from different social backgrounds who serve as non-combatant soldiers (jobniks) far behind the frontlines. Such depictions of ‘anti-heroic’ soldiers expose previously underrepresented aspects of service in the Israeli military, ranging from subtle expressions of a lack of motivation to open acts of resistance. Based on an analysis of several notable films and television series featuring jobnik protagonists, we argue that although these works give voice to previously underrepresented social groups and accord legitimacy to soldiers’ acts of resistance, they simultaneously foster a more conservative discourse regarding military service in Israel by excluding other social groups and setting limits on individuals’ conduct within and outside the military. These findings suggest that while popular culture can challenge militarist tendencies, it may ultimately reinforce the military’s position as the ‘people’s army’ and the social norm of mandatory conscription.
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