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Naval Rank Flags (Israel)

Last modified: 2024-01-27 by martin karner
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The Israeli navy uses the same ranks as other branches of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), thus there are no admiral-like ranks. The flag that appears as rear admiral in Album des Pavillons 2000 is charged with the rank insignia of an Aluf (Major General) which is the rank of the GHQ members and the commander of the branches and regional commands and the second in the rank list. Since the only one in the navy that has this rank is the commander of the navy (who has his own rank flag), this one cannot be a rear admiral flag. I never saw that flag, but if it is exists it is in use, probably, only when another Aluf apart from the commander of the navy is visiting a naval vessel or base. IDF ranks are shown at the IDF website, Navy symbols and ranks at the Navy website.
Dov Gutterman
, 6 February 2002

Of course, it is always difficult to translate ranks, but it has always been the practice of doing so with the most approximate rank in English (etc.). Rank systems are sometimes not quite equivalent – therefore some NATO members changed rank systems recently – so only an approximation is possible. When a language has no special terms for naval ranks these would be translated in the appropriate English (etc.) naval ranks. It seems to me that rear admiral (i.e. a two-star flag officer) would be sufficiently close to what a naval Aluf is (I guess the rank symbolized with branch and sword only without the leaf would be equivalent to commodore, in case of the navy).
Željko Heimer
, 6 February 2002

As far as I recall, there has never been more than one Rav Aluf (Lieutenant General), even in wartime. There are about 20 Alufim (plural of Aluf, Major General). The Israeli rank equivalent to Brigader General is Tat Aluf – a more recent rank than the others.
One obvious difficulty here is the literal meaning of these words. You need not understand Hebrew to see that Aluf literally means General. Rav Aluf means something like Chief General and Tat Aluf is, I believe, short for Under General.
To make things more confusing, lower Israeli ranks use Aluf as well. The Colonel equivalent is Aluf Mishneh (literally Deputy General), and the Lieutenant Colonel equivalent is Segan Aluf (Assistant General, or, considering that the Lieutenant equivalent is a Segen, perhaps even Lieutenant [in the original meaning of "assistant"] General). And yet neither of these ranks is a general rank by any account.
Nathan Lamm
, 10 February 2002

All translations of military ranks are more or less arbitrary unless they are obvious cognates, and then sometimes they are false friends that are not, in fact, equivalent. It makes a lot more sense when translating from languages like Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese etc. to use the Western traditional naval titles to apply to naval officers and the traditional army titles to apply to army officers. After all, aluf no more means major general than it does rear admiral; it means thousands, as in commander of thousands. Rav aluf does not translate as lieutenant general but as chief commander of thousands and tat aluf as sub-commander of thousands, not brigadier.
Furthermore, the Israeli Navy itself uses traditional naval titles in referring to its own officers when dealing in European languages. So my vote would be to translate rav aluf in this context as vice admiral, aluf as rear admiral, and tat aluf as commodore.
As to who would use the rav aluf flag, it is not at all uncommon for navies and other services to have flags on the books for ranks that no one actually holds. The US Navy has a flag for fleet admiral, and there has not been one of those since 1966. As one can see in Album des Pavillons 2000 itself, lots of navies have the full set of rank flags all the way up to four or five stars, even though they have no one above one- or two-star rank in actual service.
Joseph McMillan
, 11 February 2002