The IDF not only includes Israelis from different ethnicities and religions, it helps those with disabilities participate in meaningful service to their country.
As the latest Israeli Air Force pilots graduated from the prestigious IAF Flight Course, they were joined in a memorable ceremony by a group of IDF soldiers with disabilities, members of the IDF’s “Special in Uniform” program.
The pioneering project, a joint initiative of the IDF, Lend-a-Hand to a Special Child, and JNF-USA, integrates youth with disabilities and other challenges into the IDF, empowering them to function independently and contribute positively to society.
Understanding the significance of enlistment in the IDF in Israeli society, several programs have been created for special needs people, including tracks for the visually impaired and those on the autism spectrum. The young people contribute to the IDF in a range of jobs.
Among this group of special soldiers was Tarec Tuba, 23, a Druze with Down’s syndrome who hails from a village in the Galilee. Tarec is the first Druze soldier with disabilities to join the IDF.
The Israeli Druze are a unique religious and ethnic minority that comprises less than 2 percent of the country’s population. Although their faith originally developed from Islam, Druze are generally not considered Muslims. The Druze faithfully serve in the IDF, and numerous members of the community have risen to senior positions in Israeli politics and public service.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who awarded the pilots their wings, also awarded Tarec and his colleagues from the Special in Uniform program with their own pair of wings—wings of spirit and volunteerism.
IDF Major Rami Hassan, Druze commander of a Home Front Base, commented, “With us on our base, we have a group of dedicated soldiers from Special in Uniform who serve our country with love, faith, and commitment. I observe, every day, how military service enhances their characters and personal growth, and how they, likewise, contribute their all to the IDF. They’re amazing, and I never cease to be awed by how, together, we’ve created an inclusive military whose hallmarks are its values and ethics.”
Special in Uniform is continuing to spread and develop throughout Israel. There are currently 28 army bases participating in the program, and the program aspires to reach and engage 1,000 volunteer soldiers.
Since 2014, over 650 young people have served in the IDF through this program in 35 different bases.
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