An increasing number of Israeli Arabs are volunteering in Israel’s National Service program, viewing it as a great opportunity to advance and contribute to their country.
The number of Israeli Arabs who are volunteering to participate in Israel’s National Service program has increased to 3,000, representing a 76 percent increase over the last year. Ninety percent of Israeli Arabs who serve, do so within the Arab sector, in schools, daycare centers, hospitals, and programs against drugs and violence. Upon completion of their national service, 85 percent of the National Service volunteers are able to find work. Among Israel’s minority population, of the 16,000 residents who participate in National Service, 19 percent are members of minority groups, with 17 percent being Christian Arab, 21 percent being Druze, and 51 percent being Bedouin.
Israel has compulsory military service, where men are required to serve three years while women are in the army for two years. Two groups, however, are exempt—Israeli Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews. However, both groups are permitted to volunteer for National Service and many have done so, realizing that the lack of service adversely affects ones resume. In addition to an increasing amount of Israeli Arabs volunteering for National Service, there are also a number of Israeli Bedouins and other Israeli Arabs who are proudly serving in the Israel Defense Forces, viewing it as a means to advance within Israeli society. One former Muslim Knesset candidate, Aetef Karinaoui, supports Israeli Arabs giving back to their country by either serving in the IDF or doing national service.
Nasim Awadallah is one of the Israeli Arab National Service participants. He assists the physical education instructor in a local Arab school. “I decided to do something with my life,” Awadallah claims. “I decided to serve the country and I hope it will help me in the future. I think that after I do this, people will look at me differently. The program has taught me how to be a teacher. I have learned so much and now I really know how to deal with kids. I have much more self-confidence than I did before I started.”
Another Israeli Arab who has completed National Service is Nasra Hmod. She claimed, “I really wanted to volunteer for the Magen David Adom [the Israeli Red Cross] but didn’t succeed. Then I heard about National Service, and contacted Chaya at Shlomit and told her I was an Arab.” Soon after that, Hmod was assigned to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, where upon completing her national service she was given a job. Prior to doing her National Service, she was unable to find work.
A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR ISRAELI ARAB WOMEN
A director who recruits Israeli Arab volunteers for national service claimed, “National Service represents a potential for empowerment for Arab women, and they sense that. That’s why they put on pressure to be allowed to volunteer despite the social opposition, because it’s their opportunity to breach the boundaries of the village. An Arab girl who comes from a small village and learns to answer phones and give service in Hebrew, and to work on Excel – that raises her level significantly.”
Presently, the majority of Israeli Arab women don’t work, partially because these women never leave their villages and thus don’t receive the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to be able to work. However, doing National Service enables young Israeli Arab women to have the means to support themselves in the future, independent from their husbands. This works wonders for encouraging young Israeli Arab women to be self-supporting individuals, contributing to Israeli society as a whole.
By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United with Israel