The mission of the Israeli Defense Forces is to defend Israel. Defending Israel means defending all citizens of Israel, including Israeli Arabs. While dozens of Muslims serve in the IDF, most keep this service very quiet. People in their villages view them as traitors and they are not accepted within their communities. Maj. Ala Wahib wants this to change. Wahib is aware of many more Israeli Arabs who want to serve in the IDF and become productive and accepted members of the broader Israeli society but are afraid to do so. Wahib hopes that his openness about his IDF service will help change their minds. He told his story to Michal Yaakov Yitzhaki of the Yisrael Hayom newspaper.
The following are select quotes from that interview:
1) What he learned after enrolling in a Christian school in Nazareth at the age of 14: “…from the age of zero I was told that Israel took Palestine away from us, so naturally I referred to myself as a citizen of Palestine. I didn’t recognize the Israeli flag, and I certainly didn’t see myself as part of the country….I suddenly discovered a world that I never knew existed. I discovered that the Jews weren’t as bad as I was told growing up. I discovered that they have a good side that I am drawn to. I identified with their principles and the way they protect one another. I felt that I wanted to become a part of this country.”
2) Upon visiting the concentration camps in Europe 4 years ago as part of the IDF’s Witnesses in Uniform program. “As a child I grew up in a society that denies the Holocaust. When I arrived in Poland I was shocked. I cried a lot. It was difficult to contain this thing called genocide. There was something very powerful in the fact that I was standing on Polish soil, holding an Israeli flag and donning the uniform of the Israeli army…”
3) “I remember one time when I couldn’t resist and I came into the village with an Israeli flag attached to my car. I was sure that someone would take it down, but it was still there in the morning.”
4) “One day, a young Arab woman arrived at the checkpoint with a knife and tried to stab a soldier. When I was called to the scene she burst into tears and showed me her body. It was covered with black and blue marks. I understood that she had been severely beaten at home for having soiled the family’s honor and that she didn’t really want to kill a soldier. It was just her way of getting away from her family. She preferred to be in an Israeli jail rather than going back home, possibly to her death.”