Muslim soldier

One thousand Israeli Arabs enlisted in the IDF during the past year and the military also received requests from citizens of neighboring enemy countries who sought to serve in the Israeli army.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

In the last year, 1,000 members of Israel’s Arab population has enlisted in the IDF, a number that is more than double that of recent years, Ynet reported Sunday.

The army was also shocked to receive requests from Arabs living in neighboring countries, some classified as enemies that obviously had to be turned down.

“About 700 would-be volunteers called from Arab countries such as Lebanon and Syria, perhaps as part of the change the region is going through. We could not believe the demand,” the Manpower Directorate said.

Unlike their Jewish, Druze and Bedouin brothers and sisters in arms, who are conscripted, the Arab Muslims and Christians who serve are all volunteers and many serve as combat troops in some of the IDF’s elite brigades.

According to the IDF’s Manpower Directorate, the new recruits includes Muslims from large Arab towns like Taibe and Qalansuwa, as well as the east part of Jerusalem, the Galilee and other towns in Israel’s north.

While most Israelis serve in the IDF in non-combat roles, the increase this year included record numbers enlisting for combat roles, the report said.

Almost half of those enlisting are joining the Bedouin patrol unit, with others signing up for the elite Kfir and Nahal infantry brigades with others joining the Border Police.

The IDF said it received 4,000 inquiries from Arabs expressing interest in joining the IDF this year.

“As a result, we opened a recruitment bureau in the Galilee, where volunteers can study to improve their Hebrew. This branch will be able to recruit a total of up to 2,500 people a year,” the Directorate said.

Another breakthrough this year were requests from young Druze living in villages on the Golan Heights to serve, where Druze elders who maintain loyalty to the Syrian regime frown upon IDF service.

“Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in March, there has been a significant change in the willingness of young people in both the Arab and Haredi sectors to take part in the IDF,” said a senior officer in the Manpower Directorate.

Many of the new recruits, both Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, will join the IDF Home Front Command and serve in their home towns to help fight the coronavirus crisis.

“In the ultra-Orthodox sector alone, at least three sessions of basic training will begin by the end of April, adding 300 ultra-Orthodox soldiers to the Home Front Command,” said a senior IDF officer. “A momentum has been created, and now the army is perceived differently by both the ultra-Orthodox and Arab public.”