Although the Israel Defense Forces is mainly a Jewish army, it also includes Israeli Arabs who are proudly making a valuable contribution both to their people and to Israel.
Anat Hasakhia, an Israeli Arab and a Muslim, has sent all three of her children to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and she is proud of it. This includes her daughter, who serves alongside many Jewish women soldiers. She believes very strongly that all Israeli Arabs should serve in the Israel Defense Forces, because it is such an important part of being Israeli, to give back to the country and to become Israeli war heroes. Hasakhia thinks that by contributing to the Israeli state, Israeli Arabs will better be able to integrate into Israeli society. She strongly feels that all Israelis should serve their country, regardless of their religious beliefs, at least by doing national service if not being part of the Israeli army forces.
Hasakhia is not the only Israeli Arab to feel this way. There are many Israeli Arabs who want to give back to the country that they were born into and contribute toward Israeli society by serving in the army. It is also an effective way to better integrate into their home country. For example the Bedouin and Druze Israelis, communities actively encourage IDF service. There are also Christian and non-Bedouin Muslim Israeli Arabs who volunteer to proudly serve in the Israel Defense Forces and within the Israel Defense Forces there are entire units comprised of Israeli Arab citizens.
TESTIMONIALS FROM ISRAELI ARAB IDF SOLDIERS
Shirin Shlian, an Israeli Arab soldier said, “Many Arabs and Jews ask me why I joined the IDF. It must be the good education I received at home.” Her job in the IDF is to visit schools in Nazareth Illit and speak to high school students about enlisting in the IDF. She explained, “I give the students a lesson about the first draft notice, IDF enlistment and the jobs the army has to offer. In addition, I hold personal conversations with each student with the aim of encouraging them to have a significant and contributing service. The students applaud me for my decision to volunteer, enlist – and make a contribution to the State.”
Al Wahid, is presently the highest ranking Israeli Arab and Muslim officer serving in the IDF. He considers himself to be an Israeli Arab and Zionist, asserting, “I believe in the Muslim faith, and I will never abandon it, but I think that Zionism is more than a religion. It is something that fully represents my sense of belonging to the State of Israel and to Israeli society, and the immense commitment I have to protecting and guarding the country of which I am part.” Wahid claims that there are many other Israeli Arabs like him who want to serve in the IDF, yet are afraid to do so out of fear for how their community will react.
Recently an Israeli Arab resident of East Jerusalem that decided to serve proudly in the Israel Defense Forces, was honored by Israeli President Shimon Peres for his service. He declared, “I wanted to serve. I wanted to defend the country. I wanted to serve in order to do something good and something good with my life.” This soldier has served as a role model for two of his brothers, who also joined the IDF, thus demonstrating how much one person can make a difference.
By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United With Israel