A growing number of Muslim Arab-Israelis are enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces despite the disapproval of their communities, NBC reported Sunday.
“There is more openness among Arab Muslims that are not Bedouins to volunteer and join the army,” said Col. Wagdi Sarhan, the head of the IDF’s minorities unit. “We’re talking about recruitment of dozens of Arab Muslim youth and we are hopeful that the numbers will grow.”
There were fewer ten Arab Muslims serving in the Israeli army a few years ago, according to Sarhan, but now the number is in the dozens.
“This is my country and it’s my duty to protect its borders,” explained Sgt. Yossef Saluta, one of the growing number of Muslim Arabs serving. He added that his family was supportive, but that when he told his friends, they initially gave him “a strange look….But after I told them about my experiences in the army they were convinced to also join.”
The Times of Israel reported in August that non-Jewish enlistment in civilian national service has increased 650 percent in just six years.
Maj. Alaa Waheeb, the highest ranking Muslim officer in the IDF, wrote an op-ed in the Jewish News in March 2016 expressing pride in the role he plays in Israeli society. He recounted being on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom with a Jewish medic: “We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.”
[Photo: Gil Kremer / IDF Spokesperson’s Unit ]