A self-described 18 year old “Arabic speaking Christian” and “proud Israeli” has taken to the pages of Israel’s highest-selling newspaper to describe her commitment to joining the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and to blast Israeli-Arab parliamentarians for representing “no one but themselves.”
Earlier this week 18-year-old Raghda Jeraisi penned a two-page open letter in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronot describing how she intends to follow in the footsteps of other family members of enlist in Israel’s army:
For me it’s an obvious step. I come from a home where everyone serves in the army. When I was young I’d see my father come home in uniform as an officer in the Golani Brigade, and I envisioned my future looking the same. From my father I learned about loyalty to one’s country and about the desire to contribute to it.
Jeraisi lives in Upper Nazareth, a majority-Jewish town adjoining Nazareth, the ancient Galilee city that is the unofficial capital of Israel’s Arab community. A star athlete, she is Israel’s 2011 champion in javelin, discus, and shot put.
The teenager was spurred to act after several Arab-Israeli Members of the Knesset (MKs) launched a series of attacks against her priest, Father Gabriel Nadaf, in response to Nadaf encouraging Christian Israelis to enlist in the IDF. Israel’s Arab and Arabic-speaking citizens enjoy full equality under Israeli law, including voting rights, and representatives from three different Arab party lists were elected into the current Israeli Knesset.
MKs from those parties have taken increasingly strident anti-Israel positions, and several – including Balad party member and self-identified Palestinian Hanin Zoabi – have specifically tried to silence Nadaf. Their efforts included calling on the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Theophilus III, to either prevent Nadaf from encouraging Christian-Arab enlistment or to fire him. The campaign against Nadaf has become so dangerous that he was provided with a security detail.
Jeraisi tersely demanded that in her open letter that Zoabi stop speaking in the name of Christian Israelis and demanded that the MKs not “regard us as Palestinians.” She noted with pride that 650 Arabic-speaking Christians volunteer each year for military or national service.
The vast majority of Israel’s Druze and Circassian male populations serve in the IDF at the long-standing request of both communities’ elders. A minority of the country’s nomadic Muslim Bedouin also volunteer to serve annually.
[Photo: Hatikvah / Facebook]