A growing number of Arab Israelis are signing up to serve in the Israeli army, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Excerpt: “Because I’m from this country and I love the country and I want to contribute,” explained Sgt. Yusef Salutta, a 20-year-old Arab from the north of Israel who is in the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion. “Everyone should enlist, anybody who lives here should enlist.”While service in the IDF is voluntary for Arabs, officials now say that Arabs make up several hundred out of the 175,000 soldiers currently on active duty. Col. Wajdi Sarhan, the head of the IDF Minorities Unit, explained that serving in the army helps young people become part of society. “[It] can get easier when you hold an Israeli soldier or reservist ID card,” he explained. “To be a soldier in the army, it’s actually an identity certificate of Israeli-ness, which can help integration.” The Times of Israel reported in August that non-Jewish enlistment for Israel’s civilian national service has increased 650% 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 expressing pride in the role he plays in Israeli society. He recounted being on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom with a a Jewish medic: “During my time in the UK, I spoke alongside a fellow soldier, a medic who has treated both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists without distinction. 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.” Cordially, --Larry Greenberg)