First-Ever for IDF: Christian Israeli Arab Enlists as Israeli Air Force Cadet

US-made F-16 fighter jets in action.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

In a first-ever for Israel and the IDF, recently a Christian Israeli Arab enlisted an Israeli Air Force (IAF) cadet. Nationally, only 10% of cadets who begin the prestigious course graduate and earn their pilot wings. Yet, for this Christian Arab, whose name cannot be revealed for security reasons, just passing the rigorous medical, physical and psychological tests is a historic achievement to be celebrated, with wide implications throughout Israeli society.

“This is a proud day for Israel’s army,” stated Dr. John A.I. Grossman, chairman of LIBI, a welfare fund of the IDF. “While the international community continues to make false claims against Israel’s army, we see again and again how inclusive it really is.”

Only Israeli Jews, Druze and Circassians are legally required to enlist in the IDF. Israeli Arabs, both Christians and Moslems, serve voluntarily. For years its been common for Israeli Bedouin Arabs to serve. But in the past decade there’s been a growing trend of Christian Israeli Arabs to volunteer.

While many Arabs serve in elite combat and other units, recently Israel’s first Bedouin soldier was promoted to the rank of Colonel. Previously, Druze cadets completed the IAF cadets’ course and served as pilots.

While a growing trend in the past decade, Christian Arab enlistment faces many challenges. First, Christian Arabs live in and among predominantly Moslem communities where there is often animosity toward anything “Israeli” or that represents the state and its institutions, and particularly the army. Christian Arabs are motivated to serve as proud Israelis, a minority within a minority, and to distinguish themselves from the often-hostile environment and attitudes among Moslem Arabs. Christian Arabs are often treated as second-class citizens and discriminated among the wider Moslem Arab community, so placing themselves squarely in the corner of being proud Israeli citizens makes sense, albeit with challenges. Some 20% of Israeli society is Arab and fewer than 10% are Christian.

Recently the Genesis 123 Foundation – Run for Zion participated in a meeting among Christian Arabs who promote and participate in IDF service. The organization, to remain anonymous because of pushback and threats it receives from Moslems, strives to integrate Christian Arabs into Israeli society via military service. Their logo, overlaying a Star of David and a cross, draws fire among the wider Moslem Arab community “just” for use of the star as a symbol of the State. Yet the organizers and some 2,000 Christian volunteers are determined to integrate and serve.

Challenges are not limited to within the Arab community. With the relatively small portion of Arabs (Druze, Bedouin and Circassians) who have served for decades being a minority within a minority, there’s suspicion and lack of understanding among Jewish soldiers in meeting Christian Arabs for the first time. Many Israelis don’t understand that Christian and Moslem Arabs are different, the challenges that Christians face within Moslem society, or the determination that they have to want to serve the State.

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SOURCE: Charisma News, Jonathan Feldstein