More than 1,000 Israeli Arab citizens have volunteered to serve in the Israeli army in the past year — double that of the previous years, according to the Israel Defense Force’s Manpower Directorate.
This includes both those who were conscripted as well as those volunteering for reserve duty. This included Muslims from eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods as well as Bedouin tribes in the Galilee and Arab Christian youth from villages in the Galilee.
Also notable are the units for which the new recruits are volunteering, including infantry battalions and the Border Police, in addition to the units in which the desert Scouts that Bedouin volunteers have traditionally served.
The Manpower Directorate credited an online recruitment campaign in Arabic for the rise in enlistees from Israel’s Arabic speaking community, which they said resulted in over 4,000 inquiries, including several hundred from surrounding Arab countries.
“About 700 would-be volunteers called from Arab countries such as Lebanon and Syria, perhaps as part of the change the region is going through. We could not believe the demand,” the Manpower Directorate said. "As a result, we opened a recruitment bureau in the Galilee, where volunteers can study to improve their Hebrew. This branch will be able to recruit a total of up to 2,500 people a year.”
In addition to a rise in interest from the Israeli Arab sector, the Druze villages on the Golan Heights, which have long resisted formal identification with Israel due to concerns for their future status if the Golan Heights were ever to be returned to Syrian control, have also become more open to sending their young men to serve in the IDF in recent years.
Last but certainly not least, the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish community has also seen an increase in the number of young men it sends to the IDF after generations of reluctance due to concern over the secularizing effect that military service might have on young people from the community.
"Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in March, there has been a significant change in the willingness of young people in both the Arab and Haredi sectors to take part in the IDF,” said a senior officer in the Manpower Directorate. "In the ultra-Orthodox sector alone, at least three sessions of basic training will begin by the end of April, adding 300 ultra-Orthodox soldiers to the Home Front Command. A momentum has been created, and now the army is perceived differently by both the ultra-Orthodox and Arab public.”
The IDF initially plans to deploy most of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab recruits to Home Front Command units and train them to assist their own communities, where they have a unique advantage to reach their own people.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.