“I am a young man, I was born in Israel to a Muslim mother and father, I am an Israeli Muslim and I am proud of it, I did not choose to join the Israel Police, the Border Police or even the National Service.I chose to enlist in the IDF because of my great love for the State of Israel and its citizens. I wanted to serve the country, to contribute to it and to integrate into Israeli society. To feel part of the state and part of the people of Israel to be equal. I was born in this country, I see it as a duty to serve it. I volunteered to the IDF despite the objections of my parents and extended family, and the family was hurt when they found out that I am an IDF soldier, and it took me almost two years to get into the army. After that I was an outstanding soldier. “
“Even though our families got used to the fact that we are soldiers, there are Arabs, especially from the territories and from East Jerusalem, who do not accept this with understanding. ” Said Murad
Murad, Sayid, Taha, Ahmad and Khaled are the first five Muslim recruits to join the mixed battalion, which is comprised of women and men fighters. They are not obligated to enlisting in the IDF because of their religion, and the three-year service is voluntary. The five knew that they would find a comfortable base in the Bedouin patrol battalion, but preferred to get together with Jewish soldiers in order to overcome the natural suspicion and mutual concern. In order to bring young people from both religions closer together.
How will you react if the Arab sector interprets your service as an exit against Islam?
Khaled: “We are not fighting against religion but against terror that threatens the country … Muslims who murder people are not like me, it’s not the Islam I grew up in. I’m ashamed that this is how people who claim to be Muslims behave.”
Murad: “A terrorist is a terrorist and no matter what his religion is, if he wants to destroy us as a state, then our job is to stop him.”
How the Jewish soldiers in the unit accept you?
Sayid: “There is a lot of interest and they are surprised that we choose to enlist voluntarily, and the recruits ask us about the religion and the attitude in the village, and I feel that they treat us with respect. As far as they are concerned, we are all IDF soldiers and all of us have one goal, which is to protect the State of Israel. “
The five Muslim soldiers, who joined the IDF, decided to volunteer as they love their homeland. Ahmed, 19, followed his brother, a fighter in Givati. “From the age of 14 I knew that I wanted to serve the country,” he says. “As far as I was concerned, it was natural that after school I would go to the army. I played football in one of the most popular youth groups in Israel, and I was jealous when I saw my Jewish friends enlisting a year before. There are quite a lot of soldiers in my village, so people in uniform look quite acceptable here. “
On the other hand, the 18.5-year-old Khaled’s residence includes just a few soldiers . His parents ‘home is located on the outskirts of the village, thus avoiding the need to cross the central area in uniform and cope with the residents’ looks. His father, who joined Givati in 1991 and remained in the army for almost two decades, began their family history in IDF. “My grandparents opposed my father’s decision to serve in the army,” he says candidly. “They did not even wash his uniform when he arrived home on Saturdays, and it was strange for the neighbors to see a soldier in the village, and in the first few months he did not dare to come home in uniform. Even though he quarreled with friends and there were people who stopped talking to him, Dad signed a permanent contract and even fought as a reservist during the Second Lebanon War. “
Why do you think they opposed?
“I do not think it’s because of racism, they never had a problem with Jews, they just came from a poor village and wanted Dad not to spend his life on the army but to go to work, make money and marry. It’s not acceptable that he did the opposite of what his parents wanted. “
After all your father experience, did he support your decision to volunteer for the IDF?
“It was clear that I would continue his way to complete what he started. When I told in the high school that I planned to enlist, the teachers tried to influence me not to do it but to continue to study. Father, on the other hand, was very happy. He said that the army will help me to grow up, and will give me a different look at life, and that this is a special experience, and that every Arab who did not serve in the army is a donkey. I agree with him. It makes me laugh that people in the village look at me like they are shocked when they see me at the bus station with a weapon and uniforms. “
Morad, 23, Said, 23 and the 19-year-old Taha, It was a little easier because the three were childhood friends living next door. Only 15 soldiers have enlisted in their village, but this does not stop them. The decision was also made a long time, and they consulted with Said’s brother, who still serves in the Border Police.
“I wanted to volunteer five years ago, right after high school, but my father, who was a police volunteer, was seriously injured in a car accident and I had to be with him because my brother was in the army.” Explains Said. “I knew that as soon as I could, I would give my part to the security of the state. Because Taha and I were relatives, it was clear to both of us that we would join together, and that’s how it was. “
Murad, who unwittingly takes on the role of speaker of the five, has had to deal for years against his parents’ determined opposition. His insistence finally bore fruit: “They preferred me to study and work and fear that I would be wounded or die in the army.” I did not give in. Being a fighter has been my dream since I was born, even though I am the first in the family to volunteer for the IDF. My brother, who is also devoutly religious, opposed the draft and said that according to Islamic values it is forbidden to kill people. I replied that this is the country where I grew up and I want to take care of her. A year ago I became engaged to my girlfriend, but her parents canceled the wedding as soon as they heard that I had decided to enlist. It’s not easy for me to this day, but it has not changed my plans. I gave up on her for the army. “
Taha: “My girlfriend also canceled the engagement for the same reason, but despite that I chose to enlist.”
When we got to the induction center and put on our uniform, we could not restrain ourselves and we made Salafi, and we put the picture on Facebook and then the whole mess started. ” Already on their way to the basic training base, the two young soldiers understood the earthquake caused by the innocent picture in which they were standing smiling in green uniforms, with two loaded kitbags. “The problem was with the Palestinians who filled our Facebook with curses. They distributed the picture, wrote below it, that it is a shame that Muslims are photographed in IDF uniforms and that Islam is not our religion. “
Did you take into account the fact that you will have to arrest Arab suspects who speak your language and belong to the same religion?
Khaled: “Arrests are the most fun, that it how I will feel that I am contributing and doing something important because these are people who are disturbing the state. My father said that after the terrorist attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya he went to an operation in Nablus because that was where the terrorist came from. That is when he felt the biggest contribution, even though they always cursed him and called him a traitor, “he said,” before the basic training, he prepared me for what will happen to me and asked me not to be offended. “
Ahmad: “My brother also prepared me for the arrests in advance and asked me not to be excited, so far he has held a line in Jenin and now he is in the Gaza area.”
Sayid: “If someone wants to curse, he can curse, and as a soldier, I come to do my job. Because I am a Muslim it does not mean I am like them.
I do not want to destroy the state but to protect it. I have no problem fighting where they will tell me, in Gaza or in Lebanon. “
How will you feel when you will face a terrorist?
Khaled: “I thought about it and quite a few people asked me about it. In fact, it bothers me that terrorists are from my religion. The fact that we are both Muslims does not make us similar. “
Murad: “I took into account that this is what will happen when I enlist. This is my country and if someone has to be killed so that civilians will not be hurt, that’s what I’ll do. The war is not against religion but against terrorism.“
How do you behave when you hear the anthem at ceremonies?
“What do you mean?” asked Khaled. “The anthem represents us as soldiers. Every Friday, in front of the flag, we sing Hatikva with everyone. “
Can you be called Zionist Arabs?
“We are Arab Muslims,” they reply together. “Muslim Arabs who serve the country.”
Via Maariv 10/2016 translated from Hebrew