Israel Steps Up Effort To Recruit Christian Arabs for Army

Experts Doubt If Push Will Bear Fruit

By Reuters

Published April 22, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israel said on Tuesday it was stepping up efforts to encourage military enlistment by Christian Arab citizens, a community long closer to the larger Muslim minority in identifying with the Palestinians.

Israel’s Christian Arabs number about 160,000, some two percent of the Jewish state’s eight million people, and the expected number of conscripts - now about 100 - will rise in coming months, a senior military officer said.

“We intend to appeal to the Christian population of conscription age (17 and 18) and will send them call-up notices to volunteer for service,” Lieutenant-Colonel Amir Hai told reporters in a telephone briefing on Tuesday.

Being mostly Palestinians themselves, Israel’s Christian Arabs have traditionally stood alongside the Muslim community on Israeli-Palestinian issues. The Muslim minority comprises about 20 percent of the population and men of conscription age are largely exempted from military service.

Hai said that all branches of the military, including elite units, would be open for the volunteers as long as they are suitable for the demands of the task.

“No (unit) will be closed to (Christian conscripts) ahead of time, unless there is criteria that limits the recruit’s ability to serve,” Hai said. Only males will currently be called, although females were welcome to volunteer too, he added.

“I welcome this important, historical step … for the Christian community to be a member of Israeli society, equal in rights and duties,” Father Gabriel Nadaf, head of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, told Army Radio.

NO LARGE NUMBER EXPECTED

Israeli Jews are obliged to serve in the military at age 18, with men serving for three years and women for two. The vast majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews are exempted on religious grounds, a divisive issue in Israeli society.

Other minority groups that are called up for service are Israeli Druze Arabs and Bedouin Arabs.

Sammy Smooha, professor of anthropology and sociology at Haifa University and a leading expert on Israel’s Arabs, doubted the proportion of Christians in the military would not change.

“The increase sounds impressive because the numbers are so small so far. I don’t anticipate this will rise much further. There are greater numbers of Christians going for civilian national service options,” he said.

He described those enlisting as a fringe phenomenon driven by concern at the persecution of Christians in the Muslim Middle East and a desire for social advancement in Israel.

Nadaf, an outspoken and controversial proponent for greater integration of Israel’s Christians into Israeli society, said they wanted to be fully viewed as citizens of the Jewish state.

“We are not Arabs. We are not Palestinians. We are Israelis, citizens of this country and we see ourselves as loyal to this country and its institutions as any Christian living in any other place in the world would,” he said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.