Thirty members of Israel’s first ever pre-military course specially designed for Christian Arabs who plan on enlisting in the IDF have reached a major milestone this past week.
The group, which includes four women, celebrated their graduation in a formal ceremony in Haifa. The 30 volunteers are part of what Israel describes as a new surge of Christian Arab recruits who wish to serve in the army.
While current law exempts Christian Arabs from serving in the military, the number of Christian Arab volunteers in the IDF has risen exponentially over the last two years.
In April, the IDF launched a new campaign that began actively recruiting future soldiers from the Christian Arab community. In a reversal of a decades long policy, the IDF has now made is easier for Christian Arabs to enlist in the IDF.
As part of the new campaign, the IDF began sending out voluntary enlistment forms to potential male and female recruits. Detailed information was given about the volunteering process, possible positions available, including combat, and who to contact directly.
Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon, the head of the Human Resources, Planning and Management Division of the IDF, believes that by taking proactive steps to bolster volunteer military service among the Christian community in Israel would help the Christian community integrate further into Israeli society.
“We are actively working toward integrating all populations, and see this as a very important step in that direction,” Agmon said on the IDF blog.
Commenting on the graduating class of soon to be soldiers, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ofir Akunis called the day “historic.”
“An alliance against the threat of radical Islamic is being strengthened,” he added.
Father Gabriel Naddaf, founder of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum and a vocal advocate of promoting military service among the Israeli Christian Arab community, expressed his gratitude to the government and the IDF for “its help and cooperation.”
Currently, there are some 128,000 Christian Arabs living in Israel.