“I’m proud to serve the country and it’s a privilege to protect it,” said T., an Arab citizen of Israel who serves with the country’s Border Police.
T., a 19-year-old Arab from the Jerusalem area, decided four months ago to enlist in the IDF and serve in the Border Police unit.
“I’m proud to serve the country and it’s a privilege to protect it. This is my country just as much as of anyone else who lives here,” he told Ynet regarding his courageous decision.
However, his family, especially his mother, is less enthusiastic. “She tells everyone that I study at university,” T. explained.
While T. is proud of his service, he is forced to hide it in his community. He leaves the base wearing his uniform and changes to civilian clothes at the central bus station before arriving home.
“I’m not afraid for myself, but rather for my family,” he explained. Only T.’s family and close friends know what he really does.
T. said that he dreamed of joining the border police since the age of 12.
“I thought about the place where I could contribute to the state and also move ahead in life, and the Border Police is the best place to do that, as far as I’m concerned,” he told Ynet.
Following T.’s enlistment, three of his friends decided to follow his example and either join the IDF or do national service, although they are not obligated by law to do so.
Growing Connection to Israel
While T.s story is special, there are others like him.
Each year, hundreds of Christian and Muslim Israeli Arabs volunteer to serve in the army or national service. In fact, non-Jewish enlistment in civilian national service has increased 650% in just six years.
The IDF recently launched a unique program for Israeli-Arab Christians that enables them to integrate into the army and serve their country. The Nachshon Platoon, for example, consists of 24 Arabic-speaking Christians who volunteered to join the IDF based on one motivation: to contribute to the State of Israel.
Approximately 20 percent of Israel’s eight million citizens are Arab. According to the Israeli Democracy Index, a public opinion survey project conducted last year by the Israeli Democratic Institute and the Guttman Center for Surveys, 65% of Israeli-Arabs are proud to be Israeli.