The IDF has created a unique unit so that Israeli-Arab Christians can fulfill their ambition to overcome the language barrier and serve their country.
The IDF has launched a unique program for Israeli-Arab Christians which enables them to integrate into the army and serve their country.
The Nachshon Platoon consists of 24 Arabic-speaking Christians who volunteered to join the IDF based on one motivation: to contribute to the State of Israel.
After years of low draft percentages among the Arabic-speaking Christian community in Israel, no more than a dozen draftees a year, things have now changed. In the latest draft class, 24 soldiers of the Arabic-speaking Christian community volunteered to serve in the IDF.
The motivated soldiers began their military service with a three-week preparatory program at the Michve Alon training base in Israel’s north to overcome their biggest challenge: Hebrew.
The Nachshon Platoon was established especially for the Arabic-speaking Christian population in Israel. It’s a place of education with a familial atmosphere.
“The preparations for the culminating ceremony make me very emotional,” said Lt. Sapir, commander of the Eyal Company, where the soldiers were first taken in.
“They’re amazing soldiers and their Hebrew has improved unbelievably. I’m sure they will go far in their service,” she added. “Our goal was to improve their Hebrew level with the understanding that they’re aiming for significant positions that require a proficient level of Hebrew.”
The course mostly consists of Hebrew lessons, along with lessons about heritage and connection to Israel, and additional subjects related to the soldiers’ unique identities.
“The fact that Arabic-speaking Christians have a course and a platoon of their own strengthens the idea that the IDF is a place that does, and always will, care for them,” explained Nachshon Platoon Commander Lt. Shlomit, who accompanied the soldiers throughout their training.
“The platoon is going to open a door for the whole Arabic-speaking Christian community,” Lt. Gardi, the course commander said.
‘Contributing to My Country’
Pvt. Assad, one of the course graduates, expresses pride in successfully completing the course, and his satisfaction is evident in every word he says.
“I used to not speak Hebrew at all. I knew almost nothing, but the course has made me comfortable with the language and I’ve tremendously improved,” he shared.
“The platoon is like a family, like brothers- far more than friends,” he said emotionally. “Everyone helps one another. We’re a team, something larger together.”
Assad grew up in an Arabic-speaking Christian family in northern Israel. His desire to volunteer in the IDF comes from a surprising place.
“My father is a truck driver. I wanted to be like him, to make him proud of me but it was important for me to contribute to my country as I am a part of it,” he explained.
As he had hoped, Pvt. Assad will soon begin his service as a cargo truck driver. “The course has provided me with the integration that I wanted and I am very pleased.”
Pvt. Tazmuz’s favorite word in Hebrew is self-confidence. “It’s what has improved the most in me,” he shares. “I have a good feeling about the job I’m going to be doing, but it’s not enough for me. I want to be an officer- that’s the largest contribution I can give.”
“Since its establishment, the IDF has been the people’s army, serving as a way to bring together all the different communities in Israel to meet,” concluded Lt. Col. Dorit Maoz, the Michve Alon Base commander. “We all have a common house within the IDF, with mutual values, responsibility, and caring for each other.”
Approximately 20 percent of Israel’s eight million citizens are Arabs. According to the Israeli Democracy Index, a public opinion survey conducted last year by the Israeli Democratic Institute and the Guttman Center for Surveys, 65% of Israeli-Arabs are proud to be Israeli.
Israel is the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, while their numbers diminish as a result of Muslim persecution in all other areas of the region.
(With files from the IDF Blog)