Israeli-Arab IDF soldiers: “I was moved at the end of basic training when I vowed to the Kuran”

Over the past few years, the IDF has reported a significant increase in Israeli-Arabs enlinsting. On the one hand, it turns out to be a huge success and the soldiers are proud to serve their country, their social statuses increase and they receive economic advantages. On the other hand, they face serving in the West Bank where they are called “traitors” and the homecoming reception in their villages is more than complicated.
Jewish, Christian and Muslim IDF soldiers at their swearing in ceremony Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

A majority of the IDF soldiers emotionally moved at the end of the 585th Reconnaissance Battalion’s basic training completion ceremony this year were Israeli-Arabs. The battalion that in the past was mostly made up of Bedouin soldiers has received the honor of taking on a surprising new Israeli sector: Christian and Muslim Arabs who decided to enlist into the IDF.

“So far, the most moving thing that has happened to me in the army is when I finished basic training and swore over the Kuran,” Sergeant Youssef Salutta said. “There was someone next to me who swore over the Torah. It is good that I vow over the Koran and I am an Arab Muslim in the army. It moves me that we are not from the same religion, but we all live in the same country.”

“The Second Lebanon War occurred when I was in the 12th grade,” Captain Ruhi Dabs, an Arab Christian, tells. “Two missiles fell in the city and killed Arabs, as well. That’s when it hit me: Terror does not differentiate between blood, religion or anything else. I told myself that I must take part in the war against terror.”

The percentage of recruits within Arab society, which constitutes a fifth of the Israeli population’s recruits, stands at 1%. However, over the past three years, there has been a significant increase that comes close to ten times more Arab Muslims and Christians who decide to enlist into the IDF.

Combat soldiers within the IDF’s Sword Battalion Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson Unit/Channel 2 News

For the past 30 years, the battalion was stationed on the Gazan, Egyptian and Lebanese borders with Israel. However, this year for the first time, the IDF decided that the 585th Reconnaissance Battalion will also serve in the West Bank. “We understand the mentality, we know how to work and we understand the language,” explained Captain Dabs.

While the soldiers have positive experiences serving in the IDF, they also receive much criticism while on duty, as some Palestinians call them “traitors.” Yet they are not called “traitors” only in the West Bank. Sometimes when the Arab IDF soldiers return home for the weekend dressed in uniform, their neighbors in the village will shout vulgar words at them. “Someone in the village once called me a traitor, spit on me and threatened that if he saw me in uniform again, he would break my legs,” said one female Israeli-Arab soldier.

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