The IDF may be the army of the Jewish state, but that doesn’t mean it’s comprised solely of Jewish men and women. Many from among Israel’s minorities choose willingly to join the IDF and take part in the defense of this nation that has provided them with civil rights and freedoms unprecedented throughout the rest of the Middle East.
To celebrate this fact, the IDF last week marked its annual diversity week, “a celebration of the differences that unite Israeli soldiers,” according to the army’s official blog.
In fact, diversity for the IDF is not a simple concept, and has several different meanings. As the national homeland and haven for all Jews worldwide, Israel is home to Jewish immigrants coming from hundreds of different nations and cultures, all of whom must be meshed together into a unified and effective fighting force.
On top of that, Israel is home to various non-Jewish minorities, including Arab Muslims, Druze, Circassians, Armenians, and Aramean Christians. Excluding the Druze, these minorities are not required to serve in the IDF, but each year hundreds volunteer, anyway.
To accommodate soldiers from numerous different backgrounds, the IDF makes clear that while it is the army of the Jewish state, it is an army that is not only for Jewish people.
For instance, during their swearing in ceremony, IDF recruits can choose to pledge their loyalty upon either the Tanakh (Old Testament), the New Testament or the Koran. Soldiers of different religious backgrounds are also given different and appropriate holiday vacation days.
Diversity for the IDF also applies to gender. In the Israeli army, 92 percent of all available positions, including many combat roles, are open to female recruits.
During IDF Diversity Week last year (2013), the official IDF magazine BeMahane published a story on two Arab Muslim brothers from the Galilee who decided to break local societal norms and join the Israeli army.
Their account and reasons for serving their country are worth a read. Click here to do so.