Significant army service is a big deal in Israel. So much so that many young Israeli Jews will postpone their mandatory conscription for one year after high school in order to attend a pre-military preparatory training camp, to make sure they are as prepared as possible.
Already years ago, Maj. (res.) Shadi Khalloul, a regular contributor to Israel Today, recognized that the key to greater Christian integration into Israeli society was encouraging young Christians to volunteer for military service. Israel’s minorities are not required to join the Jews in physically defending the State of Israel, but many, like the Druze, Bedouins and a growing number of Christians, are choosing to do so.
But these Christians are starting even further behind, if you will, than teenage Israeli Jews. So a pre-military preparatory course was seen as essential.
This year marks the seventh in which the “Kinneret” pre-military preparatory training camp put on by the Israeli Christian Aramaic Association (ICAA) has brought together young Christians and not a few young Jews to prepare for significant IDF service, together.
These pre-military camps have to be approved by the Ministry of Defense, and the work of the ICAA is seen as critical to boosting the number of young Christians who serve and later integrate with Israeli society.
Following the opening of the 7th Kinneret training camp this week, the ICAA posted on social media:
“Christian and Aramaic youth from the Galilee, along with Jews, will study, train, live and prepare for the next seven months for significant service in the IDF. Our young Christians will improve their Hebrew and get to know the Jews, and vice versa. We are building the next Israeli generation.”
The ICAA is at the forefront of a movement by local Christians to shed the “Arab” identity imposed on them by past Muslim conquests. As Khalloul has argued for years, Christians, primarily of an Aramean background, long predate the Arab Muslims in the Holy Land. And the history of the Jews in this land is tightly connected to the Arameans. Some portions of Scripture and other important Jewish religious texts were originally written in Aramaic (the first half of the Book of Daniel, for instance), and the Bible describes Abraham as an Aramean (Deuteronomy 26:5).
The State of Israel has likewise recognized this important distinction, and since 2014, local Christians can be registered as “Aramean” with Israel’s Interior Ministry.
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