The compulsory military draft does not apply to Israel’s Christians, but the values they grew up on and the strong desire to integrate into society has spurred in recent years a growing trend of Christian enlistment in the IDF and other security forces.
However, their willingness to enlist in the army and to contribute to the security of the country can exact from them a heavy price. Christian soldiers sometimes find themselves threatened by their Muslim neighbors and are the recipients of violent attacks. They have learned well the rules of engagement, they are skilled in the use of weapons, however, they struggle to cope with the violence bubbling up in their own backyards and most of them say that they are afraid to return home in uniform.
“Most of the Christian youth are concentrated in the cities of Nazareth and Upper Nazareth and the rest of the Galilee villages,” explains attorney Eyal Paltek, a reserve colonel who volunteered to represent them legally. “They are not exposed to Israeli society, to the mentality and to life outside of the cities they live in. Enlistment in the IDF in most cases constitutes the first time in their lives that they are exposed to Israeli youth and to Israeli society in general. Beyond that, their neighbors in the cities in which they live are Muslims who do not agree with the growing phenomenon of the enlistment of Christian youth in the IDF and their integration into Israeli society, and the employment opportunities that they have after their release. Therefore, these youth and their families find themselves threatened, cursed at and subject to physical attacks.”
One of the more prominent stories is that of Sgt. Majd, reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-language sister publication Ma’ariv HaShavua in February. Majd, a soldier in the Kfir Brigade and a resident of Nazareth, was given a certificate of excellence by the prime minister. Just before entering his home when he came back on furlough two years ago, he was attacked by a number of masked assailants who tried to stab him. After he went back to his base, he refused to go on further furloughs out of fear for his life. He told his commanders that the Muslims in the city were trying to kill him.
Read more: J Post