Israel is encouraging more Christian Arabs to join military service

April 23, 2014

(Israeli Arab Christian boy scouts play bagpipes during an Easter Monday parade in Tel Aviv’s Jaffa neighbourhood, April 21, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly)

Israel said on Tuesday it was stepping up efforts to encourage military enlistment by Christian Arab citizens, a community long closer to the larger Muslim minority in identifying with the Palestinians.

Israel’s Christian Arabs number about 160,000, some two percent of the Jewish state’s eight million people, and the expected number of conscripts – now about 100 – will rise in coming months, a senior military officer said.

“We intend to appeal to the Christian population of conscription age (17 and 18) and will send them call-up notices to volunteer for service,” Lieutenant-Colonel Amir Hai told reporters in a telephone briefing on Tuesday.

Being mostly Palestinians themselves, Israel’s Christian Arabs have traditionally stood alongside the Muslim community on Israeli-Palestinian issues. The Muslim minority comprises about 20 percent of the population and men of conscription age are largely exempted from military service.

Hai said that all branches of the military, including elite units, would be open for the volunteers as long as they are suitable for the demands of the task.

“No (unit) will be closed to (Christian conscripts) ahead of time, unless there is criteria that limits the recruit’s ability to serve,” Hai said. Only males will currently be called, although females were welcome to volunteer too, he added.

Read the full story by Dan Williams and Ori Lewis here.

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