There was a 13% increase in the number of Israeli Arabs volunteering for National Service, said the Shluchot group, which works to encourage such voluntarism.
Despite intimidation by Islamist elements in their towns, Shluchot said that more Israeli Arab youths were making the choice to embrace Israeli society, taking what for many is the “ultimate leap” – signing up for a government program that turns them into “agents of the state.”
The group also noted that the jump in membership was coming at a time of increased tension between Arabs and Israelis. The study covers the entirety of 2015 through mid-November.
Israeli Arabs are not drafted into the IDF, unlike Jews and members of the Druze community, but may volunteer to serve in the army, with most of those coming from Bedouin communities. Otherwise, Arabs are exempt from service.
For those who wish to serve the state but not serve in the army, there is the National Service. Generally taken advantage of by girls from observant families who do not wish to serve in the IDF, the Service also takes in Jewish males who for various reasons are unable to serve in the army or are not qualified to do so, as well as Israeli Arab volunteers. Individuals who serve in the corps receive rights and benefits similar to those of IDF soldiers.
Over the past decade, said Shluchot, the number of Arab volunteers recruited by the group annually has climbed from 600 to 800. Overall, the group said it expects that 4,500 will have volunteered by the end of the year, a 13% increase over last year.
Many Arab volunteers have complained that elements in their community opposed to their serving the state have attempted to intimidate them, said Shluchot, but they decide to volunteer in any event, refusing to allow opponents to set the agenda for them.