By Aryeh Savir
The IDF has announced this week (Apr. 23) it will begin to send draft notices to all Christian Israelis, offering all Christian Israelis the option to enlist in the IDF voluntarily. Until this change in policy, only those who wished to enlist approached the IDF to be draft. This move comes as part of the conclusive draft law recently passed in the Knesset requiring all Israelis to serve in the IDF, including chareidim.
The new program makes information and voluntary drafting options available to the Christian population, and the IDF in coming weeks will begin to distribute to all potential Christian recruits voluntary enlistment forms. The IDF hopes that this new program will make the enlistment more accessible for this population, giving clear and coherent information regarding the voluntary enlistment process, and the different service options they may chose, including combat service or civilian National Service.
The recent change in protocol was implemented following IDF contacts with Israeli Christian community leaders, and with the authorization of the Minister of Defense, Mr. Moshe Ya’alon, and the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
Since the service of the Christian population in Israel is not obligatory by law, potential recruiters are not required to respond to the invitation. Currently approximately 150 Christians serve in various positions and units in the IDF, 50 enlisting every year, and approximately 500 Israeli Christians are enlisted in National Service, an alternative to military service.
Head of the Human Resource Planning and Management Division, Brigadier General Gadi Agmon said: “This change will constitute another step in the integration and connection of the Christian population with the IDF. The purpose of this change is to make information regarding drafting to the IDF more accessible to the Christian population, and in doing so, enable them to enlist and carry out a meaningful service. We are actively working towards integrating all populations and see this as a very important step in that direction.”
Not all Israeli Christians Arabs welcomed the venture. MK Basel Ghattas, A Christian Arab of the Balad party, called on the Israeli Christians to tear up the notices when they get them. He claimed the move was an attempt to create division within the Christian community. MK Issawi Frej, of the extreme left Meretz party ,sent a letter of protest the Chief of Staff Gantz attacking the program.
However, a number of Christian and Israeli groups and veterans have collaborated with the IDF on this project. The Israel Christian Recruitment Forum (ICRF) welcomed the initiative, lauding the attempt to make change and viewing the new program as a victory: “The Israeli Christians have proven to Israeli society, that under the leadership of Father Gabriel Nadaf, a change can be made if there is inner decisiveness, belief in our way and dedication to the cause. We are proud of the Christians in Israel who have finally arisen and have full heartedly decided to shape their own destiny, with a head held high, with a true desire to become part of Israeli society, serving ourselves and the society at large.”
Tazpit News Agency