Last Wednesday, Remembrance Day, I had the honor of speaking on behalf of the UJC at a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem for Israel's 22,437 fallen. I would like to share those words with you:
It is a sad reality in our region that the wars do not stop for one moment. Sometimes they are at a higher intensity, sometimes at a lower one, but soldiers fall all the time, and the pain and grief are deep.
Since last Remembrance Day another 132 families have joined the "bereaved family" of the State of Israel. Among the soldiers who fell over the past year were three non-Jewish soldiers: First Sgt. Sayef Bisan from the Druse village of Jatt, Sgt. Menhash Albaniat, from the Beduin settlement of Kuseife, and a third soldier, whose name we do not know and whose picture we have never seen. All that appeared in the newspaper was a silhouette.
The Beduin tracker fell in a terrorist ambush next to the fence dividing Gaza and Israel, alongside his Jewish comrades; he had volunteered for service in the IDF.
We do not differentiate between the blood of fallen soldiers, whether Jews or non-Jews, but it struck me that although it is known who this soldier is and where he came from, for the Israeli public, he is an Unknown Soldier. His family requested that neither his name, nor his picture, nor even where he lived be published. All we know is that he left behind two wives and seven children, and that on the day he fell he was supposed to become engaged for the third time. No doubt, his family feared that they may be harmed in some way.
BEDUIN TRACKERS go ahead of patrols. They are the first out there, and they are the first to be injured or killed. They are aware of the danger; but nonetheless, they serve - voluntarily. No one can replace them. No one can identify the tracks and signs over the hundreds of kilometers of dirt roads along Israel's borders the way they do. It takes trained and experienced eyes, and this is what the Beduin trackers have been doing better than anyone else, generation after generation.
We frequently speak of the "covenant" between us, the Jews, and them, the Druse and Beduin. It is a pledge between those who are destined to live together in this country and give up their lives for it.
But these people hear very little from us about the covenant of life, the covenant between people who are supposed to build their lives alongside one another.
The Beduin tracker who fell on the Israel-Gaza border lived in an unrecognized village. Tomorrow, bulldozers could come to demolish his house, leaving his two wives and seven children homeless.
On this day, we must think of him, of his friends and also of ourselves, and we must promise to cultivate solidarity and mutual commitment - ours and theirs - not just in order to die for our country, but to live for it, together.
Thank you my brother, Beduin tracker.
The writer is senior vice president and director-general of UJC Israel and a former IDF spokesman.
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