An IDF Beduin tracker on patrol. Unlike other minorities that serve in the army, for Beduin, service is on a volunteer basis..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The Defense Ministry said it will assist Beduin who have completed their service in the IDF and are unable to find work.
Announced last week, the plan comes after 25 Beduin reservists wrote a letter two weeks ago saying they would not serve until the government starts addressing systematic discrimination against their community.
The signatories, which have since risen to 60 and now includes officers, wrote to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stating they felt a “sense of betrayal” when upon the completion of their military service, they had hoped to start their education and find a job but were unable to.
“We say no more! We no longer allow the continued spitting in our faces by those who sent us to spill our blood. We will not continue to fulfill our duty if no one sustains our rights. We hereby announce the termination of our active reserve service. We will not return to serve until we feel that the state treats us as equals as citizens of Israel,” they wrote.
The plan, which was presented by Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan on behalf of Liberman, was proposed by MK Anat Berko (Likud) and MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union), who serve on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
As the majority of the letter penned by the reservists dealt with discrimination against their community in getting jobs, according to Ben-Dahan, the program will cover a “wide range of assistance” for Beduin soldiers, including additional pre-military programs, courses to strengthen their Hebrew and significantly discounted post-secondary education.
“The IDF is working to provide professional tools to Beduin soldiers who complete their service with the purpose of integrating them into society with the help of the Council for Higher Education, which will provide them with the relevant tools,” Ben-Dahan said.
He also said that as part of the plan, the Uniform to University program, in which every combat soldier gets a bachelor’s degree paid for by the Defense Ministry, will apply to every Beduin soldier after they finish their service, “regardless of the position in which he served.”
In their letter, the reservists also mentioned the difficulties they face when they want to enlist in the police.
According to Ben-Dahan, the plan will see the army “working with various organizations, including Israel Police, the Israel Electric Corporation and others, in order to assist soldiers from the Beduin community to find work upon their release from the IDF.”
But one of the reservists who signed the letter, Omar Harib from Bir al-Maksur in the Lower Galilee, told The Jerusalem Post that the Defense Ministry’s plan surprised the Beduin community.
“We haven’t heard anything about this,” he said. “No one has spoken to us. But we aren’t talking about issues in getting a higher education. We are talking about the inability to find work, especially in the defense sector. We are Israelis who have served in the army like everyone else, and now we can’t work in this field.”
Harib, who served as a combat soldier said that “everyone in my family has served in the army.
We served before the state even existed, fighting with the Palmah.
We don’t deserve the kind of treatment we receive from the government.”
The Beduin are not obliged to serve in the army, and since 1948, more than 110 Beduin have been killed defending the country.
Harib has been living in the southern Beduin city of Rahat for the past four years because of the lack of positions available in the North. He is working as a truck driver after several unsuccessful applications to various security agencies, including the firefighters, police and Prisons Service. His wife is a teacher and was also only able to find a job in the South.
“My kids cry everyday that they want to see their family, their grandparents. But we can’t,” Harib said, adding that when he is doing his reserve duty his wife has “no one” for support, something that wouldn’t happen had they been able to find work closer to their family.