Bennett with Arab volunteer 370.
(photo credit: Yoram Cohen)
A ceremony was held on Tuesday at the Haifa Cinematheque to recognize the
record-high 3,000 Arabs volunteering in the national service program this
This represents an increase of 76 percent over last year, when
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who is in
charge of national service, attended the event and spoke against the incitement
by Israeli Arab leaders against those who participate in the
“There are those that do not like it, who want separation and do
not want to see Arabs and Jews living together in coexistence,” he
Sar-Shalom Gerbi, director of the Civil and National Service
Administration, also attended the event. “We will take all legal measures and
deal with incitement in the Arab sector,” he said.
Gerbi told The
that Arab volunteers have asked for help dealing with the threats
they receive from members of their community. He mentioned that MK Jamal Zahalka
(Balad), for example, called Arab volunteers traitors last year
is no good argument to explain why this [service] is not good,” said
He said that he has written and called upon Israeli Arab leaders
to come to meetings and talk with him about cooperating, but that he never
received an answer.
Ninety percent of Arab volunteers serve in the Arab
sector, in schools, daycare centers and programs against drugs and
According to Gerbi, 85% of participants either study or enter
the workforce after their service.
But many endure intimidation and
attacks because of their sacrifice.
Gerbi mentioned one young woman who
had the windows of her home broken as a result of her service. Gerbi says that
while Arab political leaders are very strongly against Arab participation in
national service, “most of the population is very much for it.”
Out of a
total 16,000 national service volunteers, 19% are members of minority groups.
The make-up of the minority volunteers is Christian Arab 17%, Druse 21%, and
Beduin Muslims 51%.