Beduin enlistment to IDF rises after years of decline

Defense Ministry benefits and occupational training are behind a recent boost in minority recruiting.

Bedouin soldiers in the IDF (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Bedouin soldiers in the IDF
After years of steady decline in the number of young Beduin volunteering to enlist in the IDF, the past year has seen a reversal of that trend manifesting in a 40% increase in 2017. Four hundred and twenty Beduin men joined the army in 2017, up from 300 in 2016, and the IDF aims to increase recruitment further, to 600, in the coming year.
Despite the fact that the number of members of the Beduin sector who choose to enlist is still objectively low, the army believes that the recruitment potential will increase significantly, even as the community experiences a processes of religious radicalization and deepening rupture with the state, especially among the southern tribes.
Today, two thirds of the new recruits live in the north of the country, in opposite proportion to the total Beduin population, two thirds of whom live in the south.
According to a senior military source, the positive turnaround in the recruitment data is partially related to changes and adjustments to their service recently adopted by the IDF.
"Their military service now begins with a three-month course at the Michve Alon base, which aims to dramatically improve their knowledge of the Hebrew language, as many do not speak the language. It will also strengthen their identity with the State of Israel," he said.
Even though the recruits are allowed to leave the army immediately after the course, to date only three young people have opted to do so.
The IDF noted that it identified a desire by the recruits to use their time in service to acquire a profession, and indeed about a third of them were assigned to be truck drivers after a period of study, training and licensing.
The IDF, however, wants more of the recruits from the sector to join combat units and therefore is offering them a unique benefit in the form of allowing them to dedicate the final months prior to their release to professional training for future employment.
Under the guidance of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, a committee was set up to promote the recruitment project, which was defined as a "national mission," opposite other government ministries.
Another benefit the recruits are expected to receive come in the form of housing assistance, legal aid and employment guidance.
When looking to build a new home, "the young people who enlist will receive a 90% discount on the price of the lot and a preference in choosing it. In cases where legal proceedings are being conducted due to the illegal construction of the soldier's family, we assist them in their interaction with the authorities... In the matter of future employment, it was decided that the Defense Ministry's discharged soldiers department will continue to accompany the released Beduin soldiers beyond the normal five-year term," said Pini Ganon, the Defense Ministry's coordinator for the Beduin, Muslim and Christian sectors.