Beduin reconnaissance unit finishes week-long drill in North

There are about 250,000 Beduin in Israel, and unofficial estimates count some 1,500 currently serving in the IDF.

Troops from the IDF’s Reconnaissance Battalion train in northern Israel during a week-long exercise, March 29, 2018. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Troops from the IDF’s Reconnaissance Battalion finished a week-long exercise in northern Israel on Thursday, drilling shooting and identifying enemies.
The exercise saw the participation of soldiers who have recently enlisted, as well as officers and senior officers.
The Beduin are highly respected for their tracking and navigational skills. While they are not obliged to serve in the IDF, those who do volunteer patrol the frontiers, acting as the first line of defense.
“The borders of the State of Israel are manned by the Beduin, who are an inseparable part of the border defense system that guards and safeguards the borders of the state,” said Lt.- Col. Hassan Abu Salb, the head of the Reconnaissance Training School.
“Today there are a wide range of threats which need to be dealt with, and therefore the trackers must work in various conditions and locations, as well as collaborate with Oketz [canine special forces] and various engineering units,” he added.
Deployed across the country, the difficulty of the tracker’s job varies depending on the location and topography.
Near the Gaza Strip, where there are near daily infiltration attempts from the Hamas-run territory, trackers are able to easily read the sand and to quickly tell if there has been an illegal crossing into Israel. Up in the northern Galilee, an area full of forested hills, streams and other natural obstacles, the identification of possible infiltrations is more challenging.
“The trackers’ best abilities are to live the land and to read it,” said Maj. Khaled Sa’ad, an officer in the Galilee Division’s 769th (Hiram) infantry brigade who has served in the army for 15 years.
There are about 250,000 Beduin in the country, and unofficial estimates count some 1,500 currently serving in the military, which has in recent years been working to increase the number of Beduin volunteers.
One-third of Israeli Beduin live in unrecognized villages (mainly in the South), where the inhabitants suffer from a lack of infrastructure, rely on solar panels for electricity, don’t have roads and sewerage, are not connected to the water supply network, and lack health and educational services.
In recent years there has been a noted decrease in the number of IDF recruits from among the Beduin population, which some blaming systematic discrimination felt by the community.
Abu Salb, who is the first Beduin to reach the rank of lieutenant- colonel, is also in charge of the IDF Manpower Directorate program that aims to increase that recruitment.
Sa’ad said, “It is very important to me that Beduin men play a role in the destiny of the state. I see service as a privilege.” There is not one man in his family in the village of Wadi Salab on the Carmel who has not served in the IDF, he said. “When I come to demand my rights from the state, before that I have to fulfill my duties and this is a basic thing in my eyes.”
Maj. Firas Gadeer, an officer in the Beduin Reconnaissance Unit 91, was born and raised in a tent near the village of Bir al-Maksur in the Lower Galilee.
His brother was a company commander in the Beduin Battalion and he says that his parents were very supportive of his enlistment in the IDF.
“From my parents’ point of view, and as far as I am concerned, serving in the army is part of life and tradition.”
According to Gadeer, most of the Beduin trackers in Unit 91, ranging in age from the 18-yearold conscript to 45-year-old career soldiers, live in the various villages that dot the North.
Gadeer said the week-long exercise was a comprehensive one, drilling all the necessary skills, especially reading the lay of the land and distinguishing between false and possibly real infiltrations.
“On one of the Saturdays, thanks to [IDF] observers who identified signs of someone approaching the fence, I recommended to the commander of the sector that we conduct a patrol to check for any suspicious signs,” Gadeer recalled. “I took the battalion of trackers and began to conduct searches, and we identified a very small sign. [In the end] “we caught a person who was going to break the law. It is an event that symbolizes how trackers think outside the box.
“This is what distinguishes the battalion,” Gadeer said. “The adult veteran hands the young soldier the tools and teaches him to be a better tracker.”