Fallen Beduin tracker from unrecognized village was proud to serve

"It's a terrible feeling to visit the home of another Beduin soldier who fought and died while serving a country that doesn't recognize [his] village," Zeyad Saadi, chairman of the Beduin Yad Lebanim organization, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Saadi spoke as he was leaving the home of soldier Sgt. Menhash Albaniat, 20, from a northern Negev village, near Kuseife. Albaniat, an IDF tracker, was killed in Gaza earlier in the day. "Menhesh was... considered a hero. He didn't follow friends' advice not to serve in the army and was proud to serve in the IDF," Saadi said. Albaniat was evacuated to Beersheba's Soroka Medical Center early Wednesday morning after he was wounded in an exchange of fire with six gunmen just inside the Gaza security fence, near Kibbutz Be'eri. A few hours later, Albaniat's parents and family, waiting outside Soroka's trauma center, were informed that he had died. Saadi attended Albaniat's funeral, which was held Wednesday afternoon at the Kuseife cemetery. "The family had no problem publicizing their son's name, despite the fact that Beduin leaders and the Beduin sheikh refused to pray over him," he said. According to Saadi, some Beduin leaders see those who serve in the IDF as "heretics." He described the bad conditions in which the family of the dead soldier live. "His family feels proud to belong to the State of Israel and to die for it, even thought they live in despicable conditions, in a shed with sand instead of [a] floor and with no running water. "The government can't abandon those who fight and die for Israel and let them live like that, just because they live in an unrecognized village. They are willing to send their children to die for a state that does nothing [for them] but sit with its arms crossed," Saadi said. Albaniat, who was recently married, was a tracker in the Givati Brigade. He is survived by his wife, his parents, and siblings, two of whom are currently serving in the IDF. In March, another Beduin tracker was killed along with two comrades when their vehicle drove over a bomb near Kissufim crossing. The family of the tracker declined to release his name, reportedly so as not to incur harassment due to the controversy surrounding army service in the Beduin community. A veteran of the IDF who reportedly worked to encourage other youth to enlist in the army, he is survived by two wives and seven children.