Maj. I at grave of a Christian IDF soldier (Photo courtesy of Amit Barak)
In February, the IDF will promote a Christian soldier to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, making him the first soldier of his faith to achieve that rank. This comes as the result of a six-year process intended to help the indigenous Christian community integrate into mainstream Israeli society.
The identity of Maj. I must remain secret since he is slated to enter a high-level/high-risk security position. Maj. I, a Greek-Orthodox Christian and a resident of Nazareth Illit, the Jewish town next to Nazareth, is married and the father of a nine-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. He describes himself as an Armenian-Israeli Christian. The obligation to serve in the Israeli army applies only to Jews, Druze, and Circassians. Christians are not required to serve in the IDF and when Maj. I joined the IDF in 1999, only a few Christians volunteered, mostly serving in the Border Police. He graduated high-school with honors from the Salvatorian Sisters German Catholic School in Nazareth.
Maj. I stated that in his community, there was no animosity or fear of enlisting in the IDF. The vast majority of Christians chose to forgo military service in favor of continuing their studies and acquiring an education. Maj. I noted that among the Arabic-speaking Christians there are also those who opposed serving in the IDF for political reasons, mostly atheists, communists, or Pan-Arabists. Maj. I emphasized that this is an extreme and shrinking minority whom he perceives as being “detached from reality.” He also noted that these are generally people who are in denial of their Christian roots and history.
“The environment in which most Christians in Arab towns live is fertile ground pressuring and threatening men against enlisting,” Maj I said.
Upon completion of high school, he was accepted to study mechanical engineering at the Technion in Haifa but said that he was not at peace with himself. At the time, he had a Jewish girlfriend who was about to be drafted into the IDF. Maj. I already felt that he was an Israeli but also felt that something was missing. He decided to volunteer and join the IDF but as someone who did not attend a Jewish school, Maj. I had no prior knowledge of the IDF. He lacked information about the recruitment process, about the service, the various IDF units, and the myriad possibilities available to those who served. He described his prior knowledge of the IDF as being “a soldier has a weapon and he is doing negative things.”
His father spoke with several Jewish friends who connected him with the IDF recruitment office. The recruiter informed him that he would be drafted into the Bedouin battalion.
“I had no idea what it was about,” Maj I said. “My personal information was not checked. I had completed a full matriculation certificate with high marks on the psychometric (pre-university) exam. Because of my lack of knowledge about army procedures, I was easy prey to be thrown into any unit they wanted. Like a few other Christians who volunteered and did not know anything, I was sent to the Bedouin battalion.”
“When I realized that this was a Bedouin unit I refused. The Christians do not have the professional ability or personal characteristics of the Bedouins. Even though we speak the same language, they are culturally cohesive and I would not fit in.”
Maj. I noted that later experience confirmed this belief.
“The Bedouins form a professional battalion with unique characteristics that is capable of performing functions that no Christian or Jew can carry out.”
Maj. I was also intent on serving in a multicultural unit that more closely mirrored Israeli society at large.
“I believe the Christians must serve in units in which everyone is familiar with all the different aspects and of Israeli society,” Maj. I said. “It is therefore very good that there are no homogeneous Christian units.”
(Photo courtesy Amit Barak)
Maj. I was transferred to the Golani infantry brigade and it proved to be a trial by fire.
“I did not get along very well,” Maj. I said. “I told everyone that I’m an Arab Christian. That’s what we learned at school; that we are Arabs. We have the same music, the same food, the same language as the Arabs. I have no problem with Arabs, not with the music, not with the good food and not with the rich language, but today I know that this is not my true identity.”
Self-identifying as an Arab, albeit a Christian-Arab, led to interpersonal conflicts with the Jewish soldiers in Golani. But Arabic is his mother-tongue and that proved to be enormously useful to the IDF. Maj. I was placed in a communications course and then in the Signal Corps. From there, he rapidly advanced.He received a Certificate of Appreciation for an operation in which he took part and that led to him being accepted into officers’ training. He served as an officer in an artillery battalion, and from there, advanced to other positions in different units, locations, positions, and ranks.
“Over the years, I went to four years of studies on behalf of the army,” Maj. I said. “I completed studies in electrical engineer and during the course of my studies, I was involved in recruiting young Arabic-speaking Christians to the IDF. Currently, I’m in the Military Academy, Command and Staff College and in February I’ll get a position in the Navy where I will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.”
Maj. I was wounded by shrapnel during a Hezbollah bombardment of a facility he was commanding in Southern Lebanon 19 years ago. In 2012, he was serving as an officer in the Armored Corps in Operation Pillar of Defense on the Gaza border. At nights, he slept in his car near the tanks. A group of reservists serving in the area invited Maj. I to join them for an overnight barbecue, promising to return him to his tanks in the morning. He returned the next day to find that his car had taken a direct hit from a mortar. Reserve soldiers of the unit called me and told me that they are on their way to pick me up for a barbecue and return me in the morning.
“My first reaction was to be upset at a brand new electric razor that had been in the car,” he said. “After I calmed down, I realized it was a miracle that I had been saved.”
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.