A recent development in Israel has gone largely unnoticed but could have far reaching consequences for Israel and its relations with its minority Muslim Arab community. According to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achranoth, an Israeli Arab Muslim has requested to join Israel's elite pilot training course. As the situation stands the sole legal distinction between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is the fact that the latter, unlike the Bedouin and Druze, are exempt from being drafted into the Israel Defence Forces.
There are Muslims who do volunteer for the IDF, but they are few and far between. Israel made this distinction so Israeli Arabs would not have to take up arms against other Arabs, perhaps even family and friends.
Many IDF officials have come out for and against the idea of letting this Arab teen join the pilots course. The Israel Air Force has an extremely vigorous examination process with motivation and loyalty very much part of the successful candidates necessary qualifications.
If he passes all of the usual tests I am fully in favour of him becoming part of our elite pilots unit. As a citizen of the State of Israel I was conscripted to the IDF and my job was to protect the life of all of its citizens regardless of race or religion. If an Arab Muslim wishes to do the same, I say let him and it may be a turning point in the history of the relations between the State of Israel and its Arab Muslim minority.
I do understand the reservation of those who are against this idea, as with all things it takes a while to adjust to change. How much more so when the change is something of a leap of faith that could compromise the security of one's state. It is a difficult decision and one that should not be taken lightly and perhaps this potential new recruit should be subjected to harder tests than others, such is the way with trail blazers, but if he succeeds then he should be treated the same.
I personally have met many Arab Muslims who feel a strong connection to the State of Israel and would have perhaps enlisted in the IDF but felt no opportunity to do so. For all those who have served in the IDF, we know it is the great equaliser in Israeli society. Ashkenazim, Sepahardim, Russian, Ethiopian, Druze, Christian, rich, poor, religious, secular, all serve together and gain a greater understanding of each other than in any other area of life. To add someone, and hopefully more, from another social group in Israel can only benefit all of us.
I say good luck to this teenager, I hope he succeeds for himself and for all the citizens of the State of Israel.