Bedouin Colonel Represents Proud Israeli Minority

In a first-time impressive move, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is expected to promote a Bedouin soldier to Colonel. Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Abu Salb stems from Israel’s nomadic community and is a volunteer in the IDF.

In 1948, the IDF created an “IDF Minorities Unit”. This Arabic-speaking unit generally consists of non-Jews such as Christian Arabs, Circassians, Druze and Bedouins. Since then, most minorities have requested full integration into the IDF. But some Arabic-speaking units still exist.

“These special units are like a miniature of Israel’s inclusive population,” shared Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the official welfare fund of the IDF. “It’s a miracle that such diverse communities join together to protect the Holy Land. The promotion of Abu Salb is proof of its success.”

However, the diversity of IDF soldiers, including nearly 6,000 lone soldier volunteers from around-the-world, comes with the challenge and obligation to ensure a strong united front and the need to develop a deep love of the Holy Land that they protect. This takes special programming and significant resources to achieve.

LIBI USA supports educational programs and trips throughout Israel for all battalions,” continued Grossman. “These programs develop much-needed knowledge, such as reading comprehension, which not only minority soldiers lack but even many Jewish soldiers, as well as crucial camaraderie among soldiers and an understanding that they are protecting their own country as well as God’s Holy Land.”

The Minorities Unit started when the Druze leadership, at the time, appealed to David Ben-Gurion, then Minister of Defense, to draft Druze men on the same basis as Jews. Today, Druze are part of IDF mandatory conscription and join regular combat units. However, Bedouins, Christian-Arabs and Circassians still serve on a volunteer basis only.

It is estimated that there are 250,000 Bedouins living in Israel. As nomadic people, they have a particularly low level of education. The IDF provides an outstanding framework to help this group achieve social mobility through various means, including improvement of their education and vocational training. Today, there are approximately 1500 Bedouins serving in the IDF.

“The IDF’s goal, which it hopes will be met with the help of Abu Salb, is to increase Bedouin recruitment by three times,” explained Grossman. “That means that the IDF will have a large increase in social welfare needs of soldiers as well as educational programs. LIBI USA is actively gearing up now to help.”

Abu Salb is presently serving as the head of a tracking division in Samaria. Once his rank is raised to Colonel, he will also be in charge of the Manpower Directorate Program.

Most Bedouins in the IDF serve in elite tracking units due to their unique skills gleaned from generations of living in the desert. The IDF, however, is planning to expand opportunities for Bedouin recruits to improve their overall integration into the military and Israeli society.

Bedouins who volunteer for the IDF are recognized for the high level of motivation and their excellent adaptation to army life and skill acquirement. They have a long history of aiding the Holy Land against terrorist infiltration and threats.

“All who serve in the IDF have an advantage in Israeli society over those who haven’t as businesses prefer to hire those who have served,” said Grossman. “Just like rockets don’t distinguish between people and communities, so too is our obligation to support all those who protect Israel.”


Following First Ever Co-Ed IDF Oath of Allegiance, Debates Heat-Up Over Female Soldiers in Combat

טקס מסע כומתה - קרקל

For the first time in the history of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), on January 25, male and female combat soldiers stood side-by-side to take their oath of allegiance at the traditional Western Wall ceremony. These soldiers are part of the IDF’s co-ed Caracal Battalion. Yet, on the heels of this achievement, heated debate continues concerning the roles of women in combat as well as the need to open additional combat opportunities for women.

“The IDF is recognized worldwide as an outstanding army,” noted Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the official fund of the IDF. “I believe that part of the love, pride and respect people have towards Israel is based on their positive feelings towards its army and the brave men and women who have served since the founding of the state.”

Over the past several years, the IDF has strived to become more gender egalitarian as well as more accommodating to the special requirements of Orthodox Jewish men. These two factors place particularly difficult challenges on the military as, in order for observant soldiers to maintain their religious convictions, they need, among other things, single-gender units and activities.

Though four years ago just 4 percent of front-line troops were women, today 7 percent are in combat units. By next year, the army is preparing for that number to rise to 9 percent. These statistics fly in the face of senior level Religious Zionist officials and certainly leaders in the ultra-Orthodox sector who have strongly condemned women from participating in combat.

“The IDF has always maintained the ideal of universal conscription,” continued Grossman. “It is not the position of LIBI USA to judge or criticize. It is our duty to continue to help and support Israeli soldiers. They dedicate their lives to keeping the Holy Land safe for all. We should dedicate ourselves to their welfare.”

Following the Suez Crisis in 1956 when Israel entered Egypt in order to gain back control of the Suez Canal, the Israeli newspaper Davar coined the phrase that the IDF is “the people’s army”.

The Israeli army maintains its forces both through mandatory enlistment as well as requiring yearly reserve duty of its discharged soldiers. This also means that the IDF is not only responsible for defending Israel’s national security but also plays a crucial social role in developing a sense of “one nation” among its ingathered exiles through welfare and education programs.

“As ‘the people’s army’, the IDF must find creative ways to integrate diverse segments of the population,” shared Grossman. “With the additional challenges of increased religious people’s enlistment and women in combat, LIBI USA is also increasing our determination to provide the army with needed funds to maintain the welfare, educational and religious programs that soldiers require for their future growth.”