Today we begin IDF Diversity Week, a celebration of the differences that unite Israeli soldiers. Every year, thousands of minority recruits join the IDF. Israel’s military makes tremendous efforts to integrate minorities into the army and society in general, resulting in vast diversity among the IDF’s ranks.
Israel is a country known as “a nation of immigrants.” Soldiers come from all over the world to live in Israel and serve in the IDF, bringing their unique culture and traditions from their countries of origin. Other soldiers come from racial, national, cultural and religious groups that have lived in Israel for generations, including Bedouin, Circassians, Druze, Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. The IDF acts to unite members of Israeli society, providing them with opportunities to serve their country.
Did you know? Here are some facts about minorities and diversity in the IDF:
1. At military swearing-in ceremonies, soldiers may pledge an oath of allegiance on the Tanakh (Old Testament), Christian Bible or Koran.
2. The IDF gives special privileges to minority soldiers to help them meet religious requirements and other needs. For instance, the military provides additional vacation time to soldiers of all faiths and religious backgrounds. An example is Bedouin and Druze soldiers, who receive time off from the army to celebrate the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha with friends and family.
Monaliza Abdo, Arab Christian soldier who recently finished her IDF service
3. Israel is one of 24 countries that allow gay individuals to openly serve in the military. Sexual orientation does not stand as a barrier to receiving promotions or joining elite units. Israelis show a “great tolerance” for gay soldiers.
Vun Zon, IDF soldier making Aliyah from China
4. The Druze are an ethnoreligious monotheistic community who live primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Over 133,000 live in Israel, mostly in the north. They have the highest draft rate in Israel, with 82% of Druze males joining the IDF.
5. Since 1948, women have served side-by-side with male soldiers in the IDF. The Equality Amendment to the Military Service Law states that “the right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men.” Each year, over 1,500 female combat soldiers are drafted into the IDF and 92 percent of all positions are open to women.
Soldiers in the IDF’s all Druze Herev Battalion
6. In 2001, the Women’s Affairs Advisor to the Chief of Staff was created in an effort to empower women and maximize the capabilities and opportunities of women serving in the IDF.
7. Despite being exempt from their mandatory military service due to mental or physical difficulties, many still choose to enlist in the IDF as volunteers. The Shiluv Menatzeach program helps over 150 mentally challenged and Down’s syndrome volunteers complete 1-2 years of military service, where they are integrated in roles with the general soldier population.