Step-by-Step: Making Aliyah to Israel

Documenting the very personal process of making Aliyah (immigration to Israel) by one very atypical Israeli-American girl. Aliyah on 17, August, 2005. Roadmap: What do you mean there's no roadmap?! Hang on, we're in for a bumpy ride! Ole!

Monday, August 21, 2006

A (probably) controversial proposal

I've thought quite a lot about the "problems" we have with our minority citizens --to not mince words, with Arab-Israeli citizens. I've put the word "problems" in quotes because as will become clear some of those problems are ones they have with us, the majority, and others are problems that we, the majority, have with them as a minority. The two major problems are as follows and nearly all the other problems stem from one of these two:

1. Many Jewish Israelis, who are in the majority, do not trust Arab-Israelis, who are in the minority (approx. 18% of the population). In particular there are pretty deeply steeped suspicians among the Jewish public that the arab minority holds greater allegiance to the Palestinians, Egyptians, [insert any and all arab countries and groups] than they do to their own country.

2. Arab-Israelis feel that they are treated as second-class citizens.

Can we, right off the bat, recognize the dynamics for a vicious cycle here: people who are distrusted are not treated as well as those who are trusted. People who are not treated as well will have a greater inclination to not feel invested in and a loyal member of their country.

My proposal [Michael you are not allowed to post any long rants, got it?] would go a long way to solving both of the above issues as well as some others that have nothing to do with Arab-Israelis but everything to do with another, this time Jewish, minority group which finds itself in the same boat --but on opposite sides of the political spectrum--with the Arab-israeli minority.
My proposal is quite simple: Mandatory military/national service for everyone. Period.
Arab-Israeli: you serve. Haredi (super religious Jews): you serve. Average secular guy and gal off the street: You serve. Quadriplegic: You serve. No exceptions.

Now everyone take a deep breath and hold your screaming til the end because I think by the end you won't want to scream.

Currently, Arab-Israelis are legally exempt from serving in the military. While many do serve voluntarily there is not a global "at 18 you must serve" requirement for them. Similarly, the ultra-religious Jews are also not required to serve, although some do, again voluntarily. Everyone else is required to serve [although, as Lena (without-a-homepage) pointed out there are loopholes that people take advantage of to get out of it]. Most do serve, however, at least in some capacity.

For good or for ill, serving in the IDF or doing National Service has life-long implications. People not only form strong bonds with the mates they serve with that last a lifetime but these people often also become one's prime "protexia" network (e.g. the people who will help you --or your kid, or your cousin..get a job, co-sign on your mortgage, and help out in numerous other ways). It also can have bearing on your career. For instance, when I first moved here I had to put my resume into Israeli format. I had to include "dates of military service: none" right up at the top of my resume. In my field this isn't influential but in other areas you bet having "none" on there will bias people. I know a number of people (Jews) who for various reasons did not serve and twenty years down the road say, yeah if it hasn't actively hurt me it certainly hasn't helped, and most of them can point to specific instances that they feel sure that not having served was an influential factor in their not getting particular jobs, promotions, and so forth. In general, people tend to feel a great deal of resentment toward the populations that don't serve whether they are religious jews or arab-israelis.

Arab-Israelis are not legally required to serve on the basis that, were they to serve, they might be called upon to fight members of their families who live in Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Lebanon and so forth and that this could be problematic for them. Another factor that undoubtedly went (silently) into the decision to "privilege" them by not requiring service was the fear that we might be in effect training a segment of the army that would then attempt a coup or start a civil war, or at least put weapons into the hands of a few nutters that might go off.

In a country which is a) extremely tiny, b) surrounded by lots and lots of people who want to see us destroyed, and has gone through 5 major and 1 minor wars starting from 48 hours after the country was founded PLUS this latest one (can we call it a war yet?) whether or not you've "served your country" is a big deal. Not a single generation of children has grown up without enduring a war here. Certainly suspicians that you may actually harbor disloyalty to your country is a very big deal. And such perceptions of disloyalty are certainly not helped by the most visible among the Arab-Israeli population: the Arab MKs who are elected to serve in the Knesset and who are constantly praising anything that damages the country. The fact is, however, that these MKs are far more radical than the average arab citizen and win fewer votes from the arab populace than do the Zionist candidates. But, while they are not representative they are certainly the most heard from and they do a great deal of harm to their communities by furthering perceptions that "these people can't be trusted and are treasonous."

So, my proposal is that everyone must serve no matter who the heck you are. We currently have two tracks in place and there is no reason on earth those two tracks could not and should not expanded to include everyone. If you have a problem with doing active military service, fine, you get to choose the National Service option. The National Service program could be expanded to take on tons of social projects that would advance this country as a whole such as building playgrounds in economically depressed areas, putting more tutors in place in schools for children. We could do away with the need for a lot of the temporary foreign workers by, for instance, saying "ok for the privilege of serving your country without risking getting shot at, you get to harvest the fields of Kibbutz X or company Y." There are many, many projects that could be included.

This would go a long way to a) instilling a greater sense of pride and investment in this country among the Arab-Israeli and the Super Extremely Religious populations b) reducing the stigma attached to these groups because they don't serve c) putting everyone on more equal footing, increase inter-mingling and thus greater acceptance, and so forth and thus engendering greater equality all down the line, and d)improving our country and our social services in numerous ways.

Bottom line: Everyone serves equally, everyone gets treated more equally, everyone feels greater investment and loyalty to their country and fellow citizens.

NOTE: National Service is non-military and involves such things as volunteering in hospitals, working with the elderly, tutoring children in need, and other community-building projects. How is it that people who live here don't know this??

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