Jewish woman with an Arab father demands to serve in the IDF

Despite having a Jewish mother, A. is registered in Israel as an Arab Muslim. Now she's pushing the IDF to draft her.

Yad L'Achim ,

Female soldiers (archive)
Female soldiers (archive)
Hagai Huberman

A young woman, A., was raised as a Jew, only to discover that she was registered by the Israeli Interior Ministry as a Muslim. Nonetheless, she declared: "I want to serve in the IDF." Her moving story was reported as follows by Hanan Greenwood in Yisrael Hayom:

Recently, A. is dealing with a very difficult problem. All of her school friends received their first draft notice, beginning the process that will lead to service in the IDF, except for her.

The reason? As far as the state is concerned, she is Muslim because her father is an Arab. Her girlfriends aren't aware of her background, so her personal details, including her name, are being kept confidential. But her desire to enlist caused her to come out with her story in a desperate plea: "Allow me to serve my county."

A.'s mother provides the background to the story. "When I was 14, my mother threw me out of the house and I met an Arab who gave me a ride," she says. The two married, but after a few years the marriage was on the rocks. She left the house, with the help of Yad L'Achim, with her young daughter, A., then just 3.

Many years passed and A., who was raised as a Jew, had no idea of her Muslim past. At 16, when she wanted to get a Teudat Zehut (identity card) of her own, her mother had to tell her the truth. As far as the Interior Ministry was concerned A. was a Muslim since her mother had converted to Islam at the time of her marriage to the Arab. The fact that she'd returned to Judaism, meant nothing from a formal standpoint.

"To our great sorrow, this is nothing new," said Rabbi Shmuel Lifschitz, one of the heads of Yad L'Achim. "We see cases like this all the time."

Yad L'Achim, which is perceived as a haredi organization, helps quite a few soldiers of Arab origin who are interested in enlisting in the IDF. "These are Jews in every sense and that's how they should be treated."

A's case falls between the cracks. She's registered as a Muslim and can only change her nationality when she becomes 18. Until then, she could get it changed if both her parents signed their consent, something that in this case will never happen.

If A. files a request with the IDF, she'll be able to start the recruitment process as a volunteer, like every other Muslim. But she wants to be drafted like her friends, like every other Israeli. "For boys and girls in this situation [with Arab fathers], it is particularly important to prove their Jewish identity," adds Rabbi Lifschitz. "And the fact that the IDF refuses to draft them is seen as casting doubt on their Judaism and loyalty to the country."

A.'s mother is doing everything she can to help her daughter, but the Interior Ministry, in response to her pleas, says the chances are slim. "If A. succeeds in getting drafted it will only be after a very complicated struggle."

With the help of Suri Kostelitz of Yad L'Achim, A. is appealing to a number of authorized officials in an attempt to get the decision overturned. "It is especially these girls, because of their split identity, who very much want to get drafted in order to feel part of the Jewish people," Kostelitz explains. "We're touching a very sore point for these youths, who are desperate to be drafted in order to prove that they are Jews and Israelis. Volunteering is nice, but it means that they don't belong; instead, they are coming in from the outside. The moment that a girl converts to Islam the children automatically appear as Muslim.

"It doesn’t matter that when they married they were too young to understand what they were doing. The children will appear as Muslims, and it's impossible to change that until they turn 18 without the approval of both parents. At 18, they can undergo a formal procedure of returning to Judaism."




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