Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir on Monday spoke at the state's official Memorial Day ceremony for IDF soldiers of the Bedouin community who fell in the line of service. Shamir said that the state greatly appreciated the contributions of Bedouin soldiers, and that more needed to be done to integrate the Bedouin community with the rest of Israeli society.
About 1,000 Bedouin Arabs serve in the IDF, most of them as trackers, or in the Bedouin reconnaissance battalion. About one in nine Bedouin men serve in the IDF, all of them as volunteers. Last year, the IDF appointed its first Bedouin tank commander, Cpl. Mustafa Tabash.
“We are proud that we have been able to bring the principles of equality to the IDF, where all soldiers are treated equally,” said Shamir. “We need to ensure that those values are reflected in the rest of Israeli society.”
At a separate ceremony, Justice Minister Tzippy Livni spoke at an event honoring fallen soldiers from the Druze community. According to the IDF, the Druze community has one of the highest rates of military enlistment among any ethnic group in Israel, outpacing enlistment even among Israeli Jews – and a a disproportionate number of them serve in combat units.
“Israel's enemies attack and seek to harm all our soldiers, who fight shoulder to shoulder, so we in Israel cannot differentiate between soldiers of all ethnic and religious backgrounds,” said Livni. “We must do everything we can to protect the state that so many have sacrificed their lives for,” she added.