Are these Israel’s bravest soldiers? Meet the Sunni Muslim Arabs who fight on the front line in an ‘unbreakable blood pact’
- About 1,700 Bedouin Muslims currently serve in the Israeli army
- They say they are being patriotic but other Arabs believe they are traitors
- Bedouin Arabs have fought alongside Israel since the State was formed
- But since a Bedouin mounted a terror attack, relations have been tense
In a small, rural cemetery in northern Israel, 25-year-old Mohammad Ka’abiyah brushes some leaves carefully from a headstone.
Like any Israeli graveyard, a number of those buried were killed in action. But here – as the numerous crescents and pieces of Arabic calligraphy indicate – all of the fallen soldiers were Muslim.
‘If you told this story to people from Europe or the United States, or even other Arabs from the Middle East, they wouldn’t believe it,’ Ka’abiyah tells MailOnline. ‘But it’s really a true situation.’
Ka’abiyah, a Political Sciences student at Haifa university, is one of up to 300,000 Bedouin Arabs living in Israel, all of whom are Sunni Muslims.
Arabs comprise about 20 per cent of Israel’s population. They have equal rights in law but are generally exempt from serving in the army.
However, certain tribes are particularly patriotic towards Israel, and choose to join the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). About 1,700 Bedouin soldiers are currently enlisted, although there is no obligation on them to do so.
Many Bedouin are recruited as trackers, drawing on their desert heritage to catch terrorists seeking to infiltrate the country along Israel’s borders.
Like almost all the men in his village – which is also called Ka’abiya, the name of his Bedouin tribe – he volunteered, becoming the first one from his clan to join the Air Force, where he served in a helicopter unit.
‘I am proud to be a Bedouin fighter,’ he says. ‘And I am also proud to fight in the Israeli army. I am proud of being Bedouin, Arab, Muslim and Israeli.’
To date, 363 Arabs have been killed in action
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