Sayed Kashua looks at the upside of drafting Arabs into the IDF
In some of the undercover units, they'd have a distinct advantage, he points out.
I have never made a secret of my childhood dream to be a fighter pilot. I always dreamed about F-16s, sonic booms, low-flying aerial acrobatics above my beloved home in Tira, dark glasses and a perfectly ironed uniform that flatters my perfect build.
I remember my parents promising me, when I was a little boy, that by the time I finished high school a state would certainly exist and if I only wanted, I could be a pilot. Not that I understood what a state was and why another one was needed anyway, because in school we were told that we were already living in a state. But I trusted them and continued to dream of myself tearing through the skies.
Although I did not succeed in fulfilling my dream, great consolation has overwhelmed me in the past few days − thanks be to God, the government and the tent camp of the suckers − in light of the knowledge that my children will be able to accomplish something I could not do. I can already see myself at the ceremony marking the completion of my children’s pilot-training course, shedding a tear along with the families of the cadets from Kalansua and Jisr al-Zarka, and I can’t stop the tears from flowing when my daughter gets her wings and then cheers and throws her hat into the air along with her fellow pilots.
I am against national or civilian service in general, and not, heaven forbid, for the reasons the Arabs give, such as equal rights and folderol like that. Those with low medical profiles can of course volunteer in local hospitals, old-age homes and in the host of other social-welfare and health facilities that dot every Arab village. If it’s to be sharing the burden, if it’s to be service, then it has to be military service. When I am asked, as I am frequently these days, “So what do you say about drafting the Arabs into the Israel Defense Forces?” I shoot back instantly, “Just give us guns already.”
I know that some Arab readers will not like what I am writing here, but I have always believed in being honest, and have always abided by intellectual integrity. The angry reactions of some Arabs will undoubtedly be due to the fact that they are not yet ready to open up, and still refuse to admit the screaming facts: that a compulsory-service law for Arabs will bring only progress, that drafting the young Arab people into the defense army will bring only comfort and serenity.
It might be tough at first, and maybe not all the Arabs will get along in the dog-handlers unit; the navy might be dangerous, too, and I’m not sure how many Arabs will survive a diving course of the naval commandos. But still, there are infinite elite units where we can easily fit in, and I don’t necessarily mean 8200 or the Duvdevan undercover unit, in which our advantage is unquestionable.
Only the hard-hearted and unimaginative don’t understand that the drafting of the Arabs will be a sublime event. Oy, how marvelous: I see the main road in Tira on Fridays. Already I see our tired but proud young people arriving home for their weekend furlough, getting off at the Egged bus stations located on every corner and being greeted with the embraces of worried mothers and beaming fathers. Already I imagine my wife sending regards on the “Mother’s Voice” call-in radio program to her son, who had to stay over the weekend at some secret base somewhere in the south.
In the evening, after a rest and a hearty meal, our heroes will go out for a good time in the pastoral town. They will be in civvies as they head for the theater; after all, there are discounts for soldiers in the Tira theater. And also in the local movie theater, of course. They will ponder long and hard, our young people, but will find it hard to choose between going to the local pub or attending the latest production in the opera house. In the end they will do both. Gosh − these young people! I say let them enjoy life while they still can.
And on Sunday, the platforms of the train stations (especially Nazareth’s central station and the big one in Umm al-Fahm) will be bustling with life, kisses and good-luck wishes, flowers and balloons. “Take good care of yourselves,” the parents and friends will say, “and remember, no matter what you see, it’s been proved that there is no occupation in the territories.”
In solidarity, I will start to do reserve service, become a member of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and take charge of the Shirutrom, the army’s fundraising marathon, in the Triangle. I will turn the Soldiers House in Jaljulya into a serious command post, with activities for the children in the covered swimming pool and competitions in the outdoor gym.
I don’t say, heaven forbid, that everything is hunky-dory in the army, and I know how exhausting it can be for our children. After all, occasionally they will have to shoot some cousin, kick an Arab kid in the ribs and demolish a few homes with bulldozers. Not to mention the firing ranges, where they will have to shoot at dummies of kaffiyeh-wearers, and it’s not pleasant to shoot your father, even if you would really like to.
But I look at the big picture, the picture in which the state gives its all for its Arab sons, builds numberless new communities, finds solutions for the overcrowding and the unemployment, calls on its Arab and Jewish sons alike to populate our wonderful Galilee, and provides economic and psychological support for making the desert bloom in the Negev. The fact is that recently there was even a commercial whose message was that it’s not dangerous to employ an Arab with higher education.
You know, I really don’t understand what the Arabs want. Hasn’t the time come to thank the state, to thank God that we are not living in Syria, where the members of the same nation are slaughtering one another, where people abuse children of the same nation? Is that really what they want? In the end, isn’t life here a million times better? With all due respect, here we abuse only the members of other nations.