Christian Arabs who wish to enlist in the IDF will no longer have to chase down recruiters, as traditional military draft papers will now be sent directly to their homes.
Recruiting Christian Arabs has always provoked inter-communal tensions, more so in recent years as the number of Christian draftees has steadily risen.
But in a reversal of a decades-long policy that required Christian Arab recruits to initiate first contact with the military, the IDF has now adopted active recruiting methods and will begin sending out voluntary conscription papers, Army Radio reported.
Going forward, Christians, like their Jewish peers, will receive preliminary conscription papers around the age of 16 and a half. However, their participation in the process will remain voluntary.
The IDF believes that the initiative will greatly increase recruitment within the Arab Christian community, continuing a trend of recent years.
If the previous annual yield from the community was between 40 and 50 draftees, the army’s hope this year is that numbers will double.
According to Israel’s security establishment, there is tremendous recruiting potential in the country’s Christian Arab population.
Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Naddaf, whose son was beaten last December for his decision to enlist, told Army Radio: “I welcome this important and historic step, where the IDF correctly determined and demonstrated that the Christian community is part of Israeli society, and chooses to integrate it into society as citizens with equal rights and responsibilities.”