A sharp rise in the number of Druze
who go into the medicine field has occurred recently, data released by the IDF show.
Moreover, the data show that a record number of young Druze men and women who are taking part in the IDF's "Atuda" program, which allows them to complete their studies before enlisting in the military, will become doctors in the next few years.
"They understand that this is a way for them to bridge the gaps, to contribute to the army and change the reality in their towns," said Col. Ahmed Ramiz, who heads the minority population directorate in the IDF's Human Resources branch.
The rate of IDF enlistment within the Druze population has always been high - 84%, as opposed to the 74% within the general population. The new data show that, while Druze soldiers make up only 1.6% of the force, they make up 16% of the IDF's combat medics.
A discernable change has registered in the number of doctors and medical students who are Druze; six such doctors serve in the IDF today, including Lt.-Col. Salman Zarka, the first Druze to head the Medicine Corps in the Northern Command.
Furthermore, there are 29 Druze medical students who are on the way to complete their doctorate before beginning their IDF service.
"If you add up all this data, considering the drop out rate, you can say that within four or five years there will be 32 Druze doctors in the IDF," Ramiz said. "This is an incredible number. We have set a goal to increase the number of students in the program, but when we see the success, we understand that something significant has occurred."
Ramiz presented the data to outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi
at a recent farewell ceremony, and explained that the new doctors will become influential factors who will be able to help their communities.
"A doctor will never stay unemployed," he said. "A lawyer, perhaps, won't find a job, or a Hi-Tech man, but a doctor will always have work, and parents understand that too, and push their kids to study medicine."
Dr. Zarka, Northern Command's top surgeon, said he is especially proud to the be the first Druze to serve in the senior position. "The beautiful thing is that my replacement is a member of the ethnic group as well, and that's not something to be taken for granted," he said, and praised the IDF for its "excellence in integrating the Druze men and women in the army, as opposed to the State's other establishments."
"The percentage of Druze doctors in the IDF is on the rise, and it's not by accident," he said. "They feel at home, a part of the people's army, and that gives the young Druze men and women a significant jumping board to civilian life."