Photo: Shaul Golan
'I've always dreamed of joining the IDF' (illustration)
Photo: Shaul Golan
Arab IDF soldier: Proud to serve my country
While many Jewish youngsters evade military service, 20-year-old Shirin Shlian of Galilee encourages high school students to join combat units. 'It's part of the good education I received at home,' she explains
Can a person be both Arab and Zionist? The answer appears to be yes.


Ask Shirin Shlian, a 20-year-old IDF soldier from one of the Galilee's Arab villages, whose job in the Israeli army is to encourage high school students to enlist – and better yet, to join combat units.


While many Jewish youngsters are doing their best to evade military service, the story of the Shlian family sounds pretty unbelievable: Shirin isn't the only one serving in the IDF – her brother is a major in a combat unit and another brother served in the Border Guard.


"Many Arabs and Jews ask me why I joined the IDF," Shirin tells her friends in the northern city of Nazareth Illit. "Especially Jews who hear that I'm an Arab and don't understand what business I have in the army and why I enlisted.


"It must be the good education I received at home. I smile to everyone and don't argue with anyone."


Shirin was drafted several months ago and underwent a youth instructors' course. As part of her job, the visits high schools in Nazareth Illit and talks to with 11th and 12th graders about enlisting in the army.


"I give the students a lesson about the first draft notice, IDF enlistment and the jobs the army has to offer. In addition, I hold personal conversations with each student with the aim of encouraging them to have a significant and contributing service.


"The students applaud me for my decision to volunteer, enlist – and make a contribution to the State."


Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, Shirin slips out of her uniform and wears plain clothes instead as she heads home, in order to prevent any harassment from those who may disapprove of her service.


She says, however, "I'm not afraid of anyone. I have not received any threats."


Shirin concludes, "I am very proud of my military service. I have always dreamed of joining the IDF and making a contribution to my country."


She says her boyfriend supports her decision to serve in the army as well.


Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso has only good things to say about her: "Soldier Shirin serves as a positive example. There are many more like her in Nazareth Illit, a city which symbolizes coexistence between all of its parts."



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