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IAF aircrafts. First Arab pilot?
Photo: IDF
Arab Muslim wants to join IAF
Exclusive: Youth requests that the IDF enable him to join the army's prestigious pilot training course, says he wants to serve his country. This is a test for the state, his father claims, adding that Arabs must be granted equal opportunity in Israel
Exclusive: An 18-year-old youth from northern Israel is an outstanding student who completed his high school diploma with top grades. He is also a gifted civilian pilot. His dream is to become a pilot in the Israeli air force, but one thing may stand in his way: He is an Arab Muslim.

 

The young and motivated teen has already passed the IDF's first stages of the draft, and recently submitted a request to be recruited to the IAF's prestigious pilot training course, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

 

If he succeeds, he is set to become the country's first Israeli-Arab military pilot.

 

"I ask that you allow me to fulfill my dream and my civil duty to serve in the army… my greatest dream and aspiration is to become a pilot. I feel I have the potential, the knowledge and the ability to serve in the IAF, or in any other elite unit," he wrote in his letter to the army.

 

'Bright and highly motivated'

 

According to IDF sources, the youth's request is unusual and will need to be examined by the army's Personnel Directorate. If he qualifies for the force, he is to undergo a "security suitability inspection," which will determine whether he is eligible for the course.

 

Notably, while the Arab Muslims in Israel constitute about 20 percent of the population, only 20 join the army each year.

 

Luckily for the teen, he already has one devoted advocate who greatly supports his ambition to be recruited to the air force: Major Michael (res.) trained him to be a civilian pilot and has much confidence in his young student.

 

"I was amazed by his capability and love of flying. He learned to fly quickly, feels excellent while in the air, and the harder the maneuvers get, the more thrilled he is," Michael wrote in a recommendation letter submitted to the army.

 

"He functions well, is very bright and highly motivated to succeed… I would very much like to see the army enabling him to make his dream come true and join one of the IDF's elite units, pending of course that he meets the requirements in full equality," Michael said, adding that he believes this move would give the army a chance to exhibit its openness to all citizens of Israel, and to display that equal opportunity is granted to all.

 

The question of loyalty

 

As Michael noted, his young student is bound to face the question of where his loyalties lie.

 

"I sincerely told him that there is the problem of loyalty. I told him that it would be hard to send an Arab to bombard other Arabs, whether in Gaza or in Lebanon," Michael said.

 

"But he said, 'I belong to the state of Israel, just try me and you'll see. I live in this country, and am willing to do what is required of me,'" Michael recalled.

 

The youth explained in his letter that his wish to enlist stems from true patriotism to the state.

 

"Although I am not obligated to join the IDF… I want to serve like any other citizen in the country. I was raised on the values of loving Israel, and the moral commitment to contribute to the state," he wrote.

 

'Arabs cannot be kept in the corner'

 

His father, who backs his son's unorthodox move, claimed the request represents a test for the army and the country as a whole.

 

"The state must show it is open toward its Arab citizens and that any citizen who puts the country first can be accepted anywhere. The Arabs cannot be kept in one corner and blocked from participating in Israel's life," he said.

 

The IDF's Spokesperson Unit said Monday in response that "the army congratulates the will of youngsters of all origins and religions eligible for the draft to join commando units. This specific case of will be examined."

 


First published: 02.01.06, 09:47
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