Wednesday, March 23, 2011
First female Arab combat soldier in IDF is proud to serve Israel
“Look at the beret,” says Elinor, smiling from ear to ear, showing off the bright green beret that she earned after completing the trek which is part of her combat training in the Karakal Battalion. Her excitement is accompanied by a new historical precedent, since Elinor is the first Arab female combat soldier in IDF history.
Cpl. Elinor Jozef was born and raised in an integrated neighborhood of Jews and Arabs in Haifa, but attended a school in which all her classmates were Arab. She later moved to Wadi Nisnas, an Arab neighborhood where she currently lives. Despite the fact that she would always wear her father’s IDF dog-tag around her neck from when he served in the Paratrooper’s Unit, she never thought she would enlist. “I wanted to go abroad to study medicine and never come back,” she said. Thttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifo her father it was clear that she would enlist in the IDF, as most citizens in Israel do. This was something that worried her very much. “I was scared to lose my friends because they objected to it. They told me they wouldn’t speak to me. I was left alone.”
Despite their opposition, she decided to move forward and enlist. She explained her motive: “I decided to go head-to-head, to check who my true friends are, to do something in life that I have never done before. I understood that it was most important to defend my friends, family, and country. I was born here.” At the end of the day, she says she realized it was the right thing to do, “With time, when you do things from the heart, you begin to understand their importance.”
Eleanor Joseph is a 20 year-old Arab Christian girl from the city of Haifa. Corporal Eleanor Joseph is also a warrior in the Caracal combat unit and a medic, one of the few Arab female soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces, and one of the very few Arab female warriors.
Eleanor was born in the village of Gush Halav (in Arabic Jesh), to an Arab Christian family, later the Joseph family moved to the city of Haifa and settled in an Arab neighborhood. Eleanor's father was also a combat warrior in the Israeli paratroopers' brigade. During her high-school years, Joseph used to volunteer at the Rambam hospital in Haifa.
Unlike the Druze and the Circassians, who serve in the IDF as compulsory enlistment soldiers, the Arab society, both Muslim and Christians, can enlist to the military as volunteers only. While the phenomenon of male Arab soldiers is widely acceptable, especially for Bedouin Muslims and Christians, the enlistment of female Arab soldiers is rare and for a very long time was a taboo in this society.
Eleanor is one of these few Arab female soldiers. It all started with Amira Al Hayeb, a young Bedouin woman, also from a military family, who joined the combat unit of the Israeli Border Guards. Her enlistment was shocking for the Bedouin society, which is a Muslim one, and many of her neighbors from the village of Wadi Hamam are religious people. Amira Joined the army, served in a combat unit and opened the door for other Bedouin girls who followed her to a military life.
Eleanor had a dream – to be the first female Arab combat soldier. She wasn't supposed to be in the front lines, but she insisted and ended up finishing her basic training with excellence and being recognized as one of the top in her unit.
After finishing the medic course, Eleanor moved to serve in the military police base as a medic. The base was around the Arab town of Kalkiliya in Western Samaria. The Arab people of Samaria do not speak Hebrew very well and the Arabic speaking soldiers usually serve as translators for the Israeli forces and the Arab population – Eleanor was one of those soldiers. Later she moved to serve in the combat battalion of Caracal, after finishing six months of massive combat training. The Caracal battalion has both male and female warriors, and the battalion's mission is to assign patrols over the Israeli-Egyptian border.
These days Eleanor serves in the Caracal battalion. Though all the soldiers serve the mandatory three years, many sign on for more, and that is her plan. She also plans on becoming an officer. Military career is her dream, exactly like her father's, and she hopes to reach the highest duties and ranks of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Eleanor Joseph is a true Israeli Patriot, she sings the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah, and feels proud and excited to see the Israeli flag fluttering in the wind - "it's always windy during military ceremonies," she says with a smile. "I don't have any other country" is a line from the well known Israeli song written by one of the most esteemed poets, Ehud Manor and is also Eleanor's motto. This line was written for her by her commander and she keeps it in her pocketbook – it's always with her. Eleanor doesn't have any other country; she is a true and a proud Arab Christian Israeli.