Israeli Defense Forces' first Arab female combat soldier

NO….she’s not a Muslim, she’s an Arab Christian.

DF Cpl. Elinor Joseph was born in Gush Halav in the Galilee to an Arab Christian family. Her father served as a paratrooper in the IDF. She identifies herself as “Arab, Christian, and Israeli.”

I was born here. The people I love live here – my parents, my friends. This is a Jewish state? True. But it’s also my country. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

I believe that everyone should enlist. You live here? Go defend your country. So what if I’m Arab?”

[Elinor] Joseph serves in the Caracal battalion, which operates on the Egyptian border to block the entry of terrorists and smugglers into 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 Joseph 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. 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. To 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. 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.

She came to the Reception and Placement Base, known in IDF slang as the Bakum, and requested to be a combat medic because she decided, “If I enlist, I might as well go the whole way. Despite her will to be in combat service, the response to Elinor was otherwise. “The placement officer laughed in my face and said I was too delicate. I started to cry,” she remembers.

After fighting to receive a high enough medical categorization in order to be placed in a combat position, and following many attempts to persuade the placement officer, Elinor was informed she would be a combat soldier.

The fact that Elinor is a Christian Arab did not escape the attention of the girls around her. Her accent was the first thing that gave her away. “In the beginning everyone thought I was Argentinean. When they found out the truth, they were surprised,” she says.

After her basic training, Elinor went to a training base for a medic’s training course, where she was selected as the outstanding soldier of the course and received her commander’s personal pin. After the course, she was assigned to be a medic within the military police at the Qalqilya crossing. The difficult dilemma she felt in serving at a border crossing was not easy for her but she said during moments of difficulty and misgiving she would remember, “there was a Katyusha [rocket] that fell near my house and also hurt Arabs. If someone would tell me that serving in the IDF means killing Arabs, I remind them that Arabs also kill Arabs.”

Elinor returned to the Intake and Sorting Base, but this time she received the red combat boots that she had been dreaming of.

Right now, after finishing her training, she says wholeheartedly that she does not regret any of her choices. She also feels satisfied from the respect she gained from the others. “Although everybody is surprised in the beginning I have always been respected, not just me but also my customs and my religion.  Nobody ever disturbed me. I feel a lot of serenity and support and somebody even opened a group about me on Facebook. My parents also are very proud of me, maybe a little bit too much.”

Elinor did not only create a change within the army but also among her friends. “I was surprised to find out that even the ones who refused to talk to me accepted my choice in the end. I know that some parents of young men are not so enthusiastic if they go out with me because of my military service, probably because of the fact that I am a combat soldier.

Elinor belives that being a combat soldier means that she is granting all Israeli citizens, including Israeli Arabs like her parents, a better and quieter life. “At the end of the day, this will always be my home too”, she says before expressing her thought that despite the conflict and difficulties, the hope for peace still exists. “I still believe that peace will come and faith creates reality.” IDF H/T Joel