The Israeli Defence Forces announced that increased efforts are being made to encourage Christians to join the Israeli military. According to IDF Lieutenant-Colonel Amir Hal, “We intend to appeal to the Christian population of conscription age and will send them call-up notices to volunteer for service.” Currently, Jewish Israelis are (with few exceptions) required to provide national service. Christians and Muslims are exempt from the requirement, but are admitted to the IDF. For many years, Bedouin Arab Muslims have served in the IDF, especially as Army scouts.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, there are approximately 161,000 Christians living within the Jewish State. This means that Christians make up about 2 percent of the country’s total population. The IDF statement on April 22 reflects trend among Israeli Christians who seeking increased integration into Israeli society. This has caused tension with Muslims, among whom Arab Christians have been traditionally aligned. Unlike Muslim countries, Israeli Christians enjoy protections and safeguards under law.
Israeli Muslims currently make up about 17 percent of the total population of Israel. Overall, 75 percent of Israelis are Jews of various religious tendencies. However, the birthrate for Arab Muslims is much higher than for the rest of the groups in Israel.
In 2013, Christian recruitment into the IDF nearly tripled, to nearly 100. Said Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest, “I welcome this important and historic step, where the IDF correctly determined and demonstrated that the Christian community is part of Israeli society, and chooses to integrate it into society as citizens with equal rights and responsibilities.” Father Gabriel is the head of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum and was quoted in an interview with Israeli Army Radio.