Most soldiers, during their first break, come home to rest from the loads of information from military school. They are a demonstration to their neighbors, showing off the colors of their uniform, as if to witness to everyone that they have grown up now. However, to one soldier, we will call him “S.”, this isn’t possible. Being an Arab, living in eastern Jerusalem, he doesn’t even bring his uniform home. His neighbors don’t know that he serves in the military and S. must allow them to continue in this delusion.

During the celebration of Independence Day S. along with 120 other soldiers, was given an award of excellence, which he received from the very hands of President Shimon Peres. In order to join the army S. had to go through almost insurmountable obstacles.

“I wanted to serve, I wanted to protect my country,” S. said in an interview on Jerusalem Post. His real name is not even revealed in the newspaper. “I wanted to serve to do something good for the people and for my life.”

S. said that after schooling, he attended a university and was working in various parts of Jerusalem. Understanding that in his community he could not build his career, S. turned to the Israeli army with the hope of becoming an officer.

For many years Bedouin’s and Druze’s have served in the IDF and their communities supported them and even encouraged it. Israeli Arabs may also serve in the military, if they choose to, but only a few ever make that choice. Yet, even among the very few that serve, S. stands out by his words; as far as he knows, he is the only one among the Arabs living in Eastern Jerusalem that is serving in the army. Since there have been frequent, intense clashes between the security forces and Arab citizens, in this area, hostility towards the military is even more severe there then between the Arabs in the northern part of the country. S. received anonymous threats to his mobile phone and says he doesn’t know who sent them.

Only members of the family of his friend, such as parents, 5 brother and sisters, and an uncle, know that he serves in the IDF. Last month two of his brothers also joined the IDF and S. says that he is “very proud” of this.

S. doesn’t like to speak about himself and was caught by surprised by all the attention that surrounded him as a result from his upcoming award. “I was told about this a month ago; for me, it’s a great honor to meet the president,” he said humbly.

For most soldiers, the hardest thing to do is to overcome the disappointments and the hardships of the service at the army base. The trip home allows them to ease up and to “let the steam out.” To S. everything is the opposite. Every trip home is accompanied by worry. He is afraid that people will find out about his service. S. explained that he has a legend that says that supposedly he is studying at the university in Tel-Aviv. He even carries a few study books to make it more convincing.

S. serves in the Bedouin unit. He received a certificate as the military medic. His brothers will also serve in the Bedouin unit.

In the beginning it was difficult for him, being the only Arab from Jerusalem, S. explains, nevertheless his unit of service has become more cohesive and he feels an attachment to his colleagues.

“The service gives us everything; we always feel the encouragement because many of us have had hardships in our lives,” he says.

S. doesn’t think that there will be a change in the attitude towards the army in his communion soon. He doubts that serving in the IDF will become a normal thing to do for those living in his region. All the same, S. does not regret his decision. He hopes to continue in his studies and possibly participate in a program with the army to prepare for an academic reserve. He wants to become a doctor. But for now he likes to be the example to his brothers and helping them pass through hardships protecting the secret about the military service. “The toughest place, for me, is where I live,” he says.

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