On June 27, the most recent graduates of Israeli Air Force’s Flight Course were officially inducted into the IAF and received their wings. Among the new soldiers is Lieutenant G., a helicopter pilot who is the first Druze to complete an IAF pilot’s course in the history of the State of Israel.
The Wings Parade, which was held on the Hatzerim Air Force Base, marks 50 years to the War of Attrition. The ceremony was attended by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin; Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Chief of Staff Major General Aviv Kochavi; and Air Force Commander Major General Amikam Norkin.
Lieutenant G.’s family, which dwells in a Druze village in north Israel, received the news of their son’s imminent induction with excitement and pride. G’s friend describes the sentiments in the village to Ynet:
“Everyone here is really proud of him. For the past weeks, all the talk in the town has focused on G, and that he’s about to complete the IAF Flight Course. We’re all bursting with pride. This is a historic moment, a remarkable attainment and feat for our village members and the Druze sector in Israel.”
G., who was educated in a local high school, was enrolled in a special track for outstanding students. He spearheaded social initiatives in his native village and is a lover of sports, physical activity, and specifically mountain climbing. G. deliberately chose to learn how to fly a helicopter due to the extra challenge entailed in battling close to ground as opposed to invisibly overhead in war planes.
His family were his supporters and advocates throughout his years in the course, and they all rallied at the event to watch G. receive his wings. The ceremony was also attended by a group of soldiers with physical and mental disabilities, members of the IDF’s pioneering program Special in Uniform. This project, a joint initiative of the IDF, Lend-a-Hand to a Special Child, and JNF-USA, integrates youth with physical disabilities into the IDF, imbuing them with pride in themselves and their abilities and enabling them to function independently and contribute positively to society.
Among these group of soldiers was Tarc Tuba, 23, a Druze with Down’s syndrome who hails from a village in the Galilee. Tarc is the first Druze soldier with disabilities to join the IDF, but now he is no longer alone, because just this week, a new Special in Uniform unit opened for volunteer soldiers from Israel’s Druze sector. The new recruits will be incorporated into the logistics department of the Machveh Alon Base in the Galilee.
Israeli Druze are a unique religious and ethnic minority among Arab citizens of Israel that comprises less than 2% of the country’s total population. Although their faith originally developed out of Islam, Druze are generally not considered Muslims. Druze devotedly serve in the Israel Defense Forces, and numerous members of the sector have attained senior positions in Israeli politics and public service.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proudly awarded G. his pilot’s wings, and then promptly invited Tarc and his buddies from Special in Uniform onto stage to award them each a pair of wings of their own—wings of spirit and volunteerism. In an amazing coincidence, the two young men—G. and Tarc, are cousins who hail from the same northern Druze village!
Lt. Col. (Res.) Tiran Attia, director of developments at Special in Uniform, relates, “About a year ago, leaders of the Druze community approached us with a request to incorporate young people with disabilities from their sector into Special in Uniform, a program which now stretches across the country. We willingly consented and commenced a yearlong process of becoming acquainted with the Druze community, laying groundwork in the IDF, and instituting necessary adaptations within the program to suit the new recruits. Despite numerous challenges, this week we launched the first class of Special in Uniform for the Druze sector, and we look forward to expanding the program in the Galilee within the framework of Jewish National Fund’s Go North strategic initiative to strengthen and grow the Galilee region.
Major Rami Hassan, Druze commander of a Home Front Base, shares: “With us on our base, we have a group of dedicated soldiers from Special in Uniform who serve our country with love, faith, and commitment. I observe, every day, how military service enhances their characters and personal growth, and how they, likewise, contribute their all to the IDF.
They’re amazing, and I never cease to be awed by how, together, we’ve created an inclusive military whose hallmarks are its values and ethics. My dream is to avail this program to youth from my sector in the north. The project directors took up the challenge, and here, we already see the beginnings of this dream fulfilled.”
Special in Uniform is continuing to spread its wings throughout Israel, from north to south, and at present there are 28 army bases participating in the program. The program director’s aspiration is to reach 1,000 volunteer soldiers simultaneously engaged in the program.
On a similar note, just last week, Marah Kara, a young Druze woman, fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a flight attendant, and she is now the first Druze flight attendant serving in El Al. Marah tells Ynet: “After completing National Service, I felt that the time was ripe to fulfill my dream. When I was four years old, I boarded a plane for the first time in my life. I remember holding my dad’s hand and whispering to him, ‘I want to be a stewardess, just like her.’ I’ve always felt a deep attachment and bond to the State of Israel, which is why I feel so right serving the company that bears Israel’s flag around the world.
“My message to the world is that even the sky isn’t the limit! If you want to realize your dream, go for it. It’s never too late. I hope that my entry into El Al as Israel’s first Druze flight attendant will open doors and motivate other Druze women to break into this profession and others, to learn more about the world and teach the world more about us…”