In Ibrahim's home village of Bu'eine Nujeidat in northern Israel, military enlistment is routine. Most of the youth are recruited for full army service at age 18, with IDF officers often coming to speak with high school students in the village about contributing to the army in a significant way. Military uniforms hanging to dry on clothes lines outside apartment patios is not an unusual sight for the village’s residents. Israeli law, however, does not require them to enlist.
Ibrahim was impacted by the presence of IDF soldiers coming to his school every year, and their discussions about the purpose of the army and the importance of enlisting.
So, he decided to join. “When I graduated from high school in 2006, I was all set to join the army,” Ibrahim said, indicating that his recruitment date was set for the summer of 2006 - the same summer during which northern Israel was under heavy rocket attack. Those attacks eventually lead to the Second Lebanon War.
His father, however, constantly delayed his enlistment. "My father did not want me to join the army," Ibrahim said. "I had excellent grades. He wanted me to go learn and find a profession. He said having an education was preferable to being in the military. He had no idea what people do in the army, thinking the army is only about war and that’s all.”
Ibrahim, who grew up in an environment where respect for your father is a supreme value, gave up on his impending draft into an IDF combat unit and instead joined his father, working with him for two years as an usher in his family’s business. "My father is a bit of a hardhead,” Ibrahim explained. "No one could convince him. I talked with my uncle to convince him. He also didn’t succeed. I was only 18 at the time and, as my father said, I had to do what he says.”
“Don’t return home”
Although Ibrahim had no choice but to continue living a life without a military uniform, he never let go of the idea of recruitment. "I began to study civil engineering at the Technion university in Haifa. After two years, some of my friends who enlisted in the army were released, and that is when it hit me,” he recalled. "I started to think again about enlisting. I decided that I’m not waiting anymore and I immediately went to the recruiting office. I completed the necessary tests and medical exams, and I enlisted without anyone knowing," he said.
Ibrahim finally enlisted into the IDF on March 27th, 2011. He was drafted into the Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion. While he enlisted secretly, Israel is too small a country, and secrets are easily revealed. Shortly after his draft, news of Ibrahim's enlistment reached his family.
Ibrahim painfully recalls his father’s reaction: "My dad called me and said, 'Do not come home. I do not want you at home.’” The following weeks, he divided his time between the base and in the field, with weekends spent at his aunt’s house.
After about six weeks, Ibrahim was surprised to receive a phone call from his father. "I was on vacation for a few days, and I got a phone call from my father saying, 'Come home and let’s talk.’ I could not believe it. I called my mother and asked her what was the matter. She also told me, ‘come home, he wants to talk to you.’”
Following weeks of no contact with his family, Ibrahim returned to the place where he grew up and sat down with his father. Ibrahim discussed the long and difficult conversation he had with his father: "He asked, 'Why did you do that to me? What was missing in your life? Why did you leave school six months before graduating?'" Ibrahim recalled. “I told him I was an adult and that I stand by my decision. I am an independent person and I want to determine my own future. Eventually, he accepted it."
After talking with his father and reconciling with his family, Ibrahim returned to base with renewed determination. "After three months I joined the commander’s course. He [my father] was happy about that,” Ibrahim said with pride. “He came to my ceremony.”
Eight months later, Ibrahim successfully completed his officer’s course. Ibrahim's family attended the graduation ceremony, which was held last month.
An integral part of the country
As for his future plans, Ibrahim insists that, for now, his life is in the army. "I’d like to stay until I become company commander. I want to contribute to this country. I am a part of this country. Everyone serves in the IDF, and there is no reason that I would not do the same.”