Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Muslim Golani fighter in Israel Army

The traditional Israel Defense Forces ceremonial chief of staff sukkah (temporary dwelling for the festival of tabernacles) erected at the head quarters in Tel Aviv will host a special guest next week. One of the soldiers who will be greeted by army head Ashkenazi and will host is Zaid Horani, 21, who graduated his company commanders' course with honors just last week.

The fact that he is Muslim and that his family questioned his decision did not prevent him from enlisting into a combat unit in the army.

"I am very excited," the young Golani soldier told the press. "I still haven't thought about what to say to the chief of staff, but for me the meeting will be very special."

Horani grew up in Akbara, next to Safed, a village made up of refugees who claimed their place following the 1948
War of Independence and for years were not recognized by the authorities. Two years ago Horani notified his family of his intentions to enlist in the Israeli army. Their reactions, which were not all positive, did not discourage him from following his dream.

"Some friends were shocked and others asked me why I would waste three years of my life, but I explained to them that I live in a country where if you want to receive you also have to give," he said. Horani did not settle for "regular" service in one of the units staffed by minority groups, but rather from the start he went for one of the units that most strongly represents the IDF's character: Golani's 51st Battalion.

"At first it was weird. I was asked over and over about my decision, but at no point did I feel any racism," Horani explained. "I am enjoying every minute with the gang. I completed basic training and the company commander's course with honors, and even during my toughest moments, after my mom passed away, I chose to shorten my time at home and go back to being with my friends in the unit."

Horani's unique story and his impressive achievements in such a short period of time led Chief of Staff – the most senior soldier to have graduated from that division – to select him as the representative of his unit in the chief of staff's annual sukkah.

"I am proud to be in the army," the young, gung-ho soldier said. "Even when I come home and talk to friends and explain to them how important it is to serve, I don't succeed at convincing anyone."

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