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Meet the IDF's Bedouin Battalion

IDF Bedouin fighters in desert (Photo: flickr/IDF)

As we who stand for Israel know, the Jewish state is the Middle East's only democracy, a land that is open and free to people of all faiths and backgrounds. The Jerusalem Post's Seth J. Frantzman provides this fascinating look at the battalion of Bedouin soldiers who take pride in protecting Israel's borders and those who live nearby:

The jeep stops on a chalk-like dusty road, at an embankment that overlooks a dry riverbed. In front of us, to the northwest and spanning the gully, are two rows of metal fences. To their left, on a small hillock, is a concrete watchtower, a “pillbox,” as it’s called, harking back to World War II British Army nomenclature. A U-shaped concrete wall protects its base so that men entering and leaving are not exposed to gunfire.

The commander doesn’t want to stay long. He points to the houses a few kilometers away. “That’s Gaza.”

We’re right on the border. The IDF officer and his medic hand me a camouflaged flak jacket for safety.

The commander gestures in the other direction to show off Israeli fields. The agriculture belongs to border communities that unit 585, the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, guards. Then Maj. Nader Eyada orders his men back into the vehicles to continue driving along the border with Gaza.

It’s 27 Celsius at 6 on a Monday morning. The soft colors of the rising sun give the landscape a fresh, calm feel. Israel’s desert patrol, made up mostly of Beduin officers and men, has a long day ahead.

Founded almost 30 years ago, the battalion is unique in that it is a mostly volunteer unit of Beduin soldiers. For much of its existence it has been based along the border with Gaza, playing a key role in preventing terrorists from infiltrating Israel...

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