I was alerted to this YnetNews article by pro-Israel Bay Bloggers. The original article can be found here.

The soldier in question is a Muslim Arab Israeli.

What’s more, he comes from a very pro-Hizbullah, Arab town, Sakhnin. Where, evidently, Israel allows its citizens to demonstrate their support of the enemy.

Despite the obvious social repercussions of his actions, he was determined from an early age to serve his country.

Lt. Hisham abu Varia appears to understand very well that Israel is his country and he and other Arabs should strive to improve it and themselves.

“The army is the entry pass into the Israeli society,” Hisham explains. “The Arab sector thinks it’s second rate here, but to get privileges one has to give and not just receive. The state protects its citizens even if they don’t serve – my parents live off income support. You must contribute to the country you live off. What other country would have an Arab Knesset member, who is being paid by the state, promoting the interests of the Islamic movement and screwing the promotion of the sector it is supposed to represent?”

This brave young man has managed to see beyond the Arab victimhood narrative and learn for himself.

He received his  BA in Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies. He has learned about Judaism and even lectured on it. This is some guy, no?

And to top it all he took a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he prayed in Arabic and ‘asked G-d to have mercy on the victims’.

I kept asking myself where was everyone? Where was the United States, the Arab countries? If the Germans had won the Arabs would have been murdered as well. I saw the photos of the victims and felt part of them. There was a Holocaust survivor with us who showed us where she was raped, where all her family had been murdered before her very eyes. She cried and we cried with her. It was a life altering visit.”

Now he is working for his Master’s in anthropology. I’m sure he’ll get it.

Surely Hisham’s story demonstrates that Arabs can integrate and become valuable members of Israeli society, taking advantage of  opportunities and becoming better educated and informed so that they can ensure fair treatment and be equipped to meet discrimination head-on.

And just as importantly, they can tell their fellow Arabs the truth about Israeli and Jewish history.

People like Hisham show us that there is yet hope for peace, reconciliation and mutual respect and recognition in Israel and a future Palestine.

*picture credit YnetNews