(Photo: Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

(Photo: Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

By Dov Lieber - August 15, 2016

Originally appeared here in The Times of Israel

They sound like your average religious Zionist couple in Israel: she serves in the Jewish state’s national service and he is an army combat veteran. Except they are both Muslim Arabs, and she, Bara’a Abed, is from East Jerusalem while her husband (unnamed) is from a village in the north.

Abed, 20, who now does works as a volunteer in an Israeli Interior Ministry office, is part of a fast-growing community of young Arabs who are eschewing decades of anti-normalization with the majority-Jewish Israeli government to both give back and receive from the state.

Historically, nearly all national service participants were Jewish religious-Zionist women, who wanted to serve their country but for religious reasons didn’t want to be in the army. Such women receive near-automatic exemptions from the military, though the last several years have seen a large increase in those choosing to serve in the IDF.

Six years ago, only 600 non-Jews served in Israel’s national service program, in which participants volunteer for one to two years in public institutions like schools, hospitals, courts or health clinics.

Presently, 4,500 non-Jews are doing national service, of whom 100 are from East Jerusalem. Read More