The Israel Defense Force has a lot of ground to cover on its border with the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Jordan. But it’s got an ace up its sleeve – a special tracking unit made up mostly of Bedouins.
The special IDF unit, known as the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, is charged with defending Israel’s desert borders, tracking intruders and potential threats over a 10,000 square kilometer expanse, according to the Israel Defense Forces blog.
Highly experienced, the veteran Trackers Unit is a part of the three-brigade Edom Territorial Division, reports the Jerusalem Post.
In order to become a member of the elite group, prospective soldiers must complete the six-month IDF tracking school. However natural instinct is a major part of what makes the unit so effective.
“What characterizes us is our field craft; we’re people of the field, with the ability to spend long periods on the ground. We analyze the territory, and figure out where the next surprise will come from,” Maj. Waleed Swaled, deputy commander of the IDF Beduin Tracker’s Unit in the Southern Command, told the Jerusalem Post.
Generally Muslim Arabs, Bedouins are not subject to Israel’s mandatory draft, which means they have all volunteered to join the unit, Swaled noted. The desire to serve a common goal motivates them during long shifts in the sand.
“We must be stubborn, and stand our ground,” Swaled told the Post. “If one of us identifies an intrusion, he must ascertain this independently, on the basis of precise work. We must be patient in our work. It would be a mistake to try and rush the tracker.”
There are approximately 260,000 Bedouin currently living in Israel, with about 1,655 serving in active service, according to the Agence France-Presse.
“I was born a tracker, a Bedouin, and followed the flock,” Mazarib, a second-generation tracker, told the AFP.
Being a tracker is about “connecting to nature, living in the field,” Lieutenant Colonel Magdi Mazarib said. “If you want to be a tracker on the northern border, you can’t be from northern Tel Aviv… there is no replacement for the tracker, the soldiers, the warrior, who touches the ground, who also speaks its language and can say — here two infiltrated, here three.”