THE firm belief that Israelis of all stripes should live in peace and harmony drives Yoseph Haddad. It prompted this Israeli Christian Arab to volunteer for the IDF – as Arabs do not have compulsory army service – and saw him fight in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, where he suffered a lifelong disability.
Haddad is the CEO of Together – Vouch For Each Other (TV4E), a not-for-profit bringing Israelis together, and he is a passionate advocate of Zahal Disabled Veterans Organisation (ZDVO) Beit Halochem, a support organisation for Israelis wounded in combat.
On his visit to Australia this month – hosted by ZDVO Beit Halochem Australia – he and Emily Schrader, his fiancée and co-worker at TV4E – will speak about Israel’s multicultural society, and he will share his journey of recovery.
The AJN spoke with Haddad in Britain on the eve of his address to University College London, where he was ringed by security personnel, amid prospects of violent demonstrations against him. But the courageous Haifa-born journalist and Nazareth resident, who befriended Jewish Israelis in neighbourhood football matches, vowed his vision of a more cohesive Israel remains unshaken.
Haddad described TV4E as “led by young people from [Israeli] Arab society, men and women, Jews, Christians and Muslims, Bedouin. We want to bridge gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israel.”
Asked why he volunteered for IDF service, he reflected that “the IDF stands for Israel Defence Forces … It’s not the ‘Jewish’ defence forces. And when the IDF defends Israel, the IDF defends all of Israel. And when Hamas and Hezbollah and other terrorist organisations attack Israel, they attack all the citizens of Israel.”
He was severely injured in the 2006 war while stationed at a Lebanese village. His unit was called to a nocturnal rescue of another outfit under fire, but when it was successfully completed, it was daylight. Haddad and his unit were spotted and suffered a hit from a Hezbollah rocket. The attack severed his foot and caused other injuries. He was treated at an Israeli hospital, where his foot was reattached, although he has limited movement with it.
Through ZDVO Beit Halochem, Haddad received nurture and support for his recovery, both physically and mentally, due to the camaraderie of other injured veterans. “You have someone who shares the same story, or a similar story, and then you can open up can talk about it.”
In Sydney and Melbourne, Haddad and Schrader will share the stage with Amit Shteinhart, an IDF veteran who will speak about his struggle with PTSD.
The ZDVO Beit Halochem event is on February 19 at 7.00pm. The location will be provided prior to the function. Book tickets.