Home Rachel Avraham Op-Ed: How the Druze Serve the State of Israel Today

Op-Ed: How the Druze Serve the State of Israel Today

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.By Rachel Avraham


In recent years, the Druze have been making inroads and obtaining high level government posts. Part of the reason why so many Druze have been succeeding in Israeli politics is because of their loyalty to the State of Israel. Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel’s Communication, Satellite and Cyber Minister, stated: “People don’t know, but the relationship between the Jewish and Druze people existed since the times of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses.”

“After the Second Temple was destroyed, the entire Jewish public was in trouble including the Druze nation, which was part of the Levi tribe,” he added. “They were together in distress, both the Jews and the Druze, after the Second Temple was destroyed in the Middle East. Many tribes went to different states in the world, but the Druze remained. For the outside world, they say that they became a nation 1,000 years ago from the Islam. The truth is that they are the nation of Jethro of the Levi tribe. They say that we come from the Islam for they are afraid to exist as an independent nation. This is because all of the Arab leaders destroyed the Druze nation, sometimes in Lebanon, sometimes in Egypt and sometimes in Syria. If not, the Druze nation would be tens of millions of people in the Middle East.”

“Before the independence of Israel, there was a big cooperation between the two minorities, the Druze and Jews to build a new state,” he added. “The Druze were close to the Jews and vice versa. It was not easy. The Arabs killed many Druze, not only Jews. The Druze are going as volunteers to the army of Israel and served in the 1948 War of Independence. The Druze were more motivated to serve in the Army of Israel than the Jews. Because of that, they do not serve as volunteers. There is a law, which compels both the Jews and Druze to serve in the IDF. Other nations serve in the IDF, but they are merely volunteers. The Druze have more than 88 percent of their youth serving in the IDF. The Jewish public is about 70 percent.”

The history of Druze serving the State of Israel is a long one. In the days of Menachem Begin, former Likud MK Amal Nasr a-Din was quite influential. This is because of his family’s service to the country. In 1969, his son Lufti was killed on his last day of national service. In 2008, his grandson, also named Lufti, was killed during Operation Cast Lead. A-Din presently heads the Yad L’Benim organization in order to help bereaved families.

“There are 435 Druze who fell serving the State of Israel, and they have 1,500 relatives in need of care,” stated a-Din. “Eleven of these soldiers fell before Israel became a state. In 1882, Sir Oliver came here and helped free the Druze from the Turkish Army. In return, we gave him a home, where the Israeli national anthem Hatikva (The Hope) was written. Begin bought this home and made a memorial for the Druze. This is where we built Yad L’Banim, the memorial for Druze IDF soldiers.”

After the State of Israel was established, this friendship reached its peak. “In 1953, the IDF Chief of Staff asked for an additional 700 soldiers to make a campaign successful, and the Druze provided him with this,” explained a-Din. “I was one of the leaders that was part of this. We do everything to strengthen the State of Israel.”  For this reason, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Yad L’Banim to be a national heritage site.

In 2017, under Benjamin Netanyahu, Ayoob Kara served as Minister of Communications. Prior to holding that position, he was the Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation and the Deputy Minister of Development in the Negev and Galilee. He also served as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. Kara was one of the IDF officers who entered Lebanon and fought for the Jewish State during Operation Peace for the Galilee. He was severely injured near Beirut. He also lost two brothers, who fought in that war as well.

In the exclusive interview, Kara proclaimed: “Some of the Druze were generals also. In the last big operation in Gaza prior to Operation Guardian of the Walls, there was a team that spoke Arabic which entered Hamas areas. Their leader was Druze. He is referred to as M.M., for his name is top secret. In Gaza, they did a huge operation against Hamas and Hamas killed the Druze leader in action, but his action saved the rest of the team and he became a hero, for his death saved many lives.”

“Similarly, in a Har Nof synagogue in Jerusalem, when terrorists successfully infiltrated a prayer service and began to shoot at Jewish worshippers, a Druze Policeman named Zidan Saif came and fought off the terrorists,” he added. “He killed the terrorists but was killed also. He saved many Jews praying in the synagogue.” Aside from the Druze policeman, four Jewish worshippers were killed in that terror attack, yet many more could have been slaughtered were it not for Saif’s courage.

“Also, during the ‘First Intifada,’ there was a Druze officer named Navi Mari, who was killed,” Kara recounted. “He tried to save civilians and the terrorists shot and killed him. There are many Druze who did much for Israel, including some who are part of Netanyahu’s team. Netanyahu all the team speaks about Salim Shufi, who was from Intelligence Unit 504. He helped Israel tremendously in Syria and then became mayor of Majdal Shams, the biggest Druze village in the Golan Heights, until he died a few years ago.” A scholarship fund for Druze students was created in Shufi’s memory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogized Shufi as follows: “For me, Salim symbolized the living partnership between us, certainly the covenant of blood. He was with me when I was in mourning and I was with him when he was in mourning – but a great living partnership. Salim Shufi was a great moral force.”
“He was a splendid man – modest, deep, and imbued with values; I loved him very much,” Netanyahu added. “I always saw him as an exemplar; and we also said this in his lifetime. Salim did not have to die to become a legend; he was a legend in his lifetime.

“We are certainly fighting for progress, culture, the future, and life. I think that you and we can be proud that the State of Israel gave rise to such a soldier and such a man. I think that you, the family members, can be especially proud that he was part of your family. He was simply a great man and I thank you for continuing in his footsteps. I wish that you will continue in his footsteps.”

Today, under Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Finance Minister Hamad Amar is a member of the Druze faith. Similarly, Sahar Ismail, the Arab affairs advisor of Israeli Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, was a member of the Druze community. Unfortunately, he was assassinated recently. Nevertheless, the manner in which he was eulogized across the political spectrum speaks volumes about the strong bond between the Jewish and Druze people today.


Sources:

“In honor of a true warrior,” Israel Today

Berman, Lazar, “Four Jews at prayer, Druze policeman killed in Jerusalem synagogue terror attack,” – Times of Israel

Ayoob Kara, MK – IsraeliAmerican.org

What Do the Druze Think of Zionism? – IsraelToday.co.il

Amazon.com: Minorities in the Israeli Military, 1948–58 eBook : Geller, Randall S.– Amazon.com

The Druze in the Middle East: Falah, Salman: 9780967026909 – Amazon.com

Halabi, The West Bank Story – MERIP.org

Ayoob Kara, MK – IsraeliAmerican.org

What Do the Druze Think of Zionism? – IsraelToday.co.il

Amazon.com: Minorities in the Israeli Military, 1948–58 eBook : Geller, Randall S.– Amazon.com

The Druze in the Middle East: Falah, Salman: 9780967026909 – Amazon.com

Halabi, The West Bank Story – MERIP.org

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on the history of the Druze and and the Jews of Israel. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.


Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, covering Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other developments in the greater Islamic world.

Her articles have appeared in the Washington Times, the Hill, Front Page Magazine, the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.


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