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Monday, April 06, 2020

The Druze and Jews relationship dates back to the time when Moses’ time in the Sinai when he met Jethro, the prophet, the father of Zipporah, Moses’ wife. Jethro guided Moses in how to organize the Jewish people. In Druze tradition Jethro is the father of the Druze people. This year, on March 15, Shabbat Parshat Yitro, there will be a worldwide thank you to the Druze people of Israel.

The Druze are a people who give their heart and soul and indeed their lives (505 to date) standing up for and defending the state of Israel. Their loyalty to Israel pre-dates WWII when without written agreement the Druze committed to the Jewish people with only one condition. They wanted—as we all do—respect for their legitimate rights. The Druze have been serving in the IDF and have an 85% rate of service in the army and border police. Every young Druze takes heritage seminars, which include the positives and negatives of army service. There are Druze generals, Druze EMTs and a pilot. Dr. Ala Abu Rukon, a Druze, is military secretary to President Rivlin. Some Druze schools are considered to be among the best in the country. .

Like the Jews, the Druze have been persecuted wherever they have lived—with the exception of Israel. That is why their villages are usually located on mountain tops for the best defense. The Druze fully understand the persecution of others and strongly relate to us in this regard. They have been, are and will always remain a strong supporter of the Jewish state, ready, willing and able to defend it as loyal and responsible citizens.

Although only a small minority (pop. 120,000) in the state of Israel, far smaller than the Jewish majority, smaller than the Arabs, which make up the largest minority group, even smaller than the Christian minority (Arab and otherwise), like the Jewish minority worldwide, they contribute far more than all other minorities combined. When it comes to military and police service, the Druze have a higher per capita injury and death rate than even the Jews in the IDF. One reason for this is that they are usually in combat divisions in the IDF and make up a substantial portion of the police in the Old City. So they suffer the most from stabbing attacks. The officer killed in the yeshiva defending the students and the two officers killed on Har Habayit in July 2017 were all Druze. Many Druze serve in the diplomatic corps, ranging in position from the ambassador to New Zealand to security positions at almost all diplomatic offices including the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.

Michael Oren, a distinguished Israeli diplomat and leader, liked to tell a story that is in fact amongst many statements of thanks and admiration to the Druze community by Israeli leaders past and present.

The story relates to what happened on a freezing December night on an isolated Israeli outpost, most of whose members were non-religious kibbutzniks, hardened veterans stationed just above the village of Yata, a Hamas stronghold. The group was ordered to penetrate Yata and they were totally exhausted. The last thing they wanted was to be woken from their precious moments of sleep, but then one night, their commander woke them up, every last one of them. Kumu, Kumu kulchem (Get up, get up, all of you). Other commanders may have been cursed but this commander was not just any company commander—he was a brilliant and fearless commander who was revered by all. The soldiers were especially upset when they learned that the reason for the wake-up was to light Chanukah candles. The commander accepted no excuses. He said emphatically, you are Jewish soldiers in the Army of the Jewish State and you will all light Chanukah candles. He set up a chanukiah in the “mess hall,” stuck a kippah on the head of the first sergeant, opened a siddur, pushed it into his hand and told him, “Now, light the candles and say the blessings.” And there in the hills of Hevron in the cold, clutching their weapons they stood, listened to the blessings and sang Maoz Tsur. That is, all except the commander. His name was Captain Ala Aburukin from the village of Usafiyah. His father was for many years the famed head of the Carmel natural reserve. Ala was a Druze. Oren remembers how it was when he worked with members of one of Israel’s most courageous and loyal communities, then and now.

Sadly, most Jews are not aware of the contribution and importance of the Druze community in Israel. They often think the Druze are a spin-off sect of Islam. They are not! The goal of this “Week of Thanksgiving” is to make more Jews aware of the Druze and their contribution. It is also to publicize the founding of the first Israeli Druze High Tech Empowerment Center to bring the Druze into the mainstream of the high-tech Israeli community. We are asking rabbis and other leaders to speak about the Druze in synagogues and schools prior to Shabbat Yisro.

If you need additional information or would like a speaker, please call Rabbi Bob Mark, New Jersey chairman of DruzeVets.org the initial organizers of this project. Send an email to [email protected] or call him at 973-449-9117.

This is one minority that truly deserves our utmost support. Let’s be there for them as they have been here for us.