The Druze community in Israel is often described as a minority within a minority in the State of Israel. Numbering 85,000 within Israel’s pre-1967 borders with a further 15,000 living on the Golan Heights, this community has long been recognized as a separate entity with its own spiritual leadership. They regard themselves as citizens loyal to the country in which they live, and hence willing to fight for its survival and defense.
Since the founding of Israel in 1948, Druze soldiers have served with distinction in the Israel Defense Forces. Their willingness to accept the burdens of compulsory military service has earned the appreciation and respect of the Jewish population of Israel. Nadim's younger brother, Manor, is the commander of a Druze regiment that was in the midst of the recent war's most difficult battles.
“My simple message is that I am not a Jew, but I am proud to be an Israeli citizen,” explains Nadim. “I feel a very strong connection to my country and enjoy the total freedom of expression, the ability to practice my religion and the right to further the goals of the community that I represent."
During the Second Lebanon War, the Hezbollah rockets that rained down on Northern Israel and the fighting in the field did not discern between Jew and non-Jew. Corporal Tomer Amar from Julis gave his life to protect Israel during this war. When Chairman of the Jewish Agency Ze'ev Bielski paid his respect to Amar's family, he stressed the Jewish Agency's commitment to assist all of Israel's citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike.
The assistance for non-Jewish populations during and immediately following the war included: providing emergency summer camps for over 15,000 Arab and Druze children; providing emergency equipment for 80 bomb shelters in over 15 towns; equipping six recently built community centers that stood empty as there was no budget to equip them, and implementing a week-long school readiness day camp for over 27,000 children to prepare them for returning to school after the trauma of the war.
Now that the dust of war has settled, Nadim is working tirelessly to promote educational programs and advance his community.
“I firmly believe that by providing our people with a proper education, we will succeed in overcoming some of the barriers that we are up against, and be able to provide far reaching alternatives for our young people,” Nadim states.
The Jewish Agency is putting into action a number of programs in the north to assist non-Jewish populations, including Jewish and Arab youth leadership programs, enrichment activities and educational advancement programs.
“The recent war has helped our community to draw closer to Jews worldwide through the Jewish Agency," says Amar. I hope we have the opportunity in Julis, and throughout the Druze community, to continue working with these wonderful and generous people to strengthen Israeli society and enhance our next generation."
Click here for high resolution (print quality) photos.
Photo Credit: Naftali Hilger