Members of the Druse community are increasingly concerned about their brethren
in Syria, Sheikh Muwafaq Tarif told President Shimon Peres on Sunday.
June this year, Druse leaders, following a meeting on the Golan Heights, sent a
letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with the request that their
co-religionists in Syria be given a haven in Israel, especially those who as
students left the Golan Heights to continue their studies in Syria.
visited Tarif – the community’s spiritual leader – in his home in the village of
Julis on Sunday to convey greetings on the festival of Id al-Adha (Feast of the
He was greeted not only by Tarif but by the whole Druse
leadership and many admirers of lesser rank.
Nearly all the presidents of
Israel have had a Druse, Kamal Mansour, advising them on his own community and
other minorities, but Peres is the first to appoint a Druse, Brig.-Gen. Hasson
Hasson, to be his military aide.
Kamal Mansour, who was awarded the
Israel Prize in 2010, is the son of Sheikh Najeeb Mansour, who was the mayor of
Usfiya during the British Mandate period and in the early years of Israeli
statehood, and who even prior to the Declaration of Independence exhorted the
Druse to align themselves with the Zionist state-in-the-making.
soldiers have distinguished themselves in the IDF, Druse have been members of
Israel’s diplomatic corps and Druse legislators have served in the
Three of the most prominent were Ayoub Kara (Likud), a former
deputy minister for regional development; Saleh Tarif Labor, a former minister
without portfolio; and Mahali Wahabi, who, as a member of Kadima, served as
deputy foreign minister and deputy speaker of the Knesset.
president Moshe Katsav’s leave of absence, Wahabi was briefly acting president
of the state, because speaker Dalia Itzik was abroad. By law, the Knesset
speaker fills in for the president during absences or inability to perform his
duties. Wahabi was the first non-Jew to serve as acting president.
has often claimed to be more Zionist than most Jews and has even taken on the
responsibility of arranging for Jewish ritual items to be delivered to Jews in
Sheikh Amin Tarif, the grandfather of Muwafaq Tarif, who
inherited the mantle of leadership from him, was the religious leader of the
Druse community for more than 60 years, until the time of his death in October
1993. In 1990 he was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to
society and the state. The Tarif family has led the Druse for almost four
Muwafaq Tarif, who was born in Gaza, has a law degree from a
In 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the
University of Haifa, in recognition of his encouraging Druse youngsters to serve
in the IDF and to subsequently continue their studies at Israel’s institutes of
higher learning. He has also worked tirelessly toward achieving equal
opportunities in all fields for his people.
Peres was received in the
traditional Druse manner – with a drumroll. He visited the tomb of Amin Tarif,
which has become a place of pilgrimage for Druse from Syria and Lebanon as well
as for Israeli Druse.
Peres addressed the gathering and spoke of the
manifold contributions of members of the Druse community to society and to the
country’s development and security.
“The Druse community has set an
illustrious example for Israeli society in demonstrating how to preserve their
own heritage and traditions while simultaneously entering into a new world,”
The Druse community is a pioneering community, Peres
continued, adding that he was certain that it could achieve breakthroughs in
every field of science and technology.
“I know the capabilities of the
Druse, and I promise that what you hear today as part of a vision will become a
reality in a very short space of time,” said Peres.
declared that many historic events cementing the relationship between the Druse
community and the State of Israel had emanated from the site on which they were
The community continued to be guided by the standards and
values of Amin Tarif, he said, and its unshakable and eternal priority was its
relationship and its duty to the State of Israel.
“We have great
confidence in the State of Israel and we hope that peace will come because we
need quiet in the region,” said the sheikh.
Peres said that he could
certainly empathize with their concerns, and that the dismantling of Syria’s
arsenal of chemical weapons was paramount.
Israel has no desire see the
Arab world suffer, said Peres.
“We do not want to see children in coffins
and millions of hapless, innocent refugees.”