Israel’s Druse community is proud to take part in both Remembrance Day and
Independence Day, identifying itself as an integral part of the state whose
members have served in all of the wars in its history.
According to the
Central Bureau of Statistics, there are around 130,000 Druse in
Among them, 20,000 live on the Golan and are seen as distinct in
terms of national loyalty as they tend to identify with Syria as opposed to
The Druse originated in the 11th century as an offshoot of the
Ismaili Shi’ite Fatimid dynasty in Egypt and its ruler Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah,
believed to be a messianic, divine figure.
The Druse made their way north
and settled in the region covered by the modern states of Lebanon, Syria,
Jordan, and Israel.
Amal Naser Eldeen, the director of the Druse Yad
Lebanim Center in the village of Daliyat al-Karmel and a Likud Knesset member
from 1977 to 88, spoke with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of Remembrance
“The Druse were the only ones who told the Jews yes, when they were
surrounded and attacked by Arab armies,” Eldeen said. “There were agreements
between the Jews and the Druse before the existence of the State of Israel,” he
The Yad Lebanim Druse Center founded in 1982 maintains the rights
and memories of fallen Druse soldiers.
Three hundred and ninety two Druse
soldiers have been killed while serving in the IDF.
Eldeen fought for
recognition and rights for Druse from early on, and made a deal with Menachem
Begin when he was the head of the opposition.
Begin told Eldeen that he
was planning to improve the conditions of the Druse if he won the elections. He
joined the Likud in 1977 and was elected to the Knesset that year.
by the Post what he remembered from the 1948 war, he said, “I remember that the
Arabs said that they would throw the Jews into the sea and they came with all of
their weapons, when there were 600,000 Jews in the country,” emphasizing that
“the Druse stood with the Jews.... You have to understand that the Jews are not
alone, but with the Druse.”
Eldeen’s son Lutfi fell in a battle while
serving Israel in the South in 1969. One of his two daughters then named her son
Lutfi and he fell too, during the war in Gaza in 2008. Another son, Saleh, was
captured and taken prisoner by Hamas in 1995. His whereabouts are
Eldeen has two other sons, one who just finished his army
service and another who is set to join the Israel Air Force. He says that today
all positions are open to the Druse in the army.
Yad Lebanim also serves
as a military preparation academy, preparing Druse youth for their army
In 1956, military service became obligatory for the Druse and
Asked about what he thought about the current
debate in Israeli society regarding haredim and Arabs in the army, Eldeen said
that Arabs should not be forced to serve because they “have family on the other
side,” so they should do national service.
As to haredim, he said there
is no excuse for them not to serve in the army, and that they must also learn
Eldeen understood that some haredim will still be allowed to
dedicate themselves exclusively to the study of Torah, and pointed out that the
Druse also have an arrangement whereby 15 percent are granted army exemptions in
favor of religious studies.
Asked about the difference between the Druse
in the Golan and those in the rest of Israel, Eldeen said that Israeli Druse
were an “inseparable part of the state,” but that the Golan Druse have family in
Syria, though he notes that all Druse are the same, like Jews.
up the subject of the Syrian war, Eldeen said, “Syria is an enemy country, with
or without Assad.”
Sheikh Samih Natur, the editor of the Druze Magazine
and the author of an Arabic Encyclopedia of the Druse, told the Post
the Druse have a connection with the Jews going all the way back to Moses, who was given
shelter by the Druse. What has to be understood about the Druse, he said, is that
they always respect the place where they live and the ruling authority.
“I have family in Lebanon and Syria and I tell them that
I will die for Israel and the one in Lebanon says he will die for Lebanon so if we ever met in
battle we would have to kill the other, and we would see that as our destiny,”
said Sheikh Natur.
He compares the Druse to the US melting pot, saying that
the US is a land of immigrants, where everyone is seen as American. He claims
the Druse have this mentality no matter where they are in the world, whether in
the Middle East or in the West.
Asked about the conflict in Syria he said that the Israeli
Druse should not interfere, stating that the Syrian people should sort
out the issue themselves. He gives the same answer regarding the Golan
Druse, stating that “every
Druse community needs to decide for itself.”