Druze brothers leading IDF battle against coronavirus in Arab sector

There is concern over the rise in the number of infections among Arab Israelis.

Colonel (Res.) Saleem Wahaby (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Colonel (Res.) Saleem Wahaby
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Two Druze brothers from Daliat al-Carmel in the Haifa District are spearheading the IDF’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic in the Arab sector.
Col. (res.) Saleem Wahaby, 63, is serving as the IDF Home Front Command’s directives instructor for the Arab sector, while his brother, Maj. (res.) Zohar, 55, has been appointed as commander of the liaison unit to the Zemer Local Council in the Triangle Area. 
Saleem, who served in the IDF for 44 years, was injured during his service as an officer in the 2006 Lebanon War. 
Zohar served for 37 years and fought in the all-Druze Herev (Sword) Battalion infantry unit. He trained as an officer during his reserve service.

Zohar Wahaby (Photo: Khaled Abu-Tomeah)Zohar Wahaby (Photo: Khaled Abu-Tomeah)
Their father, Fahim, was one of the founders of the Israel Police, making it obvious that affinity for military and civil service has passed through the Wahaby family. 
The IDF’s liaison units consist of reservists whose job is to maintain continuous contact between the Home Front Command and local authorities. 
The commander of each unit takes a significant part in preparing the authority for emergency situations. In addition, the commander plays an active role in discussions and drills with representatives of the local authorities. 
The commander is also close to the head of the local authority and mediates between the authority’s needs and the response that the Home Front Command can provide. 
Saleem established the liaison unit in 2006, shortly after the Lebanon War. 
“I established the unit as part of the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War, when we understood the need to strengthen ties and trust between the [Arab] sector and the Home Front Command,” he said. “The importance of this relationship is huge, and it’s significant in times of emergency.” 
Zohar said he became interested in Saleem’s activities after noticing the hard work his brother was doing. 
“I became very interested in the work Saleem was doing when he established the liaison unit to the [Arab] sector,” Zohar added. “I asked to join, and I’m proud to be part of the unit.” 
Since assuming his job as directives instructor for the Arab sector, Saleem has recruited an additional 12 unit commanders. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, he has been coordinating all the instructional training sessions for the Arab sector. Today, Saleem remarked, he feels proud as he watches from the side the work the unit he set up is doing. 
“Our success is reflected in the cooperation of the sector, its willingness to work with the Home Front Command, and its awareness towards the issue of preparedness for emergencies,” Saleem said. 
Zohar said he totally agreed with his brother. 
“Indeed, this is a sensitive and dangerous situation, and we need to implement all what we learned together with the local authority,” he explained. “When I see what we’re doing, I feel I’m reaping the fruits of the effort to prepare the authorities for emergency situations. That’s real pride!” 
Meanwhile, the number of Arab Israelis who have tested positive for coronavirus is estimated at 332, according to the Arab Emergency Commission. It said the figure does not include Arabs living in mixed cities such as Lod, Ramle, Haifa and Acre. 
 Some 16,275 Arab Israelis have been tested for the virus – an increase by 6.5% in recent days, the commission said. 
Umm el-Fahm has the highest number of patients (33), with five new cases confirmed in the past 24 hours. The town of Jisr e-Zarka has 31 confirmed coronavirus cases, while the village of Daburiya, east of Nazareth, was third with 23 patients. 
According to the commission, tests for coronavirus in the Arab sector constitute about 10% of the total tests in the country. 
Umm el-Fahm Mayor Samir Mahameed warned that the number of infected patients in his city could increase. He appealed to residents to abide by the instructions of the Health Ministry. 
“We don’t want to lose control, please stay in your homes,” he said in a message to the residents. “Please avoid family visits. Each one of us can be infected with the virus without feeling it.” 
Dr. Amir Elemy of EMMS Nazareth Hospital expressed concern over the rising number of Arab Israelis who have tested positive for the virus. 
“This should sound an alarm bell,” he said. “We need to continue with social distancing and abide by the guidelines of the Health Ministry.”
Elemy pointed out that his hospital received the first coronavirus patient on Saturday and said a special department has been set up for treating patients. 
“We were hoping that the department would remain empty, but now we have started receiving patients,” he said. “This should set an alarm bell.”