Members of the Druse community watch the fighting in the Druse village of Khadr in Syria as they stand on the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Jewish-Druse council comprised of 60 leaders and public figures held its inaugural event on Thursday in Ra’anana with the goal of promoting Druse issues.
Moshe Ben Atar and Yosef Naser-Adin, chairman of the council, organized the event.
It was supported by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
“Israel is the best for the Druse and it is also the best community for Israel,” said Naser-Adin.
Leading members of the council are: former minister Prof. Shimon Sheetrit, former Knesset speaker Shlomo Hillel, IFCJ founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Ra’anana Mayor Ze’ev Bielski, former MK and current head of head of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund Dani Atar, and other mayors and academics from across the country.
Atar was appointed the council’s president and said “from today, the KKL-JNF is the fund not only of the Jews, but also the Druse.”
Sheikh Muafak Tarif, the Druse community’s spiritual leader, also attended the event.
IFCJ head Eckstein told The Jerusalem Post
that from the very beginning, his organization has worked to safeguard the Druse community and to advance their integration into society and economy.
“We believe the Druse to be true partners to Israel’s security and well-being and it is incumbent upon the state to be faithful partners in return,” he said.
In the past year, the IFCJ says it has invested $1.5 million in support of the Druse.
This money has gone to the elderly, orphanages, building and renovating bomb shelters in their villages, scholarships and financial aid to struggling families.
Safwan Marich, the Druse director of non-Jewish sectors at IFCJ, told the Post that this council was created to be a lobby to promote Druse interests in the government.”
“The gap between what the Druse contribute to the state and what they receive is too big. It is frustrating,” said Marich, who served in the IDF for 25 years, reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Jews love the Druse because they identify with the state, he said, adding that more needs to be done for the Druse and this is demonstrated by the fact that many Jewish mayors are taking part in this forum.
One problem Marich says needs to be addressed by the council is the shortage of housing and land for building in Druse areas.
“I am more Zionist than [Theodor] Herzl and feel this is my country like yours, but on the other hand when I try to influence policy on behalf of my people it is difficult to get results,” Marich said. He also said Druse MKs are not doing enough to promote Druse issues.
There are 135,000 Arabic-speaking Druse who live mainly in the North, according to 2014 data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.