(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Notwithstanding security tensions in the North, a young Druse by the name of Maher Same Hizme has inspired fellow Druse – along with Muslims, Christians and Jews – to join forces in a northern regional forum that aims to promote mutual respect, understanding and harmonious coexistence.
The forum’s members, who prefer to call it “multi-existence,” plan to bring Circassians and residents of other communities into the forum from the broader area of the Galilee.
Twenty members of the forum met on Thursday with President Reuven Rivlin. Among them were ex-army officers; a lecturer at the University of Haifa; a physician at the Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya; a Druse sheikh; a Muslim sheikh; a Jewish industrialist; a Muslim lawyer; a Muslim educator; and various others who all said that they had been inspired by Hizme’s enthusiasm and commitment. Also present was Hizme’s wife, Hanan, whom other members of the forum said was Maher’s source of inspiration.
Also attending was Brig.-Gen. (res.) Hasson Hasson, appointed by president Shimon Peres as the first Druse presidential military aide. Hasson continued in this role with Rivlin until the conclusion of his appointment period. He remains in close contact with Rivlin, who kissed and hugged Hasson when he entered the room, a meeting arranged by Hasson.
After the forum members introduced themselves – and in some cases said there were Druse, Muslims, Christians and Jews residing harmoniously, side-by-side in the villages in which they live – Hasson said to Rivlin: “This is the mosaic of Israeli society. They are the living example of your agenda and your vision. They are approaching their goal with great eagerness and dedication, and they are very serious about introducing practical measures to ensure success.”
Of Hizme he said, “He has a dream and we are all committed to making that dream a reality.”
For Hizme the bottom line was: “We are all loyal citizens of Israel, and we are determined to live together in peace and harmony.”
Rivlin said for decades Jews and Arabs lived alongside each other in the understanding that it was mutually beneficial to do things together, but alluded to 1948 as marking a change. “It’s important for us to talk to each other. We have to learn to know each other, understand each other and see what we can do together.”
In the early years of the state he recalled, it was almost taboo for people of Polish or Russian background to marry a Yemenite. But the president has Yemenite, Moroccan and Iraqi grandchildren whose surname happens to be Rivlin.
“There are Ashkenazim too,” he said as an afterthought. He also mentioned that when he was in the army, he served together with Druse soldiers. The only way to overcome bias and hostility, Rivlin said, was through people-to-people contact. He said he looks forward to the day when Israeli and Palestinian school children can meet, so they can see that we’re not so different from each other, and understand that we’re destined to be together.