President Rivlin attends Druse festival of Ziyarat al-Nabi Shu'ayb at Jethro’s Tomb in northern Israel.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Despite a long history of hostilities, Jews and Arabs occasionally acknowledge that they are cousins in that both are descended from Abraham the Patriarch.
Jews and Druse are also related in that Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, is the key prophet of the Druse faithful. Nebi Shuaib, a tomb overlooking the Sea of Galilee, is believed by the Druse to be the burial site of Jethro and is therefore one of the most revered of Druse holy sites. The Druse congregate there in their multitudes each year to discuss communal affairs, and make a point of inviting the president of Israel.
Rivlin, who accepted the invitation, referred to the blood ties between the Jews and the Druse in a somewhat different manner.
“We always talk of the covenant of blood,” he said, declaring that he prefers to regard it as the covenant of life that has been carefully built up over decades with limitless dedication during which time the Druse played a crucial role in contributing to and defending Israel’s security.
Rivlin insisted that the covenant between the two peoples could not be based purely on the sword, on war and on death. The true covenant he said, was based on life and equality and would become a reality with the understanding that the two peoples are mutually connected and concerned with each other when they think of each other daily, and not only in times of war.
Rivlin highlighted the latter by paying tribute to two prominent members of the Druse community who had died during the past year. One was Brig.-Gen. Munir Amar, the head of the IDF Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria, who was recently killed in a plane crash, and the other was journalist, novelist and playwright Salman Natour. Each had integrated into mainstream Israel while retaining his Druse identity and values.
Fully aware that like all minorities in Israel, the Druse community generally lives by standards far below those of the Jewish community, Rivlin reminded his audience of the five year NIS 2 billion development plan for Druse villages. The unprecedented plan was accepted in June last year and Rivlin pledged that he as president would do everything in his power to ensure the plan’s successful implementation.
It was impossible, given the proximity of Druse villages to the Syrian border, to ignore the senseless mass killings constantly taking place there. Rivlin said that he understood the anxiety of the local Druse population with regard to the fate of their Druse brethren in Syria, and acknowledged that this was also a matter of concern for Israel, but declined to elaborate further.
Rivlin expressed his sadness that his military aide, Brig.-Gen. Hasson Hasson, will complete his tour of duty in a few weeks’ time. Hasson is the first Druse to serve in this capacity and began his period of service with Rivlin’s predecessor, Shimon Peres, in July 2008. Rivlin complemented Hasson and called him one of the finest of officers.
Hasson is the son-in-law of Kamal Mansour, who for 40 years served as the adviser on minorities to the presidents of Israel from Zalman Shazar to Shimon Peres.
Rivlin said that although the time has not yet come to bid farewell to Hasson, it was important for him to express his appreciation for all that Hasson has done in the presence of so large and dignified a Druse gathering.
Rivlin was received by Druse spiritual leader Sheikh Mawfik Tariff, who earlier in the month had together with religious leaders of other faiths joined Rivlin in condemning violence, incitement and terrorism.