Repaying kindness for kindness

The touching story of Druse helping Jews.

kindness druse 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of Salach Falach)
kindness druse 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of Salach Falach)
During the recent Israel-Hamas rocket war, many Israeli families residing near the Gaza border grew weary of constantly huddling in bomb shelters and fled north for safety.
Some moved in with relatives or checked into hotels. But many large, poor families in southern Israel did not have those options. So government officials and private charities offered a temporary measure of relief, such as day trips for children to Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo.
One of the most surprising sources of relief was the help offered by Druse communities in the Galilee to Jewish families from the South.
During the Second Lebanon War (2006), when the northern half of Israel was under bombardment from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Jewish residents of southern Israel opened their homes to beleaguered families in the North, many of whom were Druse. Now it was time to return the favor.
Mofied Amar, chairman of a Druse communal organization in Horfesh, remembered the help he had received back then and took the initiative to offer refuge to needy Jewish families under relentless rocket fire from Gaza.
Amar felt it was a chance to repay kindness with kindness.
“As Druse, we saw that it was important to take in the Jewish families from the South that were in need,” he explained.
So Amar and other Druse leaders contacted the city of Ashdod to offer assistance to poorer families without safe rooms.
“I personally got in touch with the mayor of Ashdod and told him of our desire to host a group of families of up to two busloads, families with children, for three days,” Amar recently told The Christian Edition. “Together with other members of our organization and volunteers from our community, we prepared a program for them.”
Located just 23 miles from Gaza, Ashdod was on constant alert during Operation Pillar of Cloud. Schools and businesses were closed, and just leaving the house to buy a few groceries was extremely risky. So local social workers quickly selected 23 families – 77 individuals – who were put on buses and transported to the Galilee.
The mother of one of those families is Sharon, who lives with her partner and their three children in a small apartment in Ashdod. There are no bomb shelters or safe rooms in their building, so when the first siren sounded in mid-November, they simply ran to the lower level of the staircase.
“My three-year-old daughter would panic every time she heard the siren or any other similar sound,” Sharon recently recounted. “To this day she refuses to be alone anywhere, even in her own room while I’m in the kitchen.”
Their nine-year-old son started wetting his bed again. He moved his mattress to the living room, so he could be closer to the staircase at night. Thus the whole family was relieved to be on a bus for the Galilee, courtesy of the Druse.
“We have never experienced such wonderful hospitality,” Sharon said of her hosts in the Druse village of Peki’in. “I grew up in the North, and I knew of the Druse in our country, but I never had a chance to get to know them. I didn’t expect this much love and care from them. It was incredible!” The 23 families included both Orthodox and non-religious Jews from different neighborhoods in Ashdod. In ordinary circumstances it is very unlikely they would ever come together, but in this instance they enjoyed each other’s company.
The residents of Peki’in and surrounding villages prepared in advance to welcome their guests in distress. As soon as the Ashdod families arrived, they were all greeted with a rose and taken to restaurants that even offered kosher food. Then they were brought to a pleasant hotel, where they could enjoy a peaceful night, with no sounds of alarms.
During their stay in the Galilee, the families from Ashdod toured the region, relaxed in olive orchards and visited national parks. They could finally exhale for a few days.
While in Peki’in, Sharon’s son became very independent, unafraid to leave his mother’s side in order to play with the local Druse children. Sharon was astonished.
“It is so beautiful here and so peaceful,” she said. “My children have never seen this part of Israel, and I don’t know if I would ever be able to bring them here. This was like a dream!” “We would host another group if that would have been needed,” Amar assured. “But it’s our hope that when we do these things in the future, we can do it in peace and quiet.”
Amar was able to cover the costs for housing, feeding and entertaining the Ashdod families through his charity Salach Falach, along with a generous donation from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Druse in Israel are patriotic citizens and serve in the army, which meant that once Operation Pillar of Cloud was launched, many of their young men were called up for reserve duty. So while Druse IDF soldiers waited along the Gaza border for a ground incursion that never came, their families were hosting Jews from Ashdod in desperate need of shelter from the relentless Hamas rocket fire.