First-ever Druse aide-de-camp to the president appointed

In a highly emotional ceremony on Tuesday, Druse Col. Hasson Hasson was appointed aide-de-camp to the President. He replaced fifth-generation Jerusalemite Brig.-Gen. Shimon Hefetz who, over 15 years, aided presidents Ezer Weizman, Moshe Katsav and Shimon Peres. Hasson, 45, a husband and father of four, will officially begin his new position next week when Hefetz enters civilian life and becomes a reserve officer. The majority of those present were Druse dignitaries and religious leaders, whose pride in a native son was almost palpable. If proof was needed that "we are all part of the same state," said Peres, it was Hasson's appointment which, he said, cast a new ray of light on the relationship between the Druse community and the rest of the State of Israel. He described Hasson as courageous, responsible and someone to rely on. Enlisting in 1981 as a soldier in the Golani Brigade, Hasson rose to commander of a Golani company. He later served as the commander of a unit in the Commanders School, after which he held a number of sensitive command positions in the intelligence branch and within the intelligence community. Although Hasson refused to talk much at the ceremony about what he would do as ADC, he did say that 26 of his relatives were also officers, volunteering that his family was truly Zionist. He said he was particularly pleased to be serving under President Peres and also glad to join his father-in-law, Kamal Mansour, who has served as the presidential advisor on minorities for more than three decades. Hasson's wife, Iman, said she had practically grown up in Beit Hanassi, so for her, the ceremony was more or less like a homecoming. Hasson's 13-year-old son, Eyad, said they were all very proud of their father, and that he wanted to follow him into the Golani brigade. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who knows both Hefetz and Hasson well, and who recommended Hasson as Hefetz's successor, was prevented from attending due to illness, but sent a letter that was read out by Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of Military Intelligence. Ashkenazi recalled Hefetz's 40 plus years of service in the IDF, initially in the armored corps, then as an officer and later as the commander of a tank brigade. Seriously wounded in the Yom Kippur War, Hefetz's combat days were over, and although he could have opted out of the army, he chose to stay and became Yitzhak Rabin's ADC. He also served former defense minister Moshe Arens, who was present at the ceremony along with Maj.-Gen. (res.) Israel Tal, the internationally renowned tank expert, who was once Hefetz's commander. As ADC, Hefetz was involved in efforts to bring home POWs, track down MIAs and to maintain contact with the bereaved families of fallen soldiers. Some of these families also attended the ceremony. Peres said similarly kind words of Hefetz, adding that the General was very sensitive in dealing with bereaved families. He had never heard anyone say a bad word about Hefetz, Peres said. He praised Hefetz for his discretion, loyalty, attention to detail, and his punctuality. Peres characterized him as a man who has to get everything exactly right. Hefetz has not decided what he will be doing next. "I was too busy," he said of the life he is leaving behind, "but there are many options ahead of me and tomorrow is another day."