February 28, 2016

Dedicated Druze

IDF uniform, Druze flag.
The IDF base of Michve Alon is home to soldiers from all over the world. On base, soldiers from over 40 countries are integrated into the army. They learn Hebrew, get basic training and help with army placements. There are also many Israelis on this base, including Druze soldiers, who are there to improve their Hebrew skills.

The Druze make up less than 2% of the Israeli population, yet their strong presence in the IDF, sports, culture and politics is remarkable. See this list of remarkable Druze in Israel.  In fact, more Druze draft into the IDF than secular and Orthodox Israelis.

Courtyard of Nabi Shu'ayb Shrine, tomb of Jethro.
The Druze are a religious minority of Arab descent who call themselves Al-Muwahhidin, which means 'The Monotheists.' Their most revered descendant and chief prophet is Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. And their most sacred place is Jethro’s tomb overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

They broke off from Islam in the 10th century and their relationship with Arab Muslims has been tense over the years. In the 1940s, Arab Muslims unsuccessfully tried to take over Jethro’s Tomb, worsening an already tenuous relationship.

Yet the Druze pledge allegiance to Israel and when it comes to serving in the army, they are very patriotic. Says the Druze poet Beda Mansour, “We are the only non-Jewish minority that is drafted into the military, and we have an even higher percentage in the combat units and as officers than the Jewish members themselves. So we are considered a very nationalistic, patriotic community.”

Originally, the Druze were drafted into their own unit called Gdud Herev, the Sword Brigade. After being separated from the Israelis for 41 years, the Druze said they wanted to be integrated. So in May 2015, the army disbanded the Herev unit and started integrating Druze soldiers into all units.

Druze leaders visit the navy.
This is enabling the Druze soldiers to attain higher echelons of command. And they are starting to succeed. Colonel Ghassan Alian became the second ever Druze officer to be commander of an infantry brigade.

There is much motivation in this community. 
According to the IDF, 80% of Druze men and women are drafted:
39% go into combat, including paratroopers and crack infantry brigades;
18% take quality courses that advance them into leadership positions;
17% go into technical support positions.

In fact, the commander of the Michve Alon base is Druze. Right now, there is a unit on Michve who are there to improve their Hebrew skills. Just last week, the Druze participated in a cultural evening and performed a special dance. The audience, soldiers at Michve from all over the world, clapped along and whistled, warmly welcoming them to the diversity that is Israel today.

May these soldiers help strengthen the army,  protect the land and be integrated into a vibrant, diverse Israel.

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