Eight months ago, thousands of Israelis came out to pay their respects at the funeral of 38-year-old border policeman and father Jedan Assad, murdered by a terrorist who plowed intentionally into a group of unsuspecting people at a light rail train station in Jerusalem. The Assads are a family of brave Druze IDF fighters who have always supported Israel and contributed to its future, serving as heads of local councils and as Members of Knesset. Former MK Assad Assad was a representative of the Likud party and MK Shafik Assad belonged to the now-defunct Shinui party.
Now they have lost a son to Arab terror.
It is almost a year since IDF Colonel Rasan Alian of Horfesh, commanding officer of the Golani Brigade, gained the entire nation's admiration during Operation Protective Edge for returning to the front to lead his soldiers into Gaza shortly after being seriously wounded in battle.
There are about 130,000 Druze in Israel, small in number but unique in their loyalty. The proportion of Druze who enlist in the IDF is higher than the rest of the country, and many volunteer for elite units or attain the rank of officers. The Druze showed their support for Zionism well before the establishment of the state, 450 Druze soldiers have given their lives for it, and thousands have been wounded in defense of the Zionist dream. Visitors to the national memorial for Druze soldiers located in Dalyat al-Karmel, overlooking the Carmel mountain range, will not fail to meet 89 year old former Likud MK Amal Nasser el-Din, who lost both a son and grandson in Israel's wars.
The Druze and the Jews of Israel have a common destiny, a long term covenant of blood sealed many years ago. Every Druze home once had the Star of David on its outer wall, only changed to a "hamsa" when the State of Israel was established, so as to prevent attacks on Druze living in Arab lands.
Druze monotheistic theology does not accept converts and is recognized in Israel as a separate religion allowed to maintain its own courts of law. Druze tradition traces the group's descent from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, believed to be a prophet who instructed his people to live near the Jews. Tradition says that the Druze did so for two thousand years until the destruction of the Second Temple caused them to go underground to escape persecution. Going unnoticed was crucial during the Moslem conquest of the Middle East, when in order to survive, they began to call themselves "those who believe in one G-d."
Druze elders keep the tenets of the faith to themselves and only those Druze who prove their saintliness (men and women – the men wear white fezzes and the women white veils) for a test period can be "initiated" and learn them. The five colored Druze flag represents the five Druze principles, taught by five prophets.
Numbering approximately two million today, the Druze are mainly in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, guarding the holy sites they believe are the graves of the Prophet Elijah, Abel, Zebulun, Judah, Job and others.
Having come from Aleppo, Syria in the early days of the Ottoman Empire, the Druze once owned large land holdings and controlled an autonomic region ranging from Gaza to the Chouf mountains of Lebanon. In the late nineteenth century, they began to help the Jews returning to their homeland, smuggling arms to fledgling kibbutzim, with both Jews and Druze targeted by the Arab Legion.
My grandfather Salman, the first Druze to express the belief that there could be an independent Jewish state, aided the Rothschild family in their efforts to encourage Jewish settlement and was appointed representative of Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal) in Palestine. He moved to Caesarea, formed a close relationship with Haim Weizmann's family and joined the Lehi Underground with [later to be Prime Minister] Yitzchak Shamir. Before him, my great grandfather, a leader in the Carmel area, allowed Scottish philo-Zionist Sir Laurence Oliphant to build a home on our land within the Dalyat al-Karmel town lines where the Oliphant's personal secretary, Naftali Hertz Imber, penned Israel's national anthem, Hatikva. The house is now a national heritage site.
Our family is a typical Druze story. Like many other Israeli Druze, we paid dearly for openly helping the Jews. In 1947, my uncle Abdallah Kara, Salmon's eldest son, was killed at point blank range by a Legionnaire while walking in the center of Acre, my uncle Aziz disappeared soon after, and my father was seriously wounded in Israel's War of Independence, but recovered and raised a family. My two brothers and I inherited our father's loyalty to the Jewish state and paid the same price. My elder brother died of his wounds in the Lebanon War, my younger brother was killed fighting in the eastern sector of Lebanon and I was seriously wounded in Beirut. My parents did not recover from the tragedies and died shortly afterwards. Of my six children, the eldest son is an IAF pilot and my daughter is in National Service and will soon be part of Israel's Foreign Service.
Most Druze wish to live among their own, happy to extend hospitality to tourists who come to shop and visit in their picturesque villages, dotted throughout the Galilee. The younger generation wants to be on the map of Israel's technological and economic achievements, and a drive through Dalyat al-Karmel now includes a new neighborhood of modern villas adjoining the old town. For decades, Druze soldiers served in their own ethnically homogeneous units, but he IDF recently acceded to their requests to be placed in regular units alongside Jewish soldiers.
The Druze love the State of Israel, but it pains them to see that there are close to two million Israeli Arabs living in the Jewish state who, although not expected to join the IDF, are not even required to do their part in much-needed National Service. Their local authorities often receive more from the government than the Druze for political reasons, their sons are able to complete three years of university study while Druze sons spend that period of their lives facing life- threatening danger in the IDF. Worst of all is the fact that government offices prefer to hire the applicants who have three years of education behind them rather than those who have risked their lives. When the young men involved live in mixed Druze-Arab communities, it is especially hard for them to take and tensions simmer just underneath the surface.
It is heartbreaking for the Druze of Israel to see the horrors facing those Druze left in Syria, endangered by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra simply for the sin of being Druze.
The United States has abrogated its role of defending world justice and has, unfortunately, begun to behave like the impotent and useless United Nations. I call upon Israel and all those who care for justice to stand up for the Druze, protect the only people in the Middle East who support the Jewish State, to come to their aid in every way possible. I call on Israel not to abandon its Druze brothers. Radical Islam is not going to stop at the Druze and the other minorities in Syria. Its goal is Jerusalem, the entire world and everything we hold dear. It must be stopped.
MK Ayoub Kara of the Likud party is a Druze Israeli who serves as Dep. Min. of Regional Cooperation in the current Knesset.