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Forever Faithful?

Avi Friedman

Druze Israelis have bravely served in Israel’s military and police force for decades, and the death of Officer Zidan Saif in Har Nof in November only highlighted their dedication. But while Druze remain loyal to the state, perceived discrimination is becoming an acute source of frustration and hurt.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Druze Israelis say they have never experienced an outpouring of support like the one they felt following the murder of Sergeant Major Zidan Saif, the brave Druze Israeli policeman who was gunned down inHarNofin November.Most Druze had never met chareidim, and few chareidim had visited Daliat el-Carmel, the picturesque Druze capital of Israel and the community’s thriving tourist hub.That all changed with the murder of Saif, who paid with his life to intercede on behalf of the tallis-wrapped men at Kehillas Bnei Torah on November 18. Once it became clear that a Druze officer was among those killed on that dreadful morning, community leaders in HarNofmade contact with their counterparts in the Druze community to offer condolences. At Saif’s funeral the following day, about 100 HarNofresidents paid their respects and Rabbi MordechaiRubin, the rav of Bnei Torah, eulogized the fallen policeman.“Zidan showed courage,” the rabbi said before a crowd of thousands. “He was the first at the battle. He stood like a wall, with his body, with his head, in order to save the souls of those in the synagogue. The loss of Zidan is our loss as well as that of the Druze community and we feel, especially at times like this, a kinship with the Druze community. The devotion and the determination of Zidan should be an example to us all — to the Druze and to the Jews.”A month after the massacre, Druze leaders say that if there was any point of light to emerge from the killing spree, it was the possibility of a new relationship between the Druze and chareidi communities. Following the massacre, one chareidi askan,MordechaiTzivin, pledged NIS 20,000 toRinalSaif, Zidan’s 23-year-old widow. Locals in Daliat el-Carmel say theHarNof community has raised thousands more for Saif.“Up to now, the chareidim have been little more to us than a religious group with distinctive clothes, but we didn’t know very much about them”SamihHalabi, a retired IDF career officer and community activist in Daliat el-Carmel, said. “SinceHarNof, we have discovered that there is a lot of common ground between our communities: tradition, modesty, conservatism. We have similar approaches to women’s honor and respect, but we don’t know one another because we have always moved in separate circles. Now we have learned about the tremendous depth of chareidim to be generous, caring, and thankful as well.” 

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