The Druze community has the highest rate of military enlistment among any ethnic group in Israel, according to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. His comments were part of an address this week in recognition of the ongoing Druze contribution to Israel's defense.
"Today, there is no unit or mission from which a Druze youth is blocked. You should be proud of how your sons serve, bringing honor to you and to all of us," Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi told military, civilian and religious leaders on Wednesday at an IDF-organized Evening in Honor of the Druze Soldier. The gathering took place in the Druze town of Hurfeish, in northern Israel.
"I am proud that we have a battalion like the Herev Battalion, which was and is an exceptional battalion," said the Chief of Staff, referring to the highly decorated infantry unit made up primarily of Druze and Circassian soldiers. While Druze soldiers can be found in almost all IDF units, the Herev Battalion is unique in facilitating volunteerism within the soldiers' home towns and villages, in addition to their active combat duties.
Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi expressed his pride in seeing Druze soldiers throughout the army. He specifically mentioned the recent promotion of the second Druze air force officer in IDF history and the awarding of the rank of second-lieutenant to seven Druze combat officers.
The Chief of Staff pointed out that the rate of enlistment among Druze youth is the highest of any ethnic group in the country, including the Jewish sector. This is also expressed in a disproportionate rate of combat service among the Druze soldiers, he noted.
In addition to Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi, the evening in honor of Druze soldiers in the IDF drew other members of the IDF General Staff, government ministers, Knesset members, Chairman of the Soldiers Support Fund Avigdor Kahalani, himself a legendary soldier and former politician, as well as Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Israel's approximately 120,000 Druze citizens. Also in attendance were VIPs from the Druze community and other sectors.
While the relationship between the Druze and Jewish communities in Israel is generally referred to as a "blood pact" in military circles, in January 2004 Sheikh Tarif took it to a religious direction as well. At the time, with the assistance of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he and other Druze leaders signed a declaration calling on all non-Jews in Israel to observe the Seven Noahide Laws. The Noahide covenant recognizes seven basic laws of humanity as laid down in the Bible at the time of Noah and as expounded upon in Jewish tradition.