Limmud: Druze leader tells of community's pride in its traditions and loyalty to Israel

Knesset member Hamad Amar says key to Druze success as citizens - playing key roles in the IDF and flourishing in higher education - is "positive thinking"


Israel’s fourth largest youth movement tries to instil in its members a love of the country and prepare them for army and other service – but they are not Jewish.
The Druze youth movement was launched in 2001 to “preserve pride and loyalty to the Druze masoret – tradition” and enable its members to be “proud citizens of Israel”, said its founding chairman Hamad Amar.
Mr Amar, who presented a session at the Limmud conference in Birmingham, is one of four Druze Knesset members and for eight years has represented Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which he helped to found.
Speaking in Hebrew through an interpreter – Limmud chief executive Eli Ovits - he said he was “very happy to be at Limmud” and wanted “to steal the idea and bring it to the Druze.”
Mr Amar, a father of three, comes from Shafaram, one of the 22 towns and villages in the north of the country where Israel’s Druze minority are concentrated.
The 140,000 Israeli Druze represent just under a tenth of the group’s world population, which is based mainly in Syria and Lebanon.
When the Haganah, the Zionist militia, entered Shafaram in Israel’s War of Independence, “not one bullet was fired” by its Druze residents, Mr Amar said.
Preyed on by Arab gangs in the pre-state violence, the Druze had established closer connections with the Jewish community.
“The Druze community took a big risk by siding with the Jewish community because nobody knew how the war would end,” he explained. “If it had ended the other way, with the Arabs winning, the Druze would have been annihilated on the spot.”
Now a higher proportion of young Druze men and women – 83 per cent – serve in the Israeli army than any other sector of the population. Around 16 per cent of its medical corps are Druze.
Since 2000, the number of Druze in higher education has quadrupled from 1,250 to 5,000 – 70 per cent of them women.
At the same time, the minority has guarded its historic traditions. It admits no converts and accepts Druze status only if both parents are from the faith. It fights intermarriage “as much as Jews,” Mr Amar said, “but with greater success.”
He explained that traditionally, Druze politicians have served in Zionist parties where they have been able to represent the interests of their community as part of coalition governments rather than in the opposition.
His community was “positive thinking”, taking a glass half-full rather than half-empty approach.
On the recent vote against Israel in the UN, he said it should be focusing on conflicts elsewhere in the region rather than on Israel.
Palestinians in Israel had the “best life” compared to other parts of the Middle East, he argued.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive