A tragedy shrouded in mystery has fallen upon Daliyat al-Karmel. Residents of the Druze village outside Haifa were in shock on Friday after two of its residents, Ashraf Meriakh and Louay Nasser el-Din, both 21-year-old soldiers doing their mandatory Israel Defense Forces service, killed themselves, one after the other.
Hundreds accompanied them to their final resting place Friday afternoon. "They were friends to the end," said an acquaintance of the two, adding that they had studied in the same class and were never apart.
Meriakh's parents found him shot dead in his house around 6:30 am. After his friend found out about his death, he himself committed suicide on his army base.
Soldiers outside the home of one of the deceased (Courtesy of bokra.net)
In the early morning hours, the parents of the shot son called an ambulance to the scene. When the first-aid responders arrived on the scene, there was nothing for them to do but pronounce him dead. The young man was just about to complete his military service.
Within a short time, news of the suicide spread and even reached the young man's good friend, a soldier serving on a base near Haifa. The soldier's family, who knew of the close relationship between the two friends, asked to deliver the bitter news in person, but when they reached the base, they were shocked to hear that their son had also shot himself.
Soldiers on the base said that after hearing of his friend's death, the soldier started running around the base in hysteria, shouting the news of his friend's passing. A short time later, he entered one of the showers on the base and shot himself twice.
Five Druze suicides in a week
Residents of Daliyat al-Karmel said that the circumstances surrounding the two deaths are shrouded in mystery. Neither of the two soldiers left behind a letter or any hint that could shed light on the double tragedy.
"A serious disaster has befallen Daliyat al-Karmel. Occurring on the eve of Memorial Day, it just intensifies the pain and difficult feelings," the town's mayor, Nasser el-Din, told Ynet.
Since the morning, el-Din has been shuttling between the two bereaved families in an attempt to help them out. "We are doing everything in order to hold the funerals as soon as possible. We are believers. The only thing left for us to say is, 'God gave, and God took away.'"
Three other members of the Druze sect committed suicide this week, according to sources. "The suicide rate among members of the Druze faith is the highest in Israel," said Rafik Halabi, a Druze resident of Daliyat al-Karmel.
"It is proof of social decomposition, and a result of despair and failure of the social structures, such as the education system and social values."