Last week's decision by Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem to halt the enrollment of Druze children from nearby communities into its schools, a long-standing arrangement between the city and unique religious-ethnic minority, has garnered much criticism from almost every corner.
Her explanation that students from outside the city exacerbate classroom overcrowding and that the municipality must take care of its residents first didn't much help.
The first to come out against her was former mayor Yona Yahav, who said that the decision "filled him with shame."
"It cannot be," Yahav said, "that the city of Haifa closes its doors and its hearts to the Druze families who want their children specifically to learn in Haifa."
He accused Kalisch-Rotem of seeking to destroy the legacy of his tenure.
Even the person to hold the position before Yahav, Amram Mitzna, lashed at the decision and demanded Kalisch-Rotem not only take back her words but also apologized.
Likud MK Yoav Kisch said that such a move would hurt the blood pact and deep relationship that Israel's Druze and Jews share.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz even took the criticism further, stating that, "if Kalisch-Rotem doesn't take back her words, she should be disqualified from office."
According to him, "it cannot be that a capricious mayor so bluntly damages the web of shared existence of the Jewish majority and the most loyal minority in the State of Israel."
It's saddening that this kind of criticism is not uttered on behalf of the rest of the local minorities whose children were also expelled from Haifa's school system.
At least the mayor of the nearby Kiryat Ata, Yaakov Peretz, called for the residents of the Carmel Mountain villages to register their children at his city's schools.
Criticism has also been voiced by the Druze residents of the Carmel Mountain villages. Two of which stood out: the Former MK and Yad LeBanim CEO Amal Nasser el-Din and Israeli Ambassador to Panama Reda Mansour.
Both slammed the decision, reminding the mayor of the Druze community's military service and contribution to the land before the creation of the state.
In a letter to Kalisch-Rotem, el-Din emphasized the fact that many of the Druze children come from families of fallen soldiers. He didn't forget to mention that Yad LeBanim oversees the commemorations for Israel's 432 fallen Druze IDF forces, and that the pre-military leadership academy in the Druze village of Daliyat Al-Karmel teaches some 400 future IDF soldiers.
In a Facebook post, Mansour reminded Kalisch-Rotem that the first chief administrator at Rambam Hospital in Haifa was a Druze and added that he works night and day on his diplomatic mission for the benefit of the city of Haifa.
He also – predictably – related the shared destiny of Israel's Druze and Jews and the community's military contribution.
The nature of the debate surrounding the persona of the "Israeli Druze" has to change.
Instead of emphasizing military service as a jump-off point for securing the rights of the Druze community, there should be an emphasis on the duty of the state in every city and every institution to meet the needs of its citizens of every ethnicity.
Anyone who says that military service creates a blood pact between Druze and Jews or that it is a mandatory duty for every citizen cannot then use it as a means to receive something in return.
For if it is a quid pro quo, it means there is no difference between the Druze community and mercenaries seeking payment for fighting for a country not his own.
Saying the Druze should get something in return for military service or because of their connection to the Jews is humiliating and degrading.
It is humiliating because it turns the Druze into mercenaries and degrading because at its core is the erroneous notion that combat service is not a choice made by citizens.
The Druze representatives must change their tune immediately.
Rights are an interwoven part of the citizenry and not reward for duty – civilian or military – performed in the service of the state. They stand alone.
As for the matter of schools in Haifa, the Carmel Mountain villages should ask themselves if studying in the city provides any added value their children cannot find at home.
First published: 11:47 , 12.15.19