"You were always a numerical minority but a majority in terms of quality," President Shimon Peres said to Druze soldiers in Tiberias on Tuesday during a ceremony honoring the Druze in the IDF. Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi also praised them and congratulated them on integrating in the higher command echelons and all IDF units.
This is the seventh such ceremony which is held annually in one of the northern towns. This year, with support from Bank Hapoalim, the soldiers also enjoyed a day of fun activities on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Peres mentioned the housing shortage in Druze towns in the Galilee and on Mount Carmel, saying the State must find a solution for housing for discharged soldiers. This is one of the most prominent issues, due to the lack of land zoned for housing in the Druze towns.
The president, who was the first to speak, said the Druze people had a similar history to the Jewish people. He said they offered a good example due to their ability to persevere, generation after generation, in the divided Middle East – sometimes also fighting.
This, he said, was because they preserved their heritage: For over 1,000 years it has been passed on to new generations, father to son, a heritage of optimism, honor and wisdom. Peres also referred to Druze soldier Majdi Halabi who has been missing for five years, and expressed his hope that he will return home safely.
Ashkenazi noted that an increasing number of Druze are integrating into high command positions and into the air force and navy. He also referred to the director of the ceremony, Shimi Mansour, a broadcaster on Army Radio, saying that the army intends to integrate more Druze into the academic reserves.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was supposed to take part also but cancelled his attendance.