Colonel Nabi Mer'ei from Horfish was the first Druze to ever join Israel’s paratroopers; he went on to become a revered officer at the Gaza Brigade and educated generations of soldiers and commanders.
Mer’ei was killed 16 years ago during an operation in Gaza. Back then already, his nephew Yaniv Mer’ei knew he will be following in his beloved uncle’s footsteps.
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Today, the 31-year-old Yaniv serves as an officer in the Gaza Brigade’s operational wing. As he does every year, on Memorial Day he visits the grave of his role model.
Yaniv says he still remembers the day he received the news of his uncle’s death, 15 years ago.
“There was a wedding at the village, and the good spirits were replaced at once by great sorrow,” he says. “I knew Nabi, who was a huge, strong person; a true gentleman. I too wanted to follow his example, command soldiers and take the lead. Nabi served as a personal example and encouraged the youngsters of our village to follow his path.”
“To this day, I see him in front of me,” Yaniv says. “Nabi was the first Druze to join the paratroopers, as opposed to what was customary back then. His courage, with the desire to break the way, serves as an example to many soldiers in our village.
Yaniv says that military service is a duty, not a choice, and is proud of the high percentage of Druze who join IDF combat units – 84%.
“The Druze must give their share to the State based on commitment, and I’m proud of it,” he says. “I intend to continue to serve in the IDF and educate my children to contribute just as Nabi and I did. I have no doubt that my sons will continue the tradition.”
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