Druze celebrate 40 years of IDF combat service

Thursday, June 06, 2013 |  Israel Today Staff  

Israel's Druze population last week celebrated 40 years since the establishment of a special, elite infantry unit for members of the community joining the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Israel officially exempts minority groups from mandatory military service, but shortly after the Jewish state's modern rebirth, leaders of the Druze community demanded that Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, also draft their young men for service.

Ever since, the Druze have seen themselves as blood brothers with the Jews in defense of the State of Israel.

Nowhere is that dedication more evident than in the Herev Battalion, an elite Druze infantry unit tasked with guarding Israel's northern border and preparing for the next war against Hezbollah and Syria.

Members of the Druze community last week held parades and festive gatherings across the Galilee region to mark the 1973 establishment of the Herev Battalion.

"I’ve been in the Herev Battalion for two and a half years," one young Druze soldier told the IDF website. "This event is something great. All of the representatives of the battalion, present and past, are here, and it’s moving to hear from them."

One of those that the soldiers got to hear from was Sheikh Jihad Kablan, one of the first Israeli Druze military leaders, who personally went door-to-door to recruit young Druze to the nascent IDF during the War of Independence in 1948.

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