On June 19th, the Tel Aviv JLIC community went to visit the shiva of Wassim Mahmoud z”l, the Druze deputy commander of a unit that recently suffered multiple fatalities. This visit was not just an act of condolence but a profound gesture of solidarity, demonstrating the embrace of two distinct cultures.

Wassim’s family shared memories of him as a quiet, humble young man, deeply dedicated to his responsibilities in the army and his commitment to representing the Druze community. His role in protecting the citizens of Israel was a testament to his devotion and bravery.

Mourning hall for the Druze Hero Wassim Mahmoud

The journey to Beit Jan, a Druze village, was marked by the warmth and hospitality of mutual friends from the Druze community. They met the visitors at a gas station en route, guiding them through the etiquette of Druze mourning rituals. This act of kindness set the tone for the visit, highlighting the depth of connection and understanding between the two communities.

After visiting the mourning hall, the former rosh mo’atza, essentially the mayor, invited the visitors to his home. Over coffee, he shared insights into the unique Druze community, which is fiercely protective of its culture and land, deeply committed to serving Israeli society, and acutely aware of its challenges and sensitivities.

A visit to the mayor or Beit Jan after paying respects to the Druze Hero Wassim Mahmoud

A few key points and anecdotes stood out during the visit:

  1. Educational Excellence: Beit Jan boasts higher bagrut (high school exam) pass rates than any other region in the country, showcasing the community’s dedication to education.
  2. Demographic Challenges: The Druze community has the lowest birthrate in Israel, a striking 1.1, leading to concerns about the future population.
  3. Legacy of Sacrifice: Wassim was the 65th child from this small town of 13,000 to fall in the line of duty. His great-grandfather was the first to sacrifice his life for the country in 1952.
  4. Public Service Recognition: Ridan, the former rosh mo’atza, discussed his initiative to have firefighters who lose their lives in service formally recognized by the state, emphasizing the value of all forms of public service.
  5. Generational Perspectives: Fadi, a mutual friend and guide, shared his experiences of serving seven years in the army and his ongoing commitment to miluim. Despite living in Tel Aviv, he plans to return to Beit Jan. Ridan’s children, despite their professional achievements, remain unmarried, reflecting a generational shift in attitudes towards settling down.

The visit left the JLIC community with mixed emotions. They felt a deep sense of optimism and admiration for Wassim and the Druze community’s impressive qualities. However, this was tempered by sadness over Wassim’s untimely death and the realization that such visits from outsiders were seen as noteworthy events, indicating a lack of routine interaction and integration.

The visitors were struck by the pride and commitment of the Druze community to Israeli society, coupled with a lingering sense of hurt and marginalization, especially following the 2018 Nation State Law. Ridan’s poignant remark encapsulated this sentiment: “Every Jew in Israel needs to go to the Kotel and place a note there asking forgiveness for the Nation State bill.”

In the spirit of fostering deeper understanding and appreciation, the Tel Aviv JLIC community made a heartfelt commitment. They proposed hosting a special Shabbat next Parshat Yitro, inviting friends from Beit Jan, Yanukh Jat, and Tel Aviv to join them. This event aims to strengthen bonds not in the context of mourning but around a shared Shabbat table, celebrating the contributions and uniqueness of the Druze community. It is a hopeful step towards a future where diverse communities are valued and integrated, not just in times of sorrow but in everyday life.


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