Over the past month, Druze from northern Israel tried to cross over the border into Syria in order to protect their relatives in Hader, which is currently threatened by rebel groups. Three weeks later in Isfiya and Majdal Shams, the Israeli Druze fear for the safety of their fellow Druze brothers and also worry of a rift with the State of Israel: “We risk our lives for Israel, so Israel should protect us.”

Druze overlooking the fighting just over the border

Druze overlooking the fighting just over the border Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

The civil war raging throughout Syria is breaking the silence that has been maintained along Israel’s northern border for years and has caused quite a few qualms among the Israeli security establishment. But the events that occurred at the fence this past month, during which several Druze crossed over the border in order to aid their relatives in the nearby Syrian town of Hader, intensified Israel’s concerns and raised difficult questions regarding relationship between the Israel and its loyal Druze citizens. Is it right to endanger soldiers’ lives in order to protect Syrian citizens? What is the proper way to intervene in the fighting while on the other hand, demonstrating restraint?

The Syrian-Druze village of Hader is located 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away from the Israeli border and its Druze residents are loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Recently, Islamic rebel groups, such as the al-Nusra Front, have begun surrounding the village and there seemed to be a real threat to the village and its residents. The news that reached Israel caused much worry and the Druze Israeli citizens decided that they must act in order to save their relatives.

Druze Israeli citizens Salman Tawil and Amal Assad

Druze Israeli citizens Salman Tawil and Amal Assad Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

Salman Tawil, from the northern Israeli Druze village of Isfiya, explained the motives and dilemmas. “All of the Druze in the Middle East live with one large dilemma,” he made clear. “According to the religion’s principles, everyone is required to protect his brothers, no matter where they’re located – Israel, Syria or Lebanon. On the other hand, every Druze is commanded to be loyal and patriotic to the country in which he lives, according to religion.”

Salman added that many of his extended family members live in Hader and he is regularly updated about the village’s security situation. The deep connection that exists between Hader residents and Israeli Druze is raising huge concerns in Israel regarding the safety of the citizens just over the border and is also leading Israeli Druze to demand that Israel guarantees the Hader residents’ safety.

However, Israeli Druze from Majdal Shams and Isfiya believe that Israel is aiding the rebel groups, including the al-Nusra Front, and therefore, they demand the government to unequivocally declare that it will not take part in harming the citizens of Hader. According to the Israeli Druze citizens, the source of their demand lies within the fact that they serve in the IDF in particularly high percentages and just as they risk their lives for the State of Israel, Israel must also act for them.