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December 26, 2014 12:54 pm

Remembering a Druze Hero of Israel, Witnessing His Family’s Pride

avatar by Yaakov Kermaier

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Zidan Saif. Photo: Provided photo.

A few weeks ago on Shabbat, I told the story of Zidan Saif z’l, a great hero of Israel.

On Nov. 18th, Zidan, a Druze traffic police officer – who wasn’t wearing a bullet-proof vest or other protective armor –  charged the Jerusalem synagogue where terrorists were slaughtering worshipers with guns and meat cleavers. Zidan was not called to the scene. He heard of the incident over his police radio, voluntarily rushed to the house of worship, and engaged the terrorists in a gun-battle that drew them away from their butchery. He saved many Jewish lives, and he ultimately paid with his own – when one of the terrorists shot Zidan in the head.

I was in Israel during the Saif Family “shiva” – the Druze also observe seven days of mourning for a departed loved one  – and on the final night, I drove though a torrential downpour (great for Israel, treacherous for driving) to the far-north village of Yanuch-Jat to offer my condolences. Probably because of the weather, I was the only non-family member present, which offered me the special honor of spending a couple of hours talking with a group of extraordinary human beings.

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When I told Zidan’s father that his son was recognized as a hero not only in Israel but even in New York, he began to cry. When I gave Zidan’s five-month old daughter the priestly blessing, Zidan’s 21-year-old widow, Rinal, began to cry as well. At the end of my visit, I was escorted into the “family room,” where the walls were adorned with the photographs of departed family members. “This one,” pointed Zidan’s father, “served in the Golani Brigades, and that one died in combat fighting for Israel…” He beamed with pride as he recounted his family’s and the Druze community’s courageous sacrifices for the Jewish State. When I left, Zidan’s father and brothers asked me to return with my family. As an incentive, they promised to slaughter a goat in honor of the occasion. I pointed out the kashut challenges, so he offered to prepare the animal according to my specifications, and we settled on bringing our families together at a kosher restaurant.

When I spoke at my Synagogue about this inspiring encounter, I encouraged attendees to send me emails of tribute to Zidan and, if so moved, to send contributions to help Zidan’s widow and baby. Many have responded, and I have forwarded their messages to the Saifs, with whom I remain in regular contact, and they have been quite moved.

Next week, I will be traveling to Israel for the World Zionist Organization International Rabbinic Conference , and I plan to see the Saifs during my stay. If you would like me to pass on a message of tribute, please email me, and I will do so. If you would like to contribute financially, please send a check made payable to “Fifth Avenue Synagogue Trust Fund” with a note designating the contribution for “Zidan’s family.” Let me know if you plan to send in a check, so that I can give Rinal (Zidan’s widow) the money even if your check arrives after I leave for Israel.

As we recently bid farewell to Hanukkah, it is proper to remember modern-day Maccabees like Zidan z’l.

Rabbi Yaakov Y. Kermaier is the spiritual leader of New York City’s Fifth Avenue Synagogue. He can be reached at rabbi@5as.org.

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  • Harlene M Schwartz

    Zidan will live on in precious memories. He will be remembered as a hero, among nations. May it be a comfort to you to know that Jews as well as others will look up to him as a man to aspire to and that he now sits at the right hand of Hashem among the righteous.

  • NCS

    When a Druze gives his life for the country he calls his own
    we are in awe. What Americans don’t realize is that the Druze are some of the most valiant warriors on earth and most consider themselves Israelis. Israel is their country and they stand alongside Jews to protect their land. What a marvelous people. May Zidan be memorialized as the true Israeli hero he was.

  • Joy D. Brower

    It is so encouraging and blessed to learn of a community – in this case, the Druze – and one person in particular (Zidan Saif) – who are so loyal to Israel and take such pride in their unwavering support of the Jewish State. They deserve all the blessings of citizenship and serve as incredible role models for other minorities living in Israel. And this young man is mourned now not only by his family and his community, but also by Israel and Jews around the world.

    In this sad moment, we are mourning not only the loss of Zidan in Israel, but also two policeman in New York and one in Florida who have all died mercilessly at the hands of evil men – men who perpetrate horrific levels of violence and hate. May Hashem hold all of the good men in His hands and gently lead them into the Eternal Kingdom!

  • Isaac Brajtman

    I am not a spokesman for Australian Jews, but I have no doubt that we would all wish the family of this hero a long life and our gratitude for his brave deed.

  • steven L

    Every living life is unique and worth being memorialized individually and celebrated every year once terminated naturally, as the result of a crime or an accident.
    Muslim fanatics pay no attention to the uniqueness of individual life and therefore have no problem committing large scale and repeated crimes against human being. Since too many people are killed, they can’t memorialized anyone.

  • mika

    Indeed. Thank you for that.

  • Tom Tuey

    I am not a Jew but the actions of this young man
    transcend “religion” and fall in line with “no man
    has given a greater gift than to lay down his life for
    another”…. Thank you for instilling in this your
    son the spirit of sacrifice….peace to you his family
    and friends….shalom.

  • To the dear family of Zidan Sief of blessed memory. I am from Canada and I want to express my condolences on the tragic loss of your wonderful son, husband, father & brother.He was of the things that heroes are made of.I am crying for such tragedy that was brought on by inhuman humans.He saw wrong & tried to right it at the expense of his own life. His sacrifice will forever be remembered by the Israeli people and good people all over the world.Please be comforted by the face that Zidan is a hero, who has brought great honor to his family and his people.May he rest in peace. G-d bless you all.

  • Yussel

    Thank you for sharing this story. However you point out a problem I have with kashrut in that it works against bringing people together. Perhaps in this case you should have accepted the honor and eaten the goat. I am sure Hashem would understand.

  • Noellsq

    God bless his family. It really is a shame that this wonderful human being was killed by an animal

  • Thanks for what you did : visiting this family and expressing everybody admiration for the sacrifice of Zidan
    Please convey my admiration and condolences to his family

  • Fagie Benstein

    Dear family of Zidan Sief z”l. The loss of your beloved son, husband, father, brother, Zidan, Israel’s recent hero is an enormous loss to the Jewish people. Jews throughout the entire world mourn his loss with you. He was a hero in every sense of the word, as he knowingly walked into a massacre, saving others who would have ultimately murdered.

    Next week, our synagogue, Congregation Bnai Israel in Toledo, Ohio, will observe the traditional “Shloshim” (30 days remembrance service) in memory of all the victims of terror that day at Har NOf,Zidan They will be remembered with the great love,honor and respect that he along with the others deserve. May his memory, and theirs be a blessing, bring comfort to you his precious family, to Israel, to the entire Jewish people no matter where they choose to call home. Fagie and Eli Benstein, Toledo, Ohio, and the grandparents of 9 Israeli grandchildren.

  • charlie johnson

    Some men see evil in their mist and consider that as a matter of fate they were put there to observe and meditate about why evil exist among their fellow beings. The few good men confront the evil with an intent to eliminate that which he finds within his power exterminate.Those we call our heroes.

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