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July 14, 2017 4:01 pm

Temple Mount Terrorist Attack Highlights Deep Bonds Between Jewish and Druze Communities, Says Israeli Rabbi

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Israeli paramedics tend to the wounded after the terrorist attack on the Temple Mount on Friday. Photo: Israel Police screenshot.

A leading Israeli rabbi who works closely with Druze religious leaders spoke on Friday of the deep bonds between the Jewish and Druze communities, hours after two Druze border police officers were shot dead during a terrorist attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, the president of Yakir — an Israeli community development organization focused on Druze-Jewish relations — told The Algemeiner that he had spoken with Druze leaders after the attack to tell them that “Jews around the world share their grief and pain today.” The two officers — 30-year-old Haiel Sitawe and 22-year-old Kamil Shnaan — were buried in their home towns in northern Israel on Friday afternoon. Sitawe was the father of a three-week-old son, while Shnaan had planned to celebrate his engagement to his girlfriend at a family party next week.

Kermaier — an American who moved to Israel in 2015 after serving as rabbi of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue Synagogue — explained that among Druze, such tragedies are viewed as “goral,” the Hebrew word for “destiny.”

“It’s very painful, but they are also very proud that their young people make the same sacrifices as the young Jewish women and men who defend Israel,” Kermaier said.

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Among those who spoke with Kermaier after the attack was Rinal Seif, the widow of the Druze police officer Zidan Seif — who died of his wounds after defending worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue during a terrorist assault in November 2014.

“Rinal knows the families of the officers who were killed today, and it brought back all her memories of the trauma she went through,” Kermaier said. “There was another similarity, too, because Haiel Sitawe was the father of a three-week-old baby, and when Zidan was murdered, he and Rinal had just had their first child three months before. Neither of those children will get to know their fathers now.”

Kermaier expressed hope that Friday’s atrocity would encourage more Jews inside and outside Israel to learn more about the Druze.

“It’s very important for the Jewish community to understand that we have in the Druze community partners who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in defending Israel,” he said. “This has been unique in the history of our people — we have never had a situation where an entire community has been willing to die for us.”

“We should fully appreciate it and not take it for granted,” Kermaier continued.

Kermaier himself is no stranger to terrorism. Shortly after his family arrived in Israel, his teenage son narrowly escaped death in a gun attack on a bus in the West Bank.

Israeli politicians and security officials paid warm tribute to the Druze community in a flurry of statements after the attack on Friday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised “our Druze brothers,” and Israel Police chief Roni Alsheikh, who addressed mourners at Sitawe’s funeral, pledged to the bereaved families, “We embrace you and promise you that you will never walk alone.”



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