July 13, 2024
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July 13, 2024
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As the sun was starting to set Friday, February 2, the students of Midreshet Lindenbaum scrambled to put the finishing touches on the Yizkor table. The families of four fallen Druze IDF soldiers—Jamal Abbas, Mahmoud El-Din, Alim Abdallah and Kamil Shanan—were minutes away from arriving for a special evening to honor their loved ones and celebrate the ties between the Druze and Jewish communities.

That evening we had the privilege of partnering with Yakir, an organization that aims to forge connections between the Druze and Jewish communities. Working closely with its executive director, Rav Yaakov Kermaier, we welcomed 60 members of the Druze villages in the Galil, alongside the Arnona Jewish community, for a Kabbalat Shabbat service in honor of Shabbat Yitro. Significantly, this parsha highlights the unique bond between Yitro and Moshe, the greatest prophets of the Druze and the Jews, respectively. Before Maariv, we had the powerful experience of hearing directly from each soldier’s family members. Two of the soldiers were in their early 20s, while the other two left behind their wives and children after serving for many years. Each family member emphasized their loved ones’ strong sense of duty in serving in the IDF and their allegiance to the State of Israel.

When the families finished their tributes, we sang a beautiful rendition of the Misheberach for Chayalei Tzahal with the Lindenbaum choir. It was a meaningful experience to sing together with the entire congregation, facing the families of the fallen soldiers. Their pain and pride were tangible. When we sang “Acheinu,” Beit Yisrael arm-in-arm with Beit Yitro, the cries of the kehillah sent waves through the beit midrash. We will never forget hearing the hopeful prayer in our collective song.

After tefillot, we had the privilege of hearing from former Knesset member Shakib Shanan, father of Kamil Shanan, a Druze IDF soldier who was killed while serving on the Temple Mount six years ago. Shanan spoke about his son’s sense of loyalty to Israel and the Jewish people. He emphasized that the best place in the world for Jews is Israel and the best place in the world for Druze is Israel. This message hit us deeply as we thought about his people, a minority making up only 1.6% of the Israeli population, yet still they retained an incredible sense of honor and commitment to the State we both call home.

Even after hearing Shanan speak to us personally, we were not ready to finish our conversation. Rav Kermaier opened his home to Druze guests, including the soldier’s family members, and invited anyone studying at Midreshet Lindenbaum. Many of us took the opportunity to visit and speak with them one-on-one and hear their personal stories. With each conversation, we gained a greater sense of understanding of the Druze mission and commitment to our shared country.

During one conversation, the mother of one of the fallen soldiers told us about the complicated relationship she had with Jerusalem. The city always held a special holiness for her, but after her son’s death, it also served as a harsh reminder of her painful loss. She came this Shabbat because, as she explained, it comforted her to join her people from many Druze communities and her other people, the Jewish people. She made it clear that she loved Jews the same as Druze. We were struck by a powerful sense of unity, simply from calling the same place, the State of Israel, home.

Katriel Camp is a graduate of The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is currently studying in Jerusalem at Midreshet Lindenbaum before attending the University of Maryland in the fall.


Rebecca Kermaier went to The Frisch School for high school and will attend MIT for college after her gap year at Midreshet Lindenbaum.

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