TheHappenings Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Arab Spring and the Syrian revolution. The Safadi Center, based in Israel, advocates for Druze but supports minorities in other countries as well, including challenging the denial of ethnic cleansing of Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians in Bangladesh. Among his various activities, Safadi and his team attend conferences in Europe and visit college campuses, especially “campuses that don’t like Israel.” There, young people on his team explain how they live as a minority in Israel yet receive all the rights as the majority. Safadi said that when the non-Jewish Israeli citizens come to talk positively about Israel, it is not received like the Jewish speakers. “When I speak in Arabic, first they are shocked [that] someone is speaking in Arabic about Israel. Then they listen. On many campuses when Jewish people come to talk, it was very hard for them. But when I come as a Druze who speaks Arabic and understands their mentality, they start to ask questions.” And when Shakib Shanan comes to talk about his relationship to the county as a former Knesset member, and a bereaved father, it begins to change people’s minds. “They start to ask about how we live.
They don’t know,” said Safadi. “They have all the information of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which says [incorrectly that] we have no rights.” Regarding BDS, Safadi informs the students that “85% of people who work in factories in Judea and Samaria are Palestinian, who receive $1200 monthly from Israel. Those who work in Palestinian factories get $250. If they boycott and Israeli factories close, it hurts the Palestinians the most.” For example, Safadi explained, if the Soda Stream factory closes, 1000 people will lose their jobs. When the factory moved from center to the periphery, the government gives you tax breaks. The factory doesn’t lose, only the workers lose…which means BDS is not [truly] against Israel. They work against Israel only because they are anti-Semitic.” In honor of Yom HaZikaron, the MATI Center in Tarzana invited Shanan and Safadi to Los Angeles. Orna Eilon, co-founder, president and CFO, explained that MATI is a non-profit, established ten years ago and run by volunteers. MATI’s goal is to strengthen the relationship between Israelis and the Jewish community through cultural events, classes and various programming. One important program is “Journey to Adulthood,” designed for pre-bar and -bat mitzvah children, up to age 13, targeting Israelis who had not planned on having bar or bat mitzvahs. Throughout the year, MATI hosts many events in cooperation with schools in the Valley and the City—Temple Sinai, Valley Beth Shalom—and organizations such as Bait Is-
raeli, Shevet Harel, the Holocaust Museum, and the IAC. However, the Yom HaZikaron memorial service is the main event. “Every year we dedicate the memorial service to a different subject,” Eilon said. “This year, the theme in Israel is Unity, so MATI picked up on that theme. We wanted to honor the Druze, we wanted them to talk to us. It’s important that the Israeli and Jewish community are aware of the Druze contribution to the Israeli army. And not just in the army, the Druze are in the very elite units.” To date, 435 Druze soldiers have fallen in the line of duty. According to Eilon, even in Israel the contribution and devotion of the Druze to the country and to the Israeli Army is not fully known
or appreciated. In this vain, Shanan and Safadi were the guests of honor at the Yom HaZikaron memorial service on Sunday, May 6, held at Valley Beth Shalom in Sherman Oaks, where the space is graciously donated each year for the event. “We do it for the children,” Eilon explained. “For kids to get connected. Very few adults are on stage, just a speaker from VBS and the cantor.” In the audience are families with children ages seven and up. The Yom HaZikaron service used to get 90 attendees, it’s now up to 500, with 30% being children. MATI writes the script in Hebrew and has translations available in English. This year, they had vocal performances of Israeli songs,
with children singing. There was also a modern ballet dance, performed by two sisters, ages 12 and 14. Kids from the community come from ages six to seven and up lay wreaths in honor of the fallen soldiers. All kids are welcome to perform; MATI posts the program to digital media and welcomes everyone who wants to participate. The funds earned go back to the community, in order to create more programming for the Israeli community. Even after the tragic death of his son, Shakib Shanan believes Israel is the “best place to be Jewish and to be Druze.” He loves his country and appreciates that MATI offers such respect for the Israeli Druze killed in the line of duty.
LA Jewish Home 5-16-19