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Fallen Israeli Druze Soldiers Honored by Tree-Planting in Their Memory

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Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), responsible for Israel’s forests, held a tree planting ceremony in memory of Druze soldiers who have given their lives in the current Iron Swords War.

"The Druze community's journey of mourning since the beginning of the war is a journey of mourning for the entire nation,” Shaykh Mowafaq Tarif, the Spiritual Leader of the Druze Community in Israel said at the ceremony.

Yet, thanks to this journey, we can maintain normalcy in the country. KKL-JNF's initiative is a touching and significant gesture – planting trees in memory of the fallen here in the Galilee, where the roots of the Druze community have been planted for nearly a thousand years,” Shaykh Tarif added.

There are about 143,000 Druze citizens living in northern Israel, including the Golan Heights. The men are all required to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), at about age 18, like Israeli Jewish men.  

Nine Druze soldiers are among the more than 670 Israeli soldiers that have fallen in battle since the October 7th war, dubbed Iron Swords, began.

“The Druze community has walked hand in hand with KKL-JNF for years. Our relationship is deeply rooted and important, covering a range of fields and topics,” said KKL-JNF Chairwoman, Ifat Ovadia-Luski.

“I sincerely hope that today's tree-planting commemoration provides the bereaved families a place of solace, a piece of land that will grow and flourish. I believe that today's ceremony and our ongoing activities with the Druze community will continue to deepen our important connection,” Ovadia-Luski said.

During the ceremony, the families planted olive trees in the KKL-JNF Ahihud Forest in northern Israel to honor their loved ones who fell while defending the country.

“Our sons sacrificed themselves for the security of the state. For us Druze, this is our country too, and it is our duty to protect and defend it,” said Imad Habka father of Lieutenant Colonel Salman Habka from Yanuh-Jat village. Salman Habka was commander of the 53rd battalion in the Barak Brigade and fell in battle in the northern Gaza Strip.

“We sacrificed our dearest loved ones, who left behind grieving families, parents, wives, and children. They deserve to be commemorated and remembered at every opportunity. KKL-JNF's dedication to their memory is deeply moving, and this way, everyone has a place to honor our sons,” said Imad.

“The planted trees will stand as living testimony to the bravery of the fallen and symbolize the partnership between Druze and Jews. KKL-JNF, as a national institution of the Jewish people, believes in and desires a partnership with the Druze community,” said Shaykh Tarif.

“The country is no longer the same as it was before but remains in the covenant between the Jewish people and the Druze community, a covenant created by exceptional individuals whom we remember today and will always remember,” Shaykh Tarif added.

“I hope that this beautiful site will mark a new path in the relations between the community and the Jewish people, thanks to the fallen we commemorate and the shared belief that together we will strive for a better future,” he said.

According to KKL-JNF, this planting underscores the preservation of their memory alongside KKL-JNF's “values of growth and renewal.”

Earlier in the war, KKL-JNF held a tree planting event in memory of those murdered at the site of the Nova Music Festival. Relatives planted more than 300 trees there in honor of their loved ones who died on October 7th.

Over the years, KKL-JNF has created various projects to strengthen ties with the Druze community.  One of them is called the "Paths of Sons", which spans about 250 km (155 miles), connecting Druze villages on Mt. Carmel and in the Galilee, featuring 18 initial landmark stones.

Each year, tens of thousands of participants join a race that follows the “Paths of Sons.”

Another project, “Covenant of Brothers, Covenant of Life”, which began in 2016, marks “the special bond between the Druze community and the State of Israel” and takes place in the Ahihud Forest.  Hundreds of youth march here each year to express “central values of brotherhood, cooperation, and hope for a shared future,” KKL-JNF says.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and