TEL AVIV, Israel — Tens of thousands of members of Israel’s Druze minority and their Jewish supporters, some chanting “equality,” packed a central Tel Aviv square Saturday night to rally against a contentious new law that critics say sidelines Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.
It marked the first time in recent memory that the Druze — followers of a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam who are considered fiercely loyal to the state — staged a large public protest. Hundreds of brightly colored Druze flags, rarely seen outside the community, fluttered in the square along Israel’s national banners. Nearby City Hall was also lit up in Druze colors.
haracter, but critics say it undercuts Israel’s democratic values and marginalizes the country’s non-Jewish minorities.
The Druze, who also live in other parts of the region including in Syria and Lebanon, have managed to survive by showing loyalty to their country of residence.
Israeli Druze leaders say their alliance with Jews dates back long before they helped them win independence in 1948. The Druze revere Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, whose tomb in northern Israel is one of their most sacred sites. Israel’s 130,000 Druze live mostly in the north of the country.
Protester Rima Basis, 25, from the predominantly Druze town of Daliyat al-Carmel, said the new law has helped entrench a feeling of inequality that had already existed to some degree.
“The bond that we’ve had until now has suffered a very serious blow,” she said. “Until now, we’ve given without any price, without anything in return, out of the belief that at the end of the day, we’re indeed brothers, people who can live together in peace.”
“If you now define me not as citizens of the state, how can I give any more or feel like I belong to this country, or stand up and sing the national anthem with pride?”