While Israel is gearing up for the “day after Assad,” without knowing what that day without President Bashar al-Assad will bring, Israel’s neutrality with regard to the civil and ethnic war in Syria is being challenged by an interesting turn of events. In the past few weeks, the heads and leaders of the dominant Druze sect in Israel have turned to Israeli authorities with the request to extend help to the hundreds of thousands of Druze in Syria. These Druze are very concerned about the steady advance of the Islamic rebels toward Jabal al-Druze, or Mount Druze, where the majority of Syrian Druze are concentrated.
The contacts were conducted so quietly that were not revealed until June 12 in the Israeli daily Haaretz. The Druze are characterized as being loyal citizens of the central regime of the country in which they live. The Druze, who are dispersed across Syria, Lebanon and Israel, are viewed as an especially close-knit community that maintains tight cultural and familial connections, despite the borders and even wars that play a role in separating their various population centers in the Middle East. They tend to settle and establish their villages on high, mountainous areas, to improve their self-protection and defense capabilities. In Lebanon they are concentrated around Mount Lebanon and in Syria, at Jabal al-Druze, as well. Most of the Druze villages in Israel are located in the mountainous Galilee region.