For the Holiday of the Profet Shu’ayb, the Druze holiday, meet Maj. Basil, one of the many servicemen who belong to the Druze Community, who serves in a diplomatic position in the USA as an Israeli representative. “A feeling of deep purpose escorts me in my position”
Eilon Tohar | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
Maj. Basil never felt different. Not in the village he grew up in, which prides itself in high draft rates to the IDF and in which his officer’s ranks aren’t unusual and not in the IAF in which he has always served in alongside Druze and non-Druze soldiers in complete partnership. But now, when he is overseas in duty as a communication and coordination officer for the F-15 in the U.S, he feels, for the first time, that his Druze identity is realized. “In Israel, I never heard anyone say something about the fact that I am Druze and it was always obvious that I was equal. Here, in Georgia, the locals are very affectionate towards Israel, but sometimes I need to explain about the Druze community which people here aren’t familiar with”, he explains.
A very significant project
Since July 2015, Maj. Basil from the Fighter Jet Branch in the Aircraft Department, Material Directorate, has served as a communication and coordination officer for F-15 and other platforms the USAF operates. As a part of his position, he is stationed in a USAF Base with six other foreign officers from different countries, who are, like him, representatives of their countries in the technical field and agents of international cooperation. Maj. Basil discusses USAF events on a daily basis, communicates information from the IAF, examines the way the Americans cope with certain situations and represents the IAF in conferences and different discussions that have to do with future programs and projects.
“This is a very significant project for the IAF which enables mutual fertilization and promotion of mutual projects and on the personal level, I have the privilege of seeing how the USAF works and of being exposed to a different culture and different work methods. I am learning a lot”, Maj. Basil enthusiastically shares about his work, but doesn’t spare us the difficulties. “Every time that there is a terror attack, I feel very connected to what is going on in Israel and only then, the difficulty is noticeable”.
Photography: Guy Ashash
“The opportunity to explain about Israel – a certificate of honor”
After high school Basil studied aeronautics in the Israeli Institute of Technology as a part of the Academic program which enables high school graduates to defer the draft and instead allows them to attend university prior to their military service. He began his military service in the IAF Aerial Maintenance Unit in Tel-Nof AFB, a significant experience for him as a young engineer. Basil is married and has two children with whom he lives in the U.S as a part of his position. “The feeling of significance fills me, when I have the opportunity to provide crucial information to the IAF”, he said. “In addition to everything, the thing I love most about my position is the platform. For me, it is a certificate of appreciation and respect. Above everything I said, it is a representative role and I have the opportunity to be an advocate for Israel”.
Reading the Scroll of Esther in English
Today there are hundreds of Druze soldiers, officers and NCOs in mandatory service and many reserve Druze servicemen. Every year, hundreds of teenagers from the Druze community draft in the IDF and about 10% join the IAF and serve in various positions, on the ground – and in the air. “In the beginning, I felt like the only thing I needed in order to progress was to prove myself”, clarifies Maj. Basil. “My community wasn’t an issue or topic, besides mutual banter between friends. I have taken part in the lighting of Menorahs and traditional Jewish ceremonies, and I can testify that my children know the blessing better than I do, and I also share about our community”.
He jokingly tells me about the advantage he enjoys as an Israeli Druze in a U.S Air Force Base: he enjoys the Christian Holiday vacations that are customary in the U.S, the Jewish Holiday Vacations as a representative of the IAF and the Druze Holidays. But behind the humor stands a real sense of connection. The same night, after I finished interviewing Maj. Basil on the phone, he took time to read the Scroll of Esther in a local American Synagogue. “I have met people here that were surprised when I introduced myself. How could a non-Jew, with Arabic as a mother tongue, wear an Israeli Uniform and serve as an official representative? When we meet in conferences, we might not speak about politics, but I do talk about life in Israel”.
Photography: Guy Ashash