Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) helped sponsor Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers today so they could participate in a walk, run, and bike race memorializing IDF’s fallen Druze soldiers.
The event took place in the Lavi Forest in the Lower Galilee, in northern Israel, near Nabi Shu'ayb (the most sacred site to Druze). Kicking off the race was IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, together with FIDF Executive Director in Israel Brig. Gen. (Res.) Effi Idan.
Over 15,000 runners and cyclists, families of fallen heroes, and active-duty IDF soldiers participated in the race, hosted by the organization B’Shvil HaBanim HaDruzim, with the collaboration of FIDF. The route featured 10-kilometer and 5-kilometer run portions, a 4-kilometer public walk portion, and a 25-kilometer bike ride.
This year’s race was the seventh annual event to commemorate Israel’s 428 Druze soldiers who have lost their lives fighting in Israel’s wars and military operations. The race wound through 18 Druze villages. This year, more than 8,000 soldiers from different IDF units participated in the race -- the highest number of soldiers participating ever in a civilian race in Israel.
“On this special festive day, FIDF salutes all IDF soldiers, and especially our brothers, the IDF Druze soldiers,” said Idan. “We are proud to support this remarkable endeavor that symbolizes the deep bond we have with those serving in Israel’s military.”
The Druze religious community is spread mainly across Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Israel’s Druze population numbers about 130,000. Most Druze proudly serve in the IDF and security forces.
As part of its many programs and facilities benefitting all IDF soldiers, FIDF has recently contributed to a new memorial center for fallen Israeli Druze soldiers - the FIDF Druze Soldiers Heritage Center. Major FIDF supporter Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl, who are funding the construction of the center, attended the groundbreaking ceremony in the northern Galilee. The 25,000-square-foot heritage center will tell the story of Druze contributions to the IDF and the state of Israel, and serve as both a rest and recreation resource for active-duty and discharged soldiers as well as a memorial for fallen Druze soldiers. The building will include a lobby, a 500-seat auditorium, a gymnasium, a heritage room, classrooms, offices, and a dining hall.