Gadeer Kamal Mreeh, the first Druze emissary of the Jewish Agency for Israel, wants you to know that Israel is diverse – and that’s beautiful.
Mreeh spoke at Congregation Sinai on March 21 about her personal experiences being a Druze in Israel and how strength in Israel comes from its rich diversity.
The visit was arranged by the Israel Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation. The Druze community in Israel is a distinct religious group with an Arab culture, though they serve in the Israel Defense Forces and the Border Police. They comprise about 2 percent of the country’s population and live mostly in the northern regions of Israel.
“We are the loyalist minority in Israel,” Mreeh said. “Unlike other minorities in Israel, the Druzes do not have any territorial or any national aspirations.”
Mreeh started her career in public life as a journalist for the evening news. After learning the ins and outs of Israel through her career in journalism, Mreeh decided to get involved in politics, becoming the first Druze woman to be a member of the Knesset.
She was offered the opportunity to become a minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, but she refused as she disagreed with the decision not to include an amendment to the Nation-State Law, a basic law that was created in 2018 to label Israel the historic homeland of the Jewish people. However, since they did not support an amendment that ensured civil equality, she decided to join the opposition party.
“It was so hard for me to find myself explaining to the Jewish religious members of parliament how Israel can be also a democratic state, a democracy, and how it could be still a Jewish state,” Mreeh said. “I call it the healthy tension, that in a good balance we can succeed to keep both.”
Now, Mreeh is the first Druze emissary of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a government-linked body that receives support from the Jewish Federations of North America. She is passionate about educating others about complexity and diversity in Israel.
“Although our domestic challenges, and Israel is a very complicated place, we are still a vibrant democracy. We are still the villa of the jungle. We are still the island of stability in this crazy region, in this crazy neighborhood called the Middle East,” Mreeh said.
She pointed specifically to Israel’s strong economy, start-up innovations, military superiority and democratic political changes to what makes Israel a powerful and unique democracy.
“This is the strength of Israel. The fact that we had a prime minister in jail. The fact that we had a president in jail. It proves that for us, nobody’s above the law. No corrupt regimes. We check ourselves all the time,” Mreeh said.
Mreeh said she believes educating people around the world about the diversity of the citizens of Israel is the most important part of her job. She feels that many people, even in Israel, mistakenly view the non-Jewish sector as a homogeneous group. She often has to correct officials from referring to the citizens of Israel as either “Jewish” or “non-Jewish.”
“I have a name. I am not non-something. Imagine Biden was giving a speech and said ‘Christians and non-Christians.’ You cannot identify or describe me by saying non-something,” Mreech said. “I am something.”
The interreligious relations of Jews, Druzes, Muslims, Christians and more is what makes Israel beautiful to Mreeh.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you live. At the end of the day, you care. It’s beyond ‘I love my country,’ it’s beyond ‘I cherish and I care,’ it’s beyond. It’s making the commitment, the dedication of how each one of us and his role can change [Israel].”