Jerusalem (Jul. 21)
Ten years ago the Zionist Council was formed to promote Zionist activities within Israel. Now, close to its 10th anniversary, the organization, which is an umbrella group for various Zionist bodies in Israel, is also promoting Zionist activities among the Israeli Druze.
The Council is actively involved in supporting those Druze — both in Israel itself and on the Golan Heights — who wish to acquire Israeli citizenship and combat Communist influence in the Druze villages in Israel. Some 40,000 Druze in Israel are full citizens. Several thousand Druze on the Golan Heights are Syrian citizens but who under recent legislation can acquire Israeli citizenship if they so wish.
This has been an issue of controversy among the Golan Druze. Five local leaders sympathizing with the Syrians, who campaigned against acquiring Israeli citizenship, were arrested two months ago under an administrative detention order for their “subversive actions.” Communist influence in the Druze villages in Israel is less effective than in the Golan villages but it is growing stronger. The Zionist Council began working with the Druze through Druze “Zionist clubs” in the villages of Osfiya and Daliat el-Carmel.
Thus, in its effort to work not only with Jews but with anyone who considers himself a Zionist, the Council recently promoted a rally in Daliat el-Carmel during which the representatives of the Golan Druze demanded that the entire Druze community in Israel support their demand for Israeli citizenship. They did not speak of annexing the Golan but urged that Israel declare that it would not desert the Golan.
As a result, the Zionist Council now plans to form a Druze Zionist club on the Golan, in addition to those already in existence in Osfiya and Daliat el-Carmel. Members of those clubs represent the elite in Israel’s Druze community, including reserve army officers. Members of the Druze community, unlike the Arabs in Israel, serve in Israel’s Defense Force.
PROMOTING KNOWLEDGE OF DIVERSE CULTURES
The Zionist Council has also invested considerable efforts in another sensitive area of Israel public life: the advancement of Jews from Arab lands and North Africa now living in Israel. Last year the Council held 11 seminars to disseminate information about the culture and heritage of those Jewish communities. It cooperated with the “Beyahad” group which organizes the Mimouna festivities of the Moroccan Jews and sent leaders of the various communities to address students in an effort to close the gap in their knowledge about these communities.
“We wanted to stress the beauty and richness of the Zionist heritage of each community,” Arye Zimuki, chairman of the Council, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. One of the projects organized by the Council was the anniversary of the rescue operation of North African Jewry. “That illegal aliya was no less impressive than the European illegal aliya in the forties,” Zimuki said.
The Zionist Council will commemorate its 10th anniversary at the end of this year. Its main event will be a session of “reckoning” in which the lessons of the past will be studied and plans for the future will be worked out.
The event will undoubtedly be a milestone in the career of Zumuki, who has worked on the project simultaneously with being the political correspondent of Yediot Achronot. Zimuki, a volunteer, says he spends six hours a day for the Council. “I regard the work as a national mission,” he said. “The vast majority of the Israeli society regards itself as a partner of the Jewish people. One must merely encourage them and enlist them in the cause.”
Other activities of the Zionist Council include support for the new outposts in the Galilee, information activities in high schools, action against yerida, assistance to new olim, promotion of the Hebrew language, and strengthening Zionist activities on the municipal level.