Haim Saban funds construction of Israeli center celebrating Druze soldiers


(JTA) — Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban and his wife were on hand in Israel for the groundbreaking ceremony of a Druze Soldiers Heritage Center they are funding.

The father of Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Kamil Shanan, one of the two Israeli Druze police officers killed by terrorists at the Temple Mount on July 14, also was on hand for the ceremony Thursday.

The 25,000-square-foot heritage center in the northern Galilee will tell the story of Druze contributions to the Israel Defense Forces 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.

Saban, an entertainment mogul, and his wife, Cheryl, are funding construction of the center through Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, or FIDF.

“The Druze community’s reputation is always connected to terms like ‘bravery,’ ‘sacrifice,’ and ‘sanctity of life,’” Saban said at the groundbreaking. “To this day, hundreds of Druze soldiers have given their lives protecting Israel.

“The FIDF Druze Soldiers Heritage Center is the very least we can do to show our gratitude and admiration for their sacrifices. The Druze community deserves its own place that will be a source of pride.”

The building will include a lobby, a 500-seat auditorium, a gym, a heritage room, classrooms, offices and a dining hall.

Also attending the ceremony were Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman and Sheikh Muwaffak Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel.

Israel’s Druze population numbers about 130,000. Most Druze serve in the IDF and security forces.

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