(JTA) — Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Israel’s northern Galilee for a Druze Soldiers Heritage Center.
Saban, an entertainment mogul, and his wife, Cheryl, are funding construction of the center, which is also a memorial for fallen Druze Israeli soldiers, through Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, or FIDF.
Also attending Thursday’s ceremony were Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman; Sheikh Muwaffak Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel; and former Member of Knesset Shachiv Shanan, 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.
“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 new 25,000-square-foot heritage center will tell the story of Druze contributions to the Israel Defense Force 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 gym, a heritage room, classrooms, offices, and a dining hall.
Israel’s Druze population numbers about 130,000. Most Druze serve in the IDF and security forces.