The Druze are a religious minority numbering around 130,000 in Israel. They are prominent in the IDF, and are the only non-Jewish minority that is drafted into the military. The Druze community has a higher percentage of soldiers serving in combat units than does Israel's Jewish population.
In 2013, The Fellowship established a scholarship program for needy Druze university students who have performed either IDF or National Service. In 2013, 26 students received scholarships in the sum of $2,700, which enables them to earn the higher education degree that will allow them to build a bright future in Israel. This past year the program was expanded to include 54 students. Next year the program will expand to 75 students.
The Fellowship's Druze scholarship program is named in honor of Salim Shufi, a Druze who served in an elite commando unit in the 1960's and participated in numerous operations for the security of Israel. Most notably, he helped save the lives of a unit under the command of then-officer Benjamin Netanyahu by infiltrating deep into Syrian territory and helping the force navigate back into Israel undetected.
Recently The Fellowship honored the latest scholarship recipients with a special meeting at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the group, sharing memories of serving with Shufi and then turning to Rabbi Eckstein and saying, “I want to thank you for this necessary project. Thank you for helping these young Druze students continue in the path of Salim Shufi. I think what you're doing is wonderful in and of itself and in connection with all of the Christian communities around the world.”
Rabbi Eckstein addressed the students, saying, “You students are our future. You are the crème de la crème. You are Israel's finest. I'm so proud that we're able to help with all types of projects in the Druze community, such as winter heat. It's our privilege and great honor to help, and I wish you success. We only ask in return that you be happy, be good citizens, and that when the situation arises, you should be like Salim Shufi.”