Magda Monsour’s Visit to Rutgers Hillel
By Danielle Dossantos, Class of 2015, Roselle Park, NJ
On November 27th, I had the privilege of attending a lunchtime event hosted by The Center for Israel Engagement at Rutgers Hillel. An Israeli Druze woman, Magda Mansour, was invited to speak about her perspective on living in Israel as a minority. I was completely blown away by hearing her story here at Rutgers and it has motivated me to write about the experience. Ms. Mansour gave a speech of utmost sincerity and through her I have learned about the Israeli Druze people and their perspective on Israel as a nation.
The Druze people are Arab-speaking citizens with a distinct ethnic religious community in Israel. Their community is closely knit and their religion involves a strong belief in reincarnation. The Druze make up less than 2% of Israel’s total population.
Magda Mansour has received her masters from Haifa University, and she is the first Druze woman to do so. Although a minority, Ms. Mansour is offered the same and equal rights as the remaining citizens of Israel. The Druze people are given freedom of speech, religion, education, and the right to vote. They receive equal education and access to Israeli schools. There are currently two Druze members of Israel’s parliament. As Ms. Mansour explained, “The Israeli legal system is designed to assure equality between the different social and religious groups.”
What I found even more remarkable is that the Druze serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Ms. Mansour’s son is joining The Golani Brigade, the most rigorous and prestigious units in the IDF. In my eyes, the sacrifice of one’s life by joining the military is the greatest demonstration of loyalty and alliance to a nation.
By their freedoms and economic stability, Israeli Druze are much better off than the Druze communities present today in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
An audience member asked Ms. Mansour if she felt any discrimination as a Druze woman from any Arab, Christian, or Jewish colleagues at Haifa University. She shook her head and smiled, disclosing that she had never felt any degree of discrimination from her peers. She explained that it is understood by all that those who pass the standardized test to enter Haifa University are equals, despite any religious or cultural differences.
Magda Mansour is a representation of a minority within Israel who takes advantage of the opportunities given to her and prides in the standard of living of her family and her people. This amazed me to no end. In any context, how often do we hear minorities expressing gratitude for their living conditions and supporting the government and nation in which they live?
Ms. Mansour ended with a thought that left the room speechless. She explained that clearly today the government of Israel treats all of its citizens (both the majorities and minorities of Jewish, Christian, Arab, and Druze) much better than the governments of surrounding nations treat their own people. “This statement is so strong,” she ended, “enough to help the people [who oppose the state of Israel] start thinking about things differently.”
Help students like Danielle learn more about life in Israel. Through the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement, students are exposed to positive messages about Israel and develop a strong Jewish connection to the homeland. Please support programs like this at Rutgers Hillel as we change the conversation about Israel on campus.