A trailblazer in Israeli society, Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh came to the Maryland Hillel to speak about her career as a journalist, politician and now emissary of the Jewish Agency.
Former Knesset member Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh came to this university’s Hillel on Tuesday evening to inform students about Druze culture in Israel and discuss her experience as the first Druze woman to serve in the Knesset.
Born in the northern town of Daliyat el-Karmel, Mreeh began her career in journalism as an Arabic news presenter for Israeli news channel Kan. She later became the first non-Jewish woman to anchor a Hebrew news program on TV.
She made the leap from journalism to public life in 2019, joining Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main opposition at the time.
Throughout the speech, Mreeh touched on the complexity of being part of Israel’s Druze minority.
“When I was in the Knesset, this is what I relied on,” she said, pointing to the 13th paragraph of Israel’s Declaration of Independence which refers to the equal rights of all Israeli citizens. “This is who we are, this is the true face of Israel.”
Mreeh wasn’t afraid to address hot-button issues. She spoke about her desire to amend Israel’s Nation-State Law to include a clause guaranteeing equality for all Israeli citizens, as well as the often neglected problem of crime in Arab society, which so far has claimed 75 lives in 2022.
Mreeh was careful to draw a line between criticism of Israel and vilification of the country as a whole. She discussed how Donald Trump alleged last year that American Jews criticize Israel too much, and don’t care about the country. She contended: “You criticize when you care. When I criticize my child, I care, when I criticize my partner or my friend, it means ‘I really care about you, please listen to me.’”
In the same breath, Mreeh remarked that over the past few years it has become trendy to criticize Israel without knowing much about the country.
“Brave, healthy communication should rely on honesty,” she said. “Be involved beyond the superficial level. Israel is not Disneyland; it’s very complicated.”
The Israeli nonprofit SparkIL coordinated with Hillel to host Mreeh’s talk. Launched in June with help from Jewish Agency funds, the organization provides loans to small businesses in Israel’s periphery, more economically downtrodden regions of the country.
Junior business management major Sara Blau organized the event in collaboration with SparkIL’s marketing director, Noah Allen.
“We thought it would be a really cool idea if we could bring someone from a community that benefits from SparkIL’s services, like a Druze person for example, to Maryland to talk about their community and bring awareness [of the nonprofit],” Blau said.
Mreeh, who grew up the Israeli periphery, emphasized the importance of the project in her concluding remarks, commending Allen and the rest of the nonprofit for their efforts to help towns like Daliyat el-Karmel.
“This is a demographic that I don’t think the typical Maryland student has heard so much about.” Blau said. “It’s pretty typical that we as Jewish Maryland students have heard about a lot of other kinds of demographics in Israel, but I think that in general, the Druze community is underrepresented.”