Ceremony for the Awarding of Scholarships for Druze and Circassian Students

I am pleased to be here with you to celebrate the awarding of 435 scholarships for Druze and Circassian students. You mentioned a higher number, so it is possible that it increased since I was updated regarding the number of scholarships earlier in the afternoon. I would like to thank the University of Haifa for your hospitality and for this gesture towards improving education and cooperation. The awarding of the scholarships is an expression of the welcome change that has occurred in recent years in the education system of the non-Jewish sector. This improvement is embodied in the rising number of high school graduates and students in higher education institutes in Israel. In the Druze sector, for instance, the rate of high school graduates rose from 28% to 39% in the past 5 years, and in the past 6 years, the percentage of Druze students has tripled. This is a positive change which we should welcome – but it is not enough. I am confident that these numbers will continue to rise and strengthen the State of Israel and the Druze community. There are still disturbing gaps between the Jewish sector and the Druze and Circassian sectors, and every effort must be made to minimize them. I am pleased that an agreement has already been reached regarding the problems of the Druze and Circassian local authorities. Education is the best and most efficient way to close the gaps in society. Every boy and girl in Israel can have an academic education, if they only want it. Education is the best way to solve the problem of social gaps. There are no gaps in the quality of our children – the gaps are in the tools at their disposal and the environmental conditions in which they operate, which must be improved in order to make them as equal and advancing as possible. I am pleased at every Druze and Circassian student, but I am even more pleased about the female students. Every Druze or Circassisn woman who goes to university contributes to enhancing the status of women in the Druze and Circassian sectors. They encourage other women to follow in their footsteps, study and fulfil their personal potential – for their own benefit and for the benefit of the entire community. For some reason, I did not hear them receive enough applause from the men here. And here I really was addressing the female students. Israeli society is open to you today in all spheres, as it has never been before. I am pleased that in my years as Prime Minister, the gifted among the Druze community received the promotion they deserved. This is how there is, for the first time, a Druze Director-General of a Government ministry, a Druze Major General in the IDF and a Druze commander in the Israel Police. And to this we can add the judges, engineers, physicians, lawyers, and other professions. We can also add the first Druze pilot, and additional senior commanders in the IDF and in the Israel Police. The Jewish residents of the State of Israel owe a great debt of gratitude to your two denominations. You tied your fate with ours during our most difficult period. Throughout all these years, we have seen ourselves as brothers in arm, but we are also brothers in dreams and hopes: hopes of a better future, a future of peace and security for this country, which belongs to all of us. Education is the debt which this generation owes to future generations. The state institutes share a large portion of this debt – but so does each and every one of you. Education and the selection of a suitable profession, a profession required in a modern society, can greatly assist in the advancement and successful integration of young Druze and Circassians in Israeli society. I call upon more and more young Druze and Circassians to fulfil the high personal potential which has always characterized them – a potential which is repeatedly revealed in the military service – to acquire education and thus promote themselves and contribute to promoting the entire community. We, on our part, will do everything in our power as a state to help you in this effort, for your benefit and for the benefit of the entire Israeli society. Thank you. ARIEL SARON IL PM