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Haim Saban, wife fund Druze Soldiers Heritage Center in northern Israel

The new building will serve as a rest and recreation center for active-duty and discharged soldiers as well as a memorial for fallen Druze security personnel

Cheryl Saban (left), Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman (center) and former Member of Knesset Shachiv Shanan (center, right) watch as Friends of the Israel Defense Forces National Board Member Haim Saban (center, left) breaks ground at the site of the new FIDF Druze Soldiers Heritage Center, July 2017 (Scally photography).
Cheryl Saban (left), Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman (center) and former Member of Knesset Shachiv Shanan (center, right) watch as Friends of the Israel Defense Forces National Board Member Haim Saban (center, left) breaks ground at the site of the new FIDF Druze Soldiers Heritage Center, July 2017 (Scally photography).

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 in the town of Kisra-Sumei, 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 Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman; 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.”

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)
Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

The new 25,000-square-foot heritage center will tell the story of Druze contributions to the IDF and the State of Israel, and serve as both a rest and recreation center for active-duty and discharged soldiers as well as a memorial for fallen Druze security personnel.

Haim Saban attending the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, in Sun Valley, Idaho, July 7, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)
Haim Saban. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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