Bedouin Tribe That Has Lost 18 Family Members Serving in Israeli Security Forces Given AJC Moral Courage Award

TEL AVIV—June 14, 2023–A Bedouin tribe that has been steadfast in its support for Israel and its security despite having 18 family members killed in the line of duty, was honored today by American Jewish Committee (AJC) with its Moral Courage Award.

Several members of the Sawaed family have served in the Israeli security services. Two family members, Trad and Mustafa Sawaed, told AJC Global Forum in Tel Aviv the Muslim family serves for a simple reason: They are Israeli and have the same rights and responsibilities as their Jewish counterparts.

“Here we were born, here we live together, in the State of Israel, and we are equal citizens, and equality is expressed in everything,” Trad Sawaed said after a two-minute standing ovation during the final plenary session at AJC Global Forum. “It is our duty to help protect the security of Israel, the security of all of our homes.”

Trad’s brother, Omar, was kidnapped in October 2000 along with two other Jewish soldiers by the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which refused to release any information about the kidnapped soldiers. After a long campaign led by the families of the three soldiers as well as a lengthy negotiation process led by a third party, Israel agreed in 2004 to release 36 terrorists and the bodies of 400 terrorists, in return for the bodies of the murdered soldiers and an Israeli who was kidnapped in Lebanon and returned alive.

The Sawaed tribe numbers in the thousands, living in the Galilee in northern Israel. The family has unhesitatingly served in security services, despite the losses they have experienced.

“There is nothing more painful than losing a son, brother, father, cousin, or friend,” Trad Sawaed said in Hebrew. “The pain is endless. It is difficult to describe the grieving process in words, but the hug we receive from our Jewish brothers, our partners, our comrades in arms, is enormous. For them, we are part of their flesh. For us, the feeling is the same.”

Among the relatives the family had to bury recently was Asil Sawaed, a Border Police officer, stabbed to death in February by a 13-year-old Palestinian assailant at a Jerusalem checkpoint. He was 22.

Mustafa Sawaed, Asil’s brother, said the pain of Asil’s murder was tempered somewhat by the outpouring of support from all walks of Israeli life.

“Thousands of people came to Asil’s funeral, Bedouins, Jews, policemen, soldiers, civilians,” Mustafa said. “The commissioner of police also came. Everyone carried the same message—Asil is one of us. Our partnership is stronger than anything and every day gives us strength to continue.”

Craig Unterberg, a member of the AJC Board of Governors, who introduced the Sawaeds at Global Forum, said that while words cannot make up for the family’s loss, “you have the gratitude of all those who love this great country.”

Mustafa said the feeling was mutual. 

“It is not taken for granted that a Jewish organization chooses to award recognition and appreciation specifically to a Muslim Arab family,” he said. “It moves me and also the rest of the family members sitting here with us today to know that you see us as part of you.”

AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. With headquarters in New York City, 25 offices across the United States, and 14 overseas posts, as well as partnerships with 38 Jewish community organizations worldwide, AJC's mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.



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