During the Friday funeral for Druze IDF soldier Majdi Halabi, Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz called Majdi Halabi “our brother.”
On the popular National-Religious site Serugim, a halachic question was posed to Rabbi Baruch Efrati, Rabbi of the Zayit Raanan shul in the town of Efrat, regarding the use of the term “brother” in reference to a non-Jew.
Rabbi Efrati responded that the Druze and Circassians (both are minority ethnic groups living in Israel) have chosen to share their destiny with the state of Israel. In return, Israel owes them a covenant of blood, which we do not violate it. Israel must be committed to their safety and welfare.
But the question was formulated in halachic terms, as to whether or not Jewish law permitted referring to them specifically as brothers, and according to Rabbi Efrati, the gemorah in tractate Sotah (41:) takes exception to using the word “brother” when referring to a non-Jew. The gemorah brings the case of King Agripas, who shed tears when he read the verse prohibiting making a non-Jew king of Israel. The sages then cried out to him: You are our brother, about which Rabbi Nathan said it was the cause for their annihilation, as flattery was substituted for the law.
So it would seem preferable not to use that term about the late Majdi Halabi.
Rabbi Efrati then expanded on the answer and said that since the Druze and Circassians are monotheists living in Israel and loyal to Israel, they have the halachic status of ‘Ger Toshav,’ a monotheistic resident, which might then allow the use of the “brother” reference, but again he concludes, based on an opinion of the Maharal of Prague, that the use of “Brother” would still be inappropriate.
Rabbi Efrati nevertheless concludes that Majdi Halabi died a ‘Holy Martyr,’ since he was serving in the IDF when he died and can be counted among the ‘Righteous of the Nations,’ and he is included in the “Av Harachamim” prayer in synagogue, and God will surely avenge his death.
But, while we are obligated to treat them with love, peace and friendship, the designation of “Brother” is not halachically prescribed, as he is not a Jew.