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Sunday, December 19, 2010

THE DRUZE IN ISRAEL--MY INTRODUCTION TO A NEW RELIGION AND CULTURE

All the excitement of Israel's Tel Megiddo happens before lunch, and our Margaret Morse tour has an amazing afternoon planned for us. To introduce us to a people and culture we might never meet, we visit a Druze town and the home of a member of that community. I admit that I had never even heard of this religion, and I love the introduction to new ideas and people. Once again, I am not disappointed.

Druze Village
The Druze religion has its roots in Egypt during the 10th century, and approximately 100,000 of the one million Druze reside in Israel. They reside in their own ancient towns although in some there are small numbers of Christians and Muslims among them. They have their own courts that deal with personal matters, and they have attained high status politically and economically. The religion is different from Islam, and they maintain their own communities and customs. They consider their religion a new interpretation of monotheism, and they have eliminated the rituals that they feel turn people from the pure faith. They do not allow conversion to their religion. A main aspect of their belief involves secrecy. Those who learn the secrets, “the Known,” are recognizable, if male, by their dress and big mustaches. The Known women, too, dress in a distinct manner and use particular colors. The rest of the Druze are the “Unknowns.” Once Israel became a state in 1948, the Druze chose to become part of the new country and first served as volunteers in the Army and then as part of the draft. For an interesting discussion of the Druze, please visit this site on the Jewish Virtual Library.

Our incredible journey includes a visit to a local resident. We are welcomed into the home of Foad Halabi, a local businessman. Druze home

Foad Halabi's home

We sit in the big living room—a common component of a Druze household and an indication of their hospitable society. There we are offered the strong Arab coffee and some delicious cookies by the Halabi daughters.
coffee and cookies
The coffee cups are only half-filled to indicate that more is ready should we desire. We are welcomed guests.

Druze Hospitality


Then Mr. Halabi discusses the Druze relationship with Israel and shows us his own Israeli Army photos.
Foad Halabi

As the Druze marry within their religion, culture, and community, last names are often the same, and it is hard to tell if the restaurant we go to for lunch, owned by the Halabi Bros., is owned by Mr. Halabi's real brothers, but we have a wonderful menu sampling quite a few of the Middle Eastern foods.
Halabi Bros. restaurant

Here we tourists aptly demonstrate our cluelessness. Our long table is laden with many dishes, hummus, pita bread, olives, pickles, eggplant,and dips, sauces, and other vegetables
. Arab luncheon

We're still relative strangers to each other, but we share a curiosity, and we eat everything offered. Completely satiated, we are ready to leave. We assume we have had our lunch. NOT!!!! We've merely finished the first course in a three course meal! You can bet all eight of us at the table have a good laugh. And full bellies!

Druze village

But we definitely enter our Mr. Halabi's store filled with lovely items. And yes, I buy a beautiful hand-woven Druze scarf. Just beautiful.

Foad Halabi's store
Foad Halabi's store

Despite differences, the Druze and the Jews live peacefully with each other, and both people prosper in this land because they respect each other. It all seems so simple to me. That's what is so sad.

Here's a sad fact that is also a part of this land. There is a Druze community in the Golan Heights, but they remain neutral. They have been threatened by the Arabs if they become loyal to Israel. Additionally they have real reason to fear should they ally themselves with Israel and then the Golan Heights are returned, by treaty or by force, to Israel. There will be revenge for their loyalty and their beliefs.

This experience in the Druze village is something I would never have had on my own. It was another side of Israel, exotic and wonderful. It's a wonderful introduction to a culture of which I was unaware, and I have done some further reading about them. There's so much to learn about the world....


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