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Druze apple exporters in Golan Heights of Israel

The Druze are a tight-knit Arab minority who mostly live in southern Syria, Israel, including the Golan Heights, and the mountains of central Lebanon. They have no homeland or language but are united by their mysterious religion, which is regarded as an offshoot of Islam. Most Druze speak Arabic and are farmers in mountain villages. They have been able to keep their unique culture for almost one thousand years through a combination of stubbornly holding on to their customs and adapting and standing up to and isolating themselves from non-Druze around them enough to survive.

Druze do not accept converts and has been closed to outsiders since 1044, so that all of today’s population descended directly from its 11th-century followers and adherents. Jonathan Finer wrote in the Washington Post: “The highly secretive sect, which broke from Islam centuries ago, draws on a variety of traditions for its liturgy, including a belief in reincarnation and a six-volume Book of Wisdom. As a people with strong ties to land they have farmed for generations, the Druze say they take it as an article of faith, as well as a mechanism of survival, to support the country where that land happens to be. But in Israel, whose borders have been revised and reshaped by armed conflict throughout its history, their sense of identity can be even more complicated.” [Source: Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, July 25, 2006]

The Druze call themselves “muwahidun” (“declarers of oneness”). Some Druze are tall and have blonde hair and blue eyes. "The Druze are very ancient nomads," a Druze man told National Geographic, "According to a legend, our blond hair and blue eyes came from intermarriage with the soldiers of Alexander the Great."

Websites and Resources: Islam Islam.com islam.com ; Islamic City islamicity.com ; Islam 101 islam101.net ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/islam ; BBC article bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam ; Patheos Library – Islam patheos.com/Library/Islam ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts web.archive.org ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam britannica.com ; Islam at Project Gutenberg gutenberg.org ; Islam from UCB Libraries GovPubs web.archive.org ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary pbs.org frontline ; Discover Islam dislam.org ;

Islamic History: Islamic History Resources uga.edu/islam/history ; Internet Islamic History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall/islam/islamsbook ; Islamic History friesian.com/islam ; Islamic Civilization cyberistan.org ; Muslim Heritage muslimheritage.com ; Brief history of Islam barkati.net ; Chronological history of Islam barkati.net;

Shias, Sufis and Muslim Sects and Schools Divisions in Islam archive.org ; Four Sunni Schools of Thought masud.co.uk ; Wikipedia article on Shia Islam Wikipedia Shafaqna: International Shia News Agency shafaqna.com ; Roshd.org, a Shia Website roshd.org/eng ; The Shiapedia, an online Shia encyclopedia web.archive.org ; shiasource.com ; Imam Al-Khoei Foundation (Twelver) al-khoei.org ; Official Website of Nizari Ismaili (Ismaili) the.ismaili ; Official Website of Alavi Bohra (Ismaili) alavibohra.org ; The Institute of Ismaili Studies (Ismaili) web.archive.org ; Wikipedia article on Sufism Wikipedia ; Sufism in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World oxfordislamicstudies.com ; Sufism, Sufis, and Sufi Orders – Sufism's Many Paths islam.uga.edu/Sufism ; Afterhours Sufism Stories inspirationalstories.com/sufism ; Risala Roohi Sharif, translations (English and Urdu) of "The Book of Soul", by Hazrat Sultan Bahu, a 17th century Sufi risala-roohi.tripod.com ; The Spiritual Life in Islam:Sufism thewaytotruth.org/sufism ; Sufism - an Inquiry sufismjournal.org

Druze Population

There are about 1.5 million Druze worldwide, with the vast majority are in Arab countries such as Syria and Lebanon, where some have achieved high political office. But more than 100,000 live in Israel. The most living in Lebanon, where they make up 5 percent of the population, and Syria, where they make up 3 percent. Some of their areas were closed to outsiders.

Druze areas in Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Jordan

At their peak there were perhaps 600,000 Druze in Syria and 200,000 in Lebanon. But an exodus of people fleeing wars in those countries has generated a small but growing diaspora. In the late 1980s there were 318,000 in Syria, 182,000 in Lebanon, and 72,000 in Israel and another 10,000 to 15,000 in Golan Heights. There are small communities in Jordan, North America and Latin America, with 50,000 in the U.S., with the largest concentration in Southern California, and 60,000 in Venezuela.

Including the Druze population of the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel in December 1981, there were about 72,000 Druzes in Israel in 1988. This number represented a large increase from the 1948 population of about 13,000. Besides the Golan Heights, in the late 1980s Druzes lived in seventeen villages in Galilee and around Mount Carmel. Of these, nine were all Druze and the rest mixed, mostly with Christian Arabs. Less than 10 percent of Druzes in Israel lived in cities — compared to more than 60 percent of Christians. [Source: Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Israel: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

In Syria, the Druze community make up about three percent of the population and are the country's third largest religious minority. The majority of them live in the Jabal al Arab, a rugged and mountainous region in southwestern Syria. Most of the Druze that live in the Golan Heights live around Majdal Shams near the Syrian border. Many have fiercely resisted assimilation and chose to remain loyal to Syria. Druze families in the Golan Heights and occupied Lebanon shout to their kin in Syria with bullhorns. Telephone calls between the Golan Heights and Syria can be very expensive.

Druze History

The Druzes belong to an eleventh century offshoot of Shia Islam, which originated in Egypt. They soon migrated northward, settling first along the western slopes of Mount Hermon, and thence westward into the Shuf Mountains of Lebanon, south to Galilee and Mount Carmel, and east into Syria. [Source: Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Israel: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

Abu Ali al-Manjur al-Hakim bi-Amrih Allah

Abby Sewell wrote in Los Angeles Times: “As religions go, the Druze faith is not especially old, having been formed roughly 1,000 years ago. Its most important early promoter was Al Hakim bi-Amrillah, the sixth leader of the Fatimid Caliphate that spanned a large area of North Africa and the Middle East and had its capital in Cairo. After his mysterious disappearance, his followers in Egypt were exterminated. But they survived in other areas of the Middle East, including in present-day Lebanon and Syria. [Source: Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2017]

The Druze began as a religious community and evolved into an ethnic group. They originated as a religious minority when a small group of Muslims split off from the Shia branch of Islam in Egypt in 1017. One of the founders, Abu Ali al-Manjur al-Hakim bi-Amrih Allah (985-1021) has been accorded divine status. One of his students, Hanza ibn ‘Ali , an Egyptian chieftain, established much of the Druze doctrine and is regarded as the founder of the faith. Another founder, Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Darzi, competed with Hamzah for followers.

Bloody clashes between the followers of Darazi and Hamzah occurred. Darazi was killed in 1020. Al-Hakim and Hamzah died the following year, meaning that all three of the religion’s founders were dead within years after the religion was founded. Darazi’s followers began proselyting in Syria. Arabs called them “durzi”, the source of the name “Druze.”

In 1044 Druze proselyting stopped and the leaders said that no outsiders would be admitted to their religion after that. The Druze then migrated northward into Lebanon, south into Galilee and further east in Syria. Sewell wrote: “Early Druze communities were insular and isolated and left historians with few records. The religious texts have never been widely disseminated, leaving it to the sheiks to educate adherents on the finer points of the faith. The diaspora began as a trickle and picked up in 1975 with the beginning of Lebanon's 15-year civil war. The country's 2006 war with Israel spurred more to leave, and most recently, many Druze have joined the stream of refugees from Syria's civil war.

“As Druze members have branched out, many have lost touch with the religion, raising existential questions about its future. "Very few of them have an in-depth understanding of their dogmas," said Chad Kassem Radwan, an anthropologist of Lebanese Druze descent who wrote a doctoral dissertation for the University of South Florida on Druze identity in Lebanon. "How do you preserve your heritage? This is truly the seminal issue of the Druze community."

Druze Revolt in Syria and Its Impact

Druze warriors in 1925

Devastating proof of the miscalculations of the French in Syria burst into the open with the 1925 Druze revolt. The Druzes had many complaints, but chief among them was the foreign intervention in Druze affairs. The Ottomans had never successfully subdued these mountain people; although split among themselves, they were united in their opposition to foreign rule. Led by Sultan Pasha al Atrash, Druzes attacked and captured Salkhad on July 20, 1925, and on August 2 they took the Druze capital, As Suwayda. [Source: Thomas Collelo, ed. Syria: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1987 *]

News of the Druze rebellion spread throughout Syria and ignited revolts in Aleppo and Damascus among Syrian nationalists, who pleaded with Atrash to attack the Syrian capital. In October the Druzes invaded the Damascus region; nationalist leaders led their own demonstrations; and the French began systematic bombardment of the city, resulting in the death of 5,000 Syrians. The rebellion collapsed by the end of the year, and reluctant order replaced open revolt.*

The return of order gave the French military government an opportunity to assist Syrians in self-government, an obligation demanded of France by the League of Nations.

Druze Society

The Druze community is divided into two groups of people: 1) the “uqqals”, or "sages." have full knowledge of its scriptures and distinguished by their white-wrapped, a fez-like turban; and 2) the “juhhal” (the ignorant), lay people and the vast majority of Druze. The “uqqals” go to special schools, receive special instruction, and informed of the secrine doctrines and rites. They are expected to be pious and impeccable in their behavior and can not use stimulates, lie, steal or seek revenge. Juhhal are held to a less strict code and are regarded as juhhal throughout life and reincarnated at a lower level than the uqqals.

Druze on Mount Herman in 1901

The laws established by Hamnah in the 11th century still apply today. Among these are equal relations between men and women and divorce is only allowed in rare instances for very specific reasons, that the number of Druze will always be fixed and to exist they must pretend to accept the faith of the ruling majority in the places they occupy, usually Sunni Islam.

The status of women is equal to that of men. Some have even argued that it is higher than men. Almost all unmarried Druze women work within the community. When they go outside the village they are escorted by fathers and brothers. When working, Druze men and women ate segregated. Sometimes walls are raised so that young men and women can not see each other.

The Druze have lived in isolated protect villages in mountainous areas and maintained their own culture I isolation from the other people that live around them and regarded outsiders—whether they be Jewish, Muslim or Christian—as enemies and have clashed periodically with their neighbors.

Druze society is being threatened by the modern world and maintaining their traditions while existing on the modern is challenge and a matter of unease in the Druze community. Young people are questioning their elders more but have refrained from wholesale rejection Druze beliefs

Druze Religion

The Druze religion is a tenth-century offshoot of Islam, but Muslims view Druze as heretical for accepting the divinity of Hakim, the third Fatimid caliph of Egypt. The group takes its names from Muhammad Bin Ismail ad Darazi, an Iranian mystic. Druze regard Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, as their chief prophet and make annual pilgrimages to his tomb in lower Galilee. They also revere Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, the three most important prophets of Islam. [Source: Library of Congress]

Druze man in religious clothes

Abby Sewell wrote in Los Angeles Times: “As religions go, the Druze faith is not especially old, having been formed roughly 1,000 years ago. It accepted the prophets of Islam and Christianity and incorporated elements of Greek philosophy and Gnosticism. Unlike other forms of Islam, it embraced reincarnation, allowed women to become religious leaders, banned men from having multiple wives and did not mandate prayer at set times or places. [Source: Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2017]

The Druze religion is known mainly for being shrouded in secrecy, even from large groups of Druzes themselves, the juhhal, uninitiated or "ignorant ones." The Druze call their secretive religion “din-altawhib” (monotheism). It is based on the teachings of Hanza ibn ‘Ali. He expanded the Ismaili idea that the Shia imams were embodiments of the Intelligence which emanated from one God, and maintained that One Himself was present in human beings, and been finally embodied in the Fatimid caliph al Hakin (996-1021).

The religious tenants of the Druze religion are a closely guarded secret. Only a few “uqqals”, or "sages." have full knowledge of its scriptures. The uqqal, the "wise," or initiated, undergo periods of initiation, each signaling an increased mastery of the mysteries of the faith. Although there is a formal separation between religious and political leadership, the wise ones (particularly the ajawid, or excellent, among them) have traditionally wielded considerable political influence.

According to Time: “The tenets of the religion are kept secret not just from outsiders but also from the majority of the Druze, who are known as juhal (ignorant ones) and must accept the faith on trust. Most scholars consider the religion to be a mix of Judaeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, incorporating elements of Greek philosophy as well as a belief in reincarnation.”

The Druze religion prohibits converts and strongly discourages members from marrying outside the sect. The ”“khalwat” or “majlis” is a Druze place worship. The equivalent if mosque, it is basic and sits on a hill and is where men of religious knowledge seek piety and seclusion. Uqqals are expected to attend Friday evening prayers at the majlis.

Druze Religious Beliefs

Prophet Job Shrine in Lebanon

The Druze have always kept their doctrine and ritual of secret to avoid persecution. Only those who demonstrate extreme piety and devotion and the correct demeanor are initiated into the mysteries. The initiated (uqqal; sing., aqil) are a very small minority and may include women. Most Druzes are juhhal, ignorant ones. Apparently the religion is complex, involving neo-Platonic thought, Sufi mysticism, and Iranian religious traditions. [Source: Library of Congress]

Although very little is known about the religion, it draws on several Middle Eastern religions and is believed that it is rooted in gnosticm and based on mystical precepts common in 11th century. The Druze believe in reincarnation and revere Allah but also believe that Muhammad was succeeded by other prophets and that al-Hakim and Hamzah will return and conquer the world. Their two most important prophets are Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, and Elijah.

The religion is fiercely monotheistic and includes an elaborate doctrine of the reincarnation and transmigration of souls. It shares with Shia Islam the doctrine of practicing taqiya, the art of dissimulation in hostile environments. In the past this practice meant seeming to worship in the manner of the conqueror or dominant group, without apostasy. In more recent times, some observers note, it has meant being loyal to the state in which they reside, including serving in its army. [Source: Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Israel: A Country Study, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

The Druze abide by seven commandments, which are similar to the Five Pillars of Islam: 1) speaking the truth to one another but not to outsiders; 2) defending each other in times of crisis; 3) renouncing beliefs that contradict the belief in one god; 4) disassociating from nonbelievers; 5) recognizing al-Hakim as an incarnation of God: 6) accepting God’s actions; and 7) submitting to God’s will and orders.

Druze Customs

Druze are known for the hospitality and it is not uncommon for them to invite people into their homes and insist they stay for two three days. Smoking and drinking are forbidden. Women and non-believers are not allowed in Druze sanctuaries, and believers must wear special white-and-black garment when there.

Druze clerics

Druze observe their Friday Sabbath with visits to tombs, feasts and circle dances performed only by men. Describing such a get together at the tomb of Abel, the keeper of the tomb said: "groups come here every Friday, bringing sheep to slaughter, cook and eat. Then after feasting, the old men play backgammon, the women wash the dishes, and young men dance and sing love songs. They leave before sunset to get home for “magrib”, the evening prayers. [Source: Robert Azzi, National Geographic, April 1974]

Druze have traditionally worn full-length black robes and white cylindrical hats known as “laffa”, made of tightly wound white cloth. Many elderly Druze men sport big mustaches and wear baggy trousers. Women have traditionally covered their hair with long white veils and placed gold coins on their foreheads. Women are veiled in public, but, in contrast to Muslim Arab custom, they can and do participate in the councils of elders.

Druze are sometimes hired as animal hunters. They often eat the animals where they catch them. The Druze like hot, strong coffee, and during a wake everybody sits down except for the host

Druze Marriage

Endogamy and monogamy are the rule among the Druzes Druze forbid converts or marriage beyond the sect. It also prohibits polygamy and divorce against the wife’s will. The legal age for marriage is 17 for young women and 18 for young men. Chastity is highly valued and women are expected to be virgins when they get married. Until the 1980s, most girls were married between the ages of 12 and 15, and most men at the age of 16 or 17.

Marriage is often arranged by parents. A husband s expected to make enough money to take care of his wife and family. The input of the bride in the marriage process is valued. Technically it is against Druze law for a marriage to take place without the consent of the bride.

Couples have traditionally been engaged a year before the wedding. An oral contract is made, passages from the Druze religious book are read and the man gives his fiancée cash, jewelry, personal items and household goods and a village iman ties a handkerchief that symbolizes the union.

Druze bride crosses the border from Syria into Israel

The groom’s family pays a bride price, usually in the form of property and fruit trees that is given to the wife, and pays for most of the wedding. The brideprice is often deferred according to contract drawn up the families of the bride and groom and paid only n the event of a divorce or the death of the husband. The bride’s family pays a dowry and contributed to the wedding.

A marriage ceremony is performed after permission is received from a local court and the bride receives permission from a medical doctor. Before the wedding ceremony a religious ceremony, called the “akid”, for males takes place and a the groom tales part in a shaving celebration with his friends. The bride is decorated with henna in a special women’s ceremony.

A large feast is held at the father of the groom’s house or a wedding hall. The couple can not consummate their marriage until the wedding party is over.

Modern Druze Views on Marriage

Abby Sewell wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Reem Kaedbey was never very religious. She's not even sure there is a God. But when it came to marriage, she never had any doubt she would choose within her family's sect.... "It's a requirement for my parents," said 28-year-old Kaedbey, who lives near Beirut and works for the United Nations. "I didn't want to get into problems." [Source: Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2017 ||=||]

“Marrying outside the faith is a betrayal that is not easily forgiven. "Our children always ask me, 'Why do we have to marry a Druze? What if I fall in love with someone not Druze?' " said Anita Dakdouk, who was born into a Lebanese Druze family in Venezuela and now lives in Valencia,” California, “where she and her Druze husband run a coffee company. "I tell them, 'Don't think about yourself only, because there is family involved.' " ||*||

“Those who stray are often ostracized by their families and sometimes by the larger community. In one instance Radwan found in his research, a Druze man was going to marry a woman of Shia and Christian heritage. When the neighbors found out, they visited his parents to express condolences on the loss of their son, as if he had died. In a case that made headlines four years ago, a Druze woman and Sunni man from northern Lebanon eloped. The bride's family hunted the groom down and cut off his penis. ||*||

“Rima Muakkassa, who lives in Akron, Ohio, where there about 100 Druze families, said that while she never considered marrying outside the religion, her four children could do as they wished. "In the end, it's not by force. We believe in free will," she said. "The purpose is to enlighten and guide our children so they can make the right choices." ||*||

“From a practical point of view, the biggest challenge to finding a spouse within the faith is the shortage of other Druze, especially outside the Middle East. Many second-generation children of the diaspora visit Lebanon or Syria in hopes of finding a husband or wife — with mixed success. Kaedbey’s husband, Firas Talhouk, recalled a cousin from Miami whose parents sent him to Lebanon one summer. “All his mom’s friends stacked up their daughters and he was so happy,” Talhouk said. “He dated one each night and he’s like, ‘You know what, cuz? … I’m coming next summer, man.’ But he didn’t marry any of them.” ||*||

“In the United States, annual conventions of the American Druze Society, which is based in San Antonio, have become a well-known matchmaking ground, with mixers and outings aimed at young people always on the schedule alongside religious presentations. Muakkassa, the society’s current president, met her husband at a convention, as did the the vice president, Labiba Harfouch, and her daughter. Some gatherings have included weddings. But the conventions are not for everyone. Halabi, the young sheikh in Chicago, said the first time he attended one he left the singles night after an hour because it was at a bar and alcohol was flowing. As a strict adherent to the faith, he does not drink. ||*||

Druze women

Marrying Outsiders Threatens the Druze

Abby Sewell wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Finding a life partner is hard enough for anybody. Members of the Druze faith face an added pressure: keeping the religion alive. While the Internet has made it easier for Druze to connect with each other — Kaedey met her husband on social media — growing contact with the outside world has increased the chances that members will marry outside the faith. That is a path to extinction, because the religion does not accept converts and in its more conservative strands rejects children of mixed marriages. "In the modern day, there's a lot more tolerance and acceptance, but for the ones who truly follow the faith, once a person marries a non-Druze, they took the decision of leaving the faith," said Daniel Halabi, a 22-year-old sheikh, or religious leader, who lives in Chicago. "The religious laws are clear." And so the future of the Druze faith may depend not only on pairing up its youth — a community effort — but also on whether the religion itself can make accommodations to the modern world. [Source: Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2017 ||=||]

“Some members of the faith are pushing back on the rules. Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon and perhaps the country's most prominent Druze figure, married outside the religion. On identification documents, the Lebanese government considers anybody with a Druze father to be Druze, even if the mother is not — a concept that has been embraced among more liberal adherents to the faith. “Yes, yes, they are Druze,” said Hassan Sleem, a Druze resident of Beirut who runs a translation service. “We are a small community. We need more people.” ||*||

“Halabi, who is now in college, said he eventually wants to return to Lebanon, where he grew up, to marry and start a family with a Druze woman with similar religious views. But for now, he sees his mission as reaching the younger generation of Druze living in the United States. "If they don't know their identity, it's easy to have them dissolve in the society we live in," he said. "Once we abandon being Druze, we are just like all the other people around the world who have no identity." ||*||

Druze Miss Israel Finalist Quits Because of Family’s Honour Killing Plot

Sonia Verma wrote in The Times: “Doaa Fares believed she could be somebody other than herself: a 17-year old high-school dropout from a deeply conservative Druze village, where most women marry young and settle into traditional roles. The striking brunette with sea-green eyes and pouting lips changed her name to Angelina and entered the Miss Israel beauty pageant hoping to be crowned queen, a title that comes with a cash prize, modelling contract and a car. Instead, Angelina — the first Druze to compete in the pageant — was threatened with death, allegedly by two uncles and other men from her village who accused her of disgracing the family name with promiscuous behaviour. [Source: Sonia Verma, The Times, March 9, 2007]

“When police uncovered the apparent plot to kill her last week, Ms Fares disappeared into protective custody. When she emerged from hiding she announced that she was withdrawing from the competition, fearing for her life. “My life is much more important than a contest, but it’s very difficult for me to give up my dream,” she said, sitting in the darkened living room of her family home in this small Galilean village. She is too frightened to answer her mobile phone or leave the house. Ms Fares’s story has dominated the Israeli media as a high-profile example of a foiled “honour killing”, where a woman is murdered by members of her own family for supposed sexual offences that have somehow brought shame to the family.

Druze woman in traditional clothes

“For Ms Fares the controversy began last November, when she decided to enter the Miss Israel contest. She chose the name “Angelina” in honour of her idol, the American actress Angelina Jolie, and spent hours watching Fashion Television to prepare for her audition. The first phase of the competition was a bikini contest. Ms Fares knew that parading in her red two-piece could be considered controversial in the Druze community, whose religion is an offshoot of Islam. Her participation in the pageant even raised the judges’ eyebrows. “They were very surprised when they found out I was Druze. They asked me if it would be a problem for me to be in the contest. I told them ‘no’, that my whole family supported me,” Ms Fares said.

“Dalia, Ms Fares’ mother, defended that decision, saying that she did not want to interfere with her daughter’s dreams. “She was there to represent herself, not the whole Druze community,” she said. Ms Fares was chosen as one of twenty finalists, convincing the family that they had done the right thing. “Ever since childhood I was preparing myself for this. It was like the dream I had lived inside my head for so long,” Ms Fares said.

“Last month, the contestants flew to Thailand on a supervised tour with contest organisers, but while Ms Fares was sightseeing, swimming and sun-bathing, trouble was brewing at home. Advertisements featuring Ms Fares in a miniskirt and sleeveless top were published in magazines. On her return to Israel, she received threatening phone calls and e-mails. Men from a neighbouring village shouted insults when she walked down the street. “They said, ‘You’re a Druze girl, you should be ashamed of yourself’. Some even accused me of prostitution.”

“The accusations ignited a furious debate in the village and beyond. Ms Fares was invited to appear on talk shows; her photograph was on the front pages of Israeli newspapers. Supporters pressed Ms Fares to remain in the competition, while critics — including the Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif — demanded that she drop out. “We do encourage progress and mod-ernisation, but certainly there are limits to which a woman can expose herself,” Sheikh Tarif told The Times.”

“Later, police received a tip that a group of men in the village, including two of Ms Fares’s uncles, were plotting to kill her. Anwar and Hatem Fares allegedly hired two men to buy guns and a third man to murder their niece. She was taken into protective custody and all five men were jailed. But the sequence of events forced the Fares family to reconsider. “These are people who love me and I love them. I was shocked,” Ms Fares said. “I stepped out, out of respect for our religious leaders and dignitaries. Above all, it was out of respect for my family.” The Fares family refused to press charges against the uncles, and they were released. But Colonel Ephy Fertouk, the local police investigator, said that the case is not closed.

“Sheikh Tarif says that Angelina could face further problems: “We live in a democratic state and freedom prevails, but if a woman goes beyond the red lines, it will cause people to isolate this person or worse.” But Ms Fares is determined to pursue her dream. She has hired an agent and a spokes-person and is to star in a documentary about her ordeal. And she will still be at the Miss Israel pageant — if only as a spectator: “I will definitely be there, you can count on it.”“

Sister of Druze Miss Israel Contestant is Murdered

Druze women in 1873

In 2011, Doaa Fares’s younger sister Maya was murdered. Nathan Burstein wrote in The Forward: “Jamila Fares, a 21-year-old who went by the name Maya, disappeared in mid-July. Her body was discovered July 15 in a forest and showing signs of physical violence that preceded her shooting. Maya’s husband, Said, was initially arrested, but was released after passing a polygraph test, and neither Duah nor her mother, Dalia, suspect him. While the case remains open, the killing has refocused attention on the status of Israel’s non-Jewish women, who face discrimination within both their own communities and Israeli society at large. [Source: Nathan Burstein, The Forward, August 3, 2011 )=(]

“Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot put Duah Fares on the cover of its most recent weekend magazine, headlining the article “The Rebel,” and detailing the challenges she faced before and after her sister’s murder. An aspiring model, Duah effectively maintains two identities, adopting the name Angelina - after Angelina Jolie - before the Miss Israel pageant, and abandoning her small Druze hometown for the less restrictive environment of Tel Aviv. Now only 22...she has failed to find modeling work because of continued threats against her, her agent and her agent’s family. )=(

“While coverage in the Hebrew-language Yediot is surely a good thing, a disproportionate amount of violence against Israeli women takes place outside the Jewish community. So it’s encouraging to see an Arabic-language radio station taking action on the issue, launching a petition against so-called “honor killings” and calling for open discussion of the problem. “Killing women is not acceptable in the 21st century,” said Suhel Karram, the chief executive of Radio Ashams. “Not for so-called family honor, or any other reason.” Filmmaker Ibtisam Mara’ana, who made a documentary about Angelina’s ill-fated Miss Israel bid, goes even further, describing the practice as “terrorism.” “”What is happening in Arab society with regard to murdering women is real terrorism,” she says. Yediot Aharonot reports that Mara’ana, in partnership with Angelina Fares, is establishing a new foundation “for the empowerment of Arab women who break the silence against murder and violence.” )=(

Druze Relations with Middle Eastern Arabs and Jewish Israelis

The Druze are known as tough fighters. Carrying weapons is sanctioned by their religion. They fought so fiercely against Crusaders, Ottomans and Frenchmen that invaded their land that they were called the “Sword of Syria.” Israelis, Lebanese and Syrians have all employed them as soldiers. "Druze are courageous because they do not fear death," La Fay was told, "Every man believes that when he dies he will instantly be reborn as an infant."

Druze clerics meeting with a rabbi

Because the Druze religion was considered schismatic to Islam, even to Shia Islam, Druzes occasionally suffered discrimination and persecution at the hands of Muslims and, like other Middle Eastern dissidents, inhabited marginal or easily defensible areas: mountain slopes and intermontane valleys. Because the Druzes have long enjoyed a reputation for military prowess and good soldiery, they have often not suffered discrimination or persecutions lightly or without responding in kind. Whether because of the desire to settle old scores, or because the doctrine of taqiya can be stretched in this direction, Druzes have been remarkable in being a non-Jewish, Arabic-speaking group that has supported the Jewish state, both in the late Mandate period and since Israel's independence through service of Druze young men in the IDF and the paramilitary Border Police. About 175 Druzes have been killed in action, including a large proportion of that number in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.*

Jewish Israelis have recognized this service and sought to reward it. Druze villages had military supervision and restrictions lifted from them about four years before other Arab areas. Since 1977 there has been a Druze member of the Knesset from the right-of-center Likud, and under Labor they have served in highly visible positions such as that of presidential adviser on minority affairs and, at one time, the Israeli consul in New York City. In 1962 Israeli authorities recognized "Druze" as a separate nationality on internal identification cards--previously Druzes were differentiated only under dat, religion; their nationality was Arab. Although authorities assured Druzes that recognition as a separate nationality would enhance their most favored status, some analysts and younger Druzes have viewed the identification as an attempt to drive a wedge between them and other Arabs.*

Many among the younger generation of Druzes have been partly radicalized in their politics--for a number of reasons. First, the favored status accorded the Druzes has not significantly helped them materially. Druzes have been among the least affluent of all groups in Israel, the number receiving higher education has been low, and few Druzes could be found in top professional or technical positions. Even those who have made the army their career have complained of severe limitations in promotions. Second, Israeli actions against Druzes in the occupied and then annexed Golan Heights troubled their coreligionists in Israel. Particularly troublesome was the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. During this invasion, Israeli soldiers, as allies of the Lebanese Christians, were opposed by Druzes of the Shuf Mountains. Pitched battles or military encounters between the IDF and the Lebanese Druzes were avoided. Nevertheless, the Lebanese Christian Maronites have been among the Druzes' most bitter enemies, and many Druzes serving in the IDF were killed or wounded in Lebanon. This was a particularly difficult time for Jewish-Druze relations, one from which they had not fully recovered in 1988.*

Druze in Israel

There are 104,000 Druze in Israel. The Druze community in Israel is afforded special minority privilege. They have their own courts but are still required to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Most Druze speak Arabic but generally keep some distance between themselves and the Israeli Muslim community,

Druze prayer house in Israel

In 2006, when Israel was fighting Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Jonathan Finer wrote in the Washington Post: “ Druze from the Upper Galilee region of the country, who have lived in the Jewish state since its founding in 1948, serve in its military -- unlike Israeli Arabs -- and proudly identify themselves as Israeli. In interviews they seem largely to support the operation being waged in southern Lebanon. [Source: Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, July 25, 2006]

“An all-Druze company of Israeli soldiers painted their faces black and green, shouldered their rifles and walked into battle with Hezbollah near Avivim, the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the current conflict."As a citizen of Israel, I will do my best to serve my country," said Cpl. Kamal Aboud, 19. "The mood is up, the troops are highly motivated."

“In the small, predominantly Druze town of Pkiin, north of Haifa, about 35 Hezbollah rockets have crashed to earth since the conflict began nearly two weeks ago, wounding at least two residents. One of the weapons plummeted through a porch railing at the home of Amar Abdullah, 50, who served three years in the Israeli army. "We strongly support what Israel is doing because the target is Hezbollah, and the support will last as long as the target is Hezbollah," Amman said, reclining on the porch of his hillside home. He said that his grandfather spent much of his life in southern Lebanon and that he still has family there, though his 29 closest relatives live nearby in Pkiin.

“Asked about the civilians killed in Lebanon in recent days, Amman replied, "That troubles me greatly, but this is a war, and civilians die in every war." Amman, a teacher, is quick to show that he is not afraid to criticize his country. As a Druze, he said, he suffers frequent discrimination when applying for jobs or passing through security checkpoints. "They take care of you when you're a soldier. But when you take off the uniform, it's sometimes a different story," he said, recounting how an uncle finished at the top of his class at an Israeli university but remained unemployed for months after he graduated. "But we believe in Israel and its democracy and we want to stay here. We just want equal rights, but we believe we are better off here than anywhere else."

Druze and the Conflict with Israel in the Middle East

Druze celebrating the Nebi Shueib Festival

The Israelis cause is strongly supported by Druze in Israel but is widely opposed by Druze elsewhere in the Middle East, including the Golan Heights, an area that was part of Syria but in now occupied by Israel. Jonathan Finer wrote in the Washington Post: the 20,000 or so Druze in the Golan Heights — which was seized by Israel from Syria in 1967 and subsequently annexed but is still considered occupied territory by much of the outside world — refuse to hold Israeli passports and say that the vast majority of their community backs Hezbollah. [Source: Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, July 25, 2006 ]

“Many say they fear that Syria will be drawn into the conflict, which began when Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, putting the Druze towns on the front line. "Conflicts like these can be hard on the Druze," said Shmuel Shamai, a professor at northern Israel's Tel Hai Academic College who has written extensively on the Israeli Druze. He called Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and subsequent 18-year occupation of a security zone in the country's south "particularly challenging" for the group. "You had Druze fighting on all sides — in the Israeli army, with the Lebanese and with the Syrian army," he said. Syrian forces had a heavy presence in Lebanon throughout that period.

“A reputedly hardy people, the Druze have generally not evacuated their villages during the rocket campaign that has caused as many as half of Israelis in the north to leave their homes. The large, tight-knit structure of Druze families makes it hard for them to uproot, several Druze said.”

Druze in the Golan Heights During the Conflict with Hezbollah

Reporting from the Golan Heights, Jonathan Finer wrote in the Washington Post: “A hand-painted banner flew in the main square of Majdal Shams, the largest Druze community in this hilly region, with an unusual message for Israeli-governed territory: "Hezbollah is the candle that lights the Arab darkness." [Source: Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, July 25, 2006 ]

Druze man selling fruit in Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams is “a northeastern town of about 10,000 that is close to Syria and Lebanon. Residents barred for almost 40 years from contact with relatives just across the Syrian border sometimes gather with megaphones to shout greetings across a gaping valley. "I was born in Syria, raised in Syria and I am 100 percent Syrian," said Fayiz Safadi, 63, who tends a herd of 60 sheep. "What's happening in Lebanon is very, very painful."

Several people interviewed said they were afraid to speak out about the conflict. Almost all of those who spoke willingly said they supported Hezbollah. "About 80 or 90 percent of the people here are against the Israeli actions in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese people are paying too high a price," said Muhammad Safadi, 35, a dental technician. For years, he recounted, he had heard stories of fighting between Israeli and Syrian forces in Majdal Shams and now is worried that those days will return. "People here think Hezbollah did the right thing and support for them is rising. They needed some Israeli soldiers to trade for the prisoners that Israel has," he said, sipping dark coffee on the porch of the Shani falafel restaurant. "Now Hezbollah must keep fighting until they get what they want. There have been so many casualties that if they stop now it will be for nothing."

Over the past few days, residents said, Hezbollah supporters have held two demonstrations in town. Some residents said support for the group stems in part from the belief that this village and its people will someday return to Syrian rule. "We live under Israeli occupation and are constantly struggling for our own liberation," said Salman Fakrideed, 52, a construction worker and local political activist. "How could we support what they are doing to the Lebanese?"

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons except map by Junl Cole, Informed Comment

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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