Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Druze

As I have mentioned before I am teaching in a small Druze village about half an hour a way from Karmiel. Because of the location of the school naturally most of the children are Druze, and so I thought it might be nice to speak a little about Druze and the people who I am working with, as are far as I am aware, it is relatively small and obscure religion. The following infromation comes from my own knowledge (mostly from talks on Druzi beliefs and culture) and that vast vat of knowledge that is Wikipedia.

The Druze religion branched out from Islam in around the 11th century, they however do not see themselves as a sect of Islam, but instead as a completely different religion. The Druze split themselves into two those who are religious (the minority) and those who are secular (the majortiy) each member of the Druze religion is able to choose which path they take. However, if one does not choose the path of the religious you are not permitted to know the secrets of the faith, which are jealously guarded.

Basic tennets of the Druze include belief in one god, honesty, protecting ones brother and guarding the elderly. They also rejuct tobacco, alcohol and pork. There is also a belief and at the time when the Druze broke off from Islam, mainly because they believed it to be unfair to women (Druze are egalitarians), there was a period when everyone could become Druze, at this end of this period no-one could join. They said at the end of the period there were a million Druze, and as the Druze believe in reincarnation they claim that if a Druze person dies they will then be reborn as Druze. They also do not permit conversion either into or away from their religion.

However, the most important belief of the Druze is that they must be completely loyal to the country in which they live, even to the extent of sacrificing other values to retain their loyalty. This is why in Israel the Druze are fierce allies of the Jewish state. For example it is optional for them to serve in the army but most do. The only exception is the Druze of the Golan Heights, which was Syrian but was captured by the Israelis. Because of fear of retribution from the Syrians the Druze from the Golan tend not to serve in the army. The Druze do considers themselves as Arabs, but as Israeli Arabs and certainly not as Palestinians.

Having worked in a Druze school for a month and having had Druze hospitality a number of times, I can see without any doubt they are truly lovely people. They are friendly, warm, hospitable and on the whole the kids are really sweet. Their food is also out of this world. Our bus driver who collects us from school each day (there is a minibus for three of us) lives in the village, and he is everyone's best friend. He is a large man with a handle bar moustache, and is rarely seen without his wooly hat or boiler suit. More than once he has stopped to greet friends in the middle of the roads with a "Shalom Shlomo" or some such greeting, and he also seems to know every child and teacher in the school.

But then this should not be surprising when you consider the fact that the village has a population of 700. The other day our driver asked us to forgive him as he needed to drop something back home (it looked like pepper) and he asked us if he would mind if he drove us up into the village so he could drop it off. Of course Jessie and I said we had no problem with him doing so and off he went into the winding roads of Ein-El-Assad, and it gave us the chance to see what a pretty village it is. The houses are smart and well cared for the streets are narrow but honely and there were even orange trees growing outside some of the houses. Also at the top of the village there is also the most amazing view looking down onto the village and the valley below.


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