If I Could Choose To Be A Druze….

The intense summer heat-wave is in competition with the burning heat in my soul. The anger within me regarding the horrific new Nation-State law gives me little rest and no comfort.

My distress is primarily due to the mal-treatment of our Druze and Circassian minorities, in particular to our Prime Minister’s negative attitude concerning amendments, changes, revisions of a badly-written law which absolutely discriminates against loyal and devoted non-Jewish citizens of our State., and which he steadfastly refuses to change.

Criticism of the new law has aroused the consciences of tens of thousands of decent Jews and non-Jews both at home in Israel and in countries far distant from us. Protest marches in support of the Druze are taking place in Tel-Aviv and I have heard also in Montreal, New York, London and other metropolitan areas.

I cannot help it. It happens that I love the Druze. I have loved them since I first met a Druze community in 1956. I was a 23 year old traveling with my dearest friend in Rishon Lezion on his motorcycle as we crossed the country from south to north, from east to west. We came close to our borders with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and were thankful for the road signs which warned “Gvul L’fanecha”.. border ahead.

One August day we by chance arrived in the Druze community of Issufiyeh and stopped to refill our bottles with fresh water. Unbeknown to us, the village was celebrating a marriage. A Druze elder saw us and approached. With a “shalom” and an extended hand he invited us to be guests and to partake of the lavish meal.

Druze men and women greeted us and offered their warm hospitality. We remained among them for a few hours and before we left some Druze women brought us wrapped cookies and pastries to take on our journey.

It was precisely on that day and in that community that I fell in love with the Druze people and my love and respect for them has never ended.

I admire them for the principles of their faith by which they live:  total loyalty to the country in which they live, speaking only truth and revering honesty.

If I were not born a Jew, I would choose to be a Druze.  For me, there are no finer people on the face of the earth than the Druze.

It is that love for them that causes my heart to ache for the lack of compassion and understanding on the part of Bibi Netanyahu. In his several meetings with Druze leaders, including the one when he walked out in anger because a former Druze brigadier general accused him of leaning towards apartheid, he denounced the charge as an insult to him personally and to the State.

That awful Dutch-Afrikaans word means “separation” and we must never allow the Druze to be separate from the Jewish majority.

The Prime Minister stubbornly refuses to amend the hateful law.  Instead, he has offered the Druze financial benefits, building the infrastructures of their town and villages, offering compensation to former Druze men who have valiantly done mandatory service in our military forces.

Thankfully, the wise Druze elders have rejected his menial offer, wanting nothing more than a revision of the Nation-State law which guarantees the Druze completely equal citizenship with the Jews.

The Druze elders know Bibi only too well. They know that he makes promises one day and breaks them the next day. The egalitarian section at the Wall which he promised to build for non-Orthodox Jewish men and women, recognizing their rights as Jews to pray according to their traditions, disappeared shortly after, due to the pressures of the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox parties in the government.

For our Prime Minister, politics are more important than promises. And the Druze know that his word holds little meaning for them.

Two years ago I travelled with dear friends in Rishon Lezion to spend a day in Daliyat-al-Karmel, a flourishing Druze city in the Galilee. We visited with a renowned Druze artist, Sam Halaby, in his galleries and were overwhelmed at the beauty and magnificence of his God-given artistic creativity and genius.

He told me that his inspiration was derived from his beloved mother who saw his skill and who encouraged him to pursue it.

Sam Halaby will probably not remember me but I remember him very well. His warm personality and his cordial hospitality represented for me all the values by which the Druze live.

I doubt that any Druze will read this article, my tribute of love and admiration for them.

Last week I mailed a personal letter to Rafik Halaby, the mayor of Daliyat-al-Karmel.  In it I told him that my heart dictates to me to do some act of kindness in gratitude for the loyalty and devotion which his people have always shown to Jews throughout centuries.

I offered to volunteer for one month to teach conversational English in one of the city’s high schools. I require no payment, only a small room with bath in which to live while I am in Daliyat-al-Karmel.

Hopefully, mayor Halaby will accept my offer and thus allow me to re-pay his people for their warmth and friendship to my people.

In the meanwhile I continue to pray that our merciful God will soften the heart of Prime Minister Netanyahu. He will not lose face by doing the right thing… publicly inscribing the Druze and the Circassians as equal citizens with Israel’s Jews, with all rights and privileges accordingly.

As a sign of my great dissatisfaction with certain objectionable clauses in the new law, I am resigning membership as a voter in the Likud party.

I need to be a member of a party which holds high Jewish and democratic values and which does not break promises once made.

God bless the Druze and the Circassians for their loyal and devoted service to the State of Israel.

If I were not a Jew, I would choose to be a Druze !

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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