If I Was Not a Jew…

I’ll put it as clearly as I can. I am a Jew. I am an Israeli. I am a descendant of ultra-orthodox great-grandparents, Belzer chassidim in Poland since 1727. But I am not a haredi Jew. I choose to be liberal but observing of the tenets of Judaism.

Yet, if I was not born a Jew I would prefer to have been born a Druze! These are a people whom I admire, respect and love. Their loyalty to the State of Israel is legendary and goes back several generations when Israel was called Palestine.

I met Druze for the first time in my life in 1956. I was traveling with a dear friend in Rishon Lezion on his motorcycle and we toured much of Israel up to the border with Lebanon. Interestingly, as we parked the motorcycle we approached the border on foot. A sign read “gvul l’fanecha”… the border is in front of you.

I waved to the Lebanese soldiers on the other side and one of them waved back. He threw a package of chewing gum across our border and I reciprocated in throwing him a half-empty package of cigarettes.

My friend was amazed at the cordiality we experienced on our enemy’s side of a dangerous border.

From there we traveled in the direction of Haifa but took a road in the mountains that led us into Druze communities. We stopped at a local restaurant for a lovely meal of hummus with tehina and shredded vegetables on hot freshly made Druze pita. After our meal we asked for directions of other Druze communities and sites which may be interesting to us.

In the meantime we visited in Daliyat-al-Carmel, a bustling and beautiful Druze city. Wherever we went we were greeted by local people with smiles and always a genuine shalom. My friend spoke some Arabic and he replied to their kindness by blessing them in Arabic.

A short time later we arrived at another Druze community and looked for a place where we could drink water. The heat of the sun had made us thirsty.

As we walked around looking for a drinking fountain an elderly Druze man dressed in colorful robes approached us and greeted us in Hebrew. He asked where we were from, where we were going, and was there anything we needed. “Rak mayim karim” we replied. “Only cold water”.

He pointed to a lively crowd below us and told us it was a wedding. And he invited us to be his guest. When we hesitated, he insisted, and escorted us down the hill to the big wedding tent.

No one there knew us, obviously. They had never seen us nor we them. And suddenly there were loud cries of “Bruchim ha ba-im, achim”… “You are very welcome, brothers”. We were then introduced to the bride and her groom, a beautiful young couple, and my friend reached into his pocket and pulled out a few lira and put it into the groom’s hands. The thank-yous were over-whelming.

The elderly man who escorted us insisted that we stay and join them in the wedding feast.

I had never before received such warm hospitality from people I had never met. It was my first experience in meeting members of the Druze communities and I fell in love with them.

It was 64 years ago and the love for Druze still remains. Of all our citizens, except for the Arab population, the Druze are the most loyal and devoted citizens in Israel. All of their men serve in the Israeli army and many of them are generals and commanders. They are more faithful and dedicated to the Jewish state than the tens of thousands of haredi ultra-orthodox Jews who refuse to serve in our army.

My friend, Reuven, had known a few Arabs, a people generally noted for their hospitality in receiving guests, but he was absolutely amazed at the genuine warmth and hospitality we received by every Druze we met.

On the way home, he steering his motorcycle and I sitting on the rear seat quite uncomfortably, I remarked to him “Reuven, if I had not been born a Jew I would have chosen to be born a Druze”.

I was seated behind him so I could not see if he was smiling. But the next day when I came to his father’s house for coffee he told me that he understood my feelings and he agreed with me that the Druze are an exceptional people.

I write these words 64 years later. And my love and respect for the Druze has not diminished.

Hashem yevarech otam. May Almighty God bless them.

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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