The Jews and the Druze

Of all the non-Jewish ethnic groups in Israel (Muslims, Armenians, Circassians, Greeks, Samaritans, Latin Christians and Druze), the Druze are by far the most beloved community by Israeli Jews. Since the establishment of our State in 1948, young Druze men have volunteered for military service in the Israel Defense Forces. Absolutely loyal to the State, hundreds of them have risen to high ranks.

Several have become judges in our civilian courts and one sits on the bench of our Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Several of them are and have been members of our Knesset. As a community they have contributed much to the culture of our society. Regrettably, too many of them have died on the battlefields fighting for Israel’s security or have been murdered by Muslim Arab terrorists.

The origins of the Druze are shrouded in mystery. They have no formal clergy. They are totally monotheistic in the Abrahamic way believing that each soul contains a god-like element.

There are between one and two million Druze in the world, including approximately 145,000 in Israel, mostly in the Galilee region in the north of the country. The largest numbers live in Syria and Lebanon, considered the birthplaces of their faith. They are not Muslims and do not pray in mosques.

The Druze movement began in the 11th century and was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. Alexander the Great is one of their heroes as is Plato, Aristotle and Socrates.

The spiritual leader and prophet of the Druze religion is Jethro, high priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses. The Druze refer to him as Nebi Shuayb and revere his shrine.

In 1165, the Jewish traveler and writer, Benjamin of Tudela, discovered them in his wanderings in Lebanon. He described them in his writings as mountain-dwelling monotheists who believe in the purity of the soul and in reincarnation. He declared them as “lovers of the Jews”. (Wikipedia encyclopedia).

The religion of the Druze is a closely guarded secret. It is said that no one of them under the age of 50 can learn the secrets of their religion from their appointed elders. No one can convert to become a Druze. It is a completely closed society.

There are seven precepts to which all Druze observe, according to the Wikipedia encyclopedia.
1) Absolute Truth in speech and action
2) Mutual aid and charity to all members of the Druze faith.
3) Rejection of idolatry.
4) Repudiation of the devil and forces of evil.
5) Confession of the unity of One God
6) Obedience to the will of God regardless of what the will may be.
7) Absolute submission to God and His Divine will

Divorce is not forbidden but it is discouraged. Women and men are equal in all ways. Marriage to non-Druze is forbidden and those who do so are no longer considered members of the Druze faith.

Every Druze village has a khalwat, a common house of prayer and gathering. Their symbol is a five pointed star with five separate colors distinguishing humans from animals. Green represents the mind and intelligence. Red is for the nefesh or soul. Yellow is for the word of truth. Blue represents man’s potential. And White represents the future.

For the Druze, the mind generates consciousness; the soul is responsible for one’s character; the word of a human is based upon platonic forms; and finally, there is a commitment to temperance and a life of moderation.

Druze abstain from alcohol and smoking and drugs. They do not eat pork. They reject polygamy and believe in the reincarnation of the soul. They believe that religious rituals affect each individual and each Druze is free to observe or not to observe those rituals.

Historically, Druze have been great warriors and have maintained a very great loyalty to any country in which they live. Family unity, love of One God and devotion to country distinguishes the Druze community.

For example, the large community of Druze living in the Golan Heights have rejected Israeli citizenship because of their loyalty to Syria, the place from which they had come following the 1967 war in which Israel annexed the Golan Heights.

There is a deep closeness between the Druze and the Jews. They live as cousins, loving and loyal to one another.

I have always enjoyed visiting the Druze in their northern communities, especially in the larger ones as Daliyat-al-Karmil and Issufiya. They have always welcomed me warmly and their hospitality is renowned. If I had not been born a Jew, I would have been honored to be born a Druze.

Would that all of our ethnic communities could be as welcoming, loving and devoted as our Israeli Druze. May our One God watch over them and protect them from harm.

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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