July 27, 2008
A Tale Of Two DruzeBy Micah D. Halpern
It is a tale of two Druze.
One Druze is from Lebanon, his name is Samir Kuntar. He is a notorious terrorist, he is a child killer. Samir Kuntar was just released from an Israeli jail. Kuntar, four other living terrorists and one hundred ninety nine dead bodies were exchanged by Israel for two dead bodies, two Israeli soldiers taken prisoner by Hezbollah two summers ago.
Another Druze is from Israel, his name is Amal Ganem. He is a border patrol officer, he is a hero. Amal Ganem shot dead the Arab terrorist who, in copycat fashion, drove a tractor down King David Street in downtown Jerusalem, just alongside the King David Hotel, intending to mow down as many Israelis as he could before his own life was taken.
What is a Druze? And what is the difference between these two Druze?
Druze is a secret sect of Islam. Because it is a secret, not many people know the fundamentals of Druze - that is the way the community wants it to be. Obvious commonalities make the Druze just like any other Muslim sect. It is the differences that make Druze so special.
The first and very critical difference is that Druze profess loyalty to the local leadership. That loyalty is professed to the leadership even when that leadership in non- Islamic. A second difference is that Druze get along - not only with themselves, but with others. Generally, Druze are a friendly people, it is who they are.
The exceptions are obvious and the exceptions are extreme.
The difference between the two Druze in this tale is the difference between where they live and the culture they each embrace.
Druze are Arabs -- they speak Arabic and their culture is Arabic. Druze consider themselves Muslims, but other Muslims do not. Druze are Unitarian Muslims, combining the teachings of Islam with the best parts of other religions including, Hinduism. In fact, 35% of Druze possesses a gene which connects them to Asia. This is very unusual in the Middle East.
They broke off from Islam during the 11th century. Because the Druze were persecuted, they chose to almost immediately cease proselytizing other believers. There are probably about a million Druze in the world today. Most of them live in Lebanon and Syria with about 100,000 Druze living in northern Israel.
The only way to become a Druze is to be born a Druze. There are two levels of Druze, uqqal who are the few with the knowledge and juhal which is everyone else. Secrecy keeps the society safer. There are only a few basic tenets of Druze, all of them are in response to Islam. They are:
Speaking the truth (instead of prayer)
Supporting your brethren (instead of charity)
Abandoning the old creeds (instead of fasting)
Purification from heresy (instead of pilgrimage)
Accepting the unity of God
Submitting to the will of God (instead of holy war)
It is precisely because of the years of oppression that they were forced to endure that the Druze community chose to pledge their allegiance to their host country or leader. That way the leaders would protect them from outside or local forces wishing to persecute them because they were a break-off from Islam.
So why are these two Druze so different from each other?
Their country of origin. Their country of association. Because one came from Israel and one came from Lebanon.
The Druze who came from Southern Lebanon came from a dominant culture of Shiite Islam and swore to destroy Israel and the West. In a classic even perverse Druze way, Samir Kuntar was better at the Shiite game than the Shiites are. He had to be.
The Druze who came from Israel, only as far away from Kuntar as the other side of a border, came from a Western country seeking peace along its borders. Amal Ganem volunteered for the Israeli army and he made his community proud. And Ganem is not alone, in Israel members of the Druze community not only serve in the Army, they also ascend to the highest levels within the military. His religious Druze leader announced that Ganem was a hero. The Druze leader was able to hold his head high and say that once again Amal Ganem had proved the loyalty of the Druze community to Israel.
The actions of these two men and the events of these past few days highlight the fact that Druze are a tabla rasa. From a nurturing environment emerges Amal Ganem, a man who saved innocent lives. From a war like environment emerges Samir Kuntar, a man who murdered innocents.