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The Druze in Carmel Israel

Life in Israel

This story was written prior to the Carmel fires which devistated the region that I love so much in 2010. I am writing this post from the prospective of an American immigrant to Israel of five years. I am proud to be the honorary interfaith coordinator of Temple Or Hadash in Haifa. My greatest blessings have been the result of participating in interfaith activities with our friends the Focolare (the largest Catholic outreach movemensit), and several other religious groups- including our Druze neighbors. I live in Haifa. Daliat El Carmel and Osifia are two Druze villages close to Haifa in the Carmel Forests.

The Druze have lived in the Galilee and Carmel area for a thousand years. Even though the Druze language is Arabic, their religion and culture is seperate and unique. They speak a special dialect of Arabic that sounds much like Syrian dialects of Arabic. They are neither Muslim nor Christian. They number about one and a half million in the world. However, the vast majority live in the Galilee, Southern Lebanon and Southern Syria. The Druze have no political aspirations to be an independent nation. Their emphasis is on spiritual and not secular issues. They are fiercely loyal and equal citizens of this nation. The Israeli Druze serve mandatory service in the Israeli military..

The Druze religion was founded just about a thousand years ago. In general they have chosen to keep a lot of facts of their faith secret. I can tell you a few details they shared with me. Four prophets carry the Druze messianic message. The first three are the biblical Moses, Jethro, and Muslim Muhammad. According to the faith, the fourth prophit- Hamza Ben Ali was the strongest of the lot. He approached an important sheikh in Egypt in 1017. The shiekh had accepted him immediatly and nominated him as the spiritual leader of Egypt of the time. Hamza was a spiritual leader for 22 years. His era was the opportunity to join the Druze religion. After that time, one has to be born into the religion to be a part of it.

I enjoy visiting our Druze neighbors.The atmosphere of the villages is warn and open. Anybody, including the villagers, can choose either to dress traditionally or in designer clothes. The village, like the rest of the world, started as an agricultural society. Today professions range from sheperding to computer programming. The countryside is beautiful and pastoral, yet the scene is dotted with Mercedes, upgrade shopping, and your expected McDonalds. There are wonderful restaurants and shops.

The highlight of my visits to the Daliat El Carmel village is the Yad La Banim (tr. hand of our sons) Center. This type of facility is common in many different parts of Israel including Haifa. The primary reason for building these centers is to commemorate those who gave their lives defending the nation. In Daliat El Carmel, 330 of the Druze community are honored for giving their lives defending Israel. For instance, the guide of my first tour Jaber, lost his uncle during the struggle for independence against the British occupation in 1947. His uncle helped many of the resistance leaders hide from both British soldiers and the followers of the Grand Mufti (leader of the Arab Leagion). One of the people he assisted was the former Haifa Mayor Aba Hushi.

The war memmorial was built in 1980. The Druze got the authorization to build the Yad La Banim near the historical site of the house in which author and British MP Sir Lawrence Oliphant and his wife resided. His assistant, Naftali Zvi Hertz Imber, resided with them. He was the author of the song that eventually became the Israeli national anthem. Tradition has it that he was more inspired by the view than Zionist aspirations when writing the song.

The mayor's office and other modern government offices are situated in the village's Yad La Banim Center. During our tour we met many of the community's residents and visited their homes. Hospitality is a very important part of their tradition. I am glad that I have the oppurtunity to experience it. I was even invited to an upcoming wedding during my first visit to the villages.

This monstrous fire burned millions of trees, destroyed countless homes, and most horrific of all took the lives of forty three human beings. Yet, goodness and kindheartedness came from around us and beyond. The Druze villages were among the most hard-hit areas of the fire's fury. The residents of these villages and all of us in Northern Israel thank those who offered support and solidarity. Rebuilding has progressed rapidly. The residents have a long tradition of spirituality, a strong family base, and tenacious ability to adapt that had enabled the inhabitants of these villages to move forward.

Posted by eshugerman 14:02 Tagged israel carmel haifa or mcdonald's interfaith druze hatikvah hadash judasim Comments (0)

Israel, A Nation of Remembrance.

Children in War

I immigrated to Israel five years ago from Colorado to Haifa. What an incredible journey!

Understanding the culture of Israel is a great challenge to many new olim or immigrants. Israel is a nation where the Jewish faith and history are very much a part of daily life. It is a nation where the horrors of the Holocaust are not and must not be forgotten. We remember the destruction of the ancient temples in Jerusalem in our hearts and prayers. "Next Year in Jerusalem" is the prayer that mourns our past suffering, but also gives us hope for the present and future. Tisha B’Av, is a day of evel or mourning in Israel. This day mourns the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and all suffering endured by the people of the Book. It is a day of fasting and other acts of observance. Businesses and schools may be open depending on the type of service or affiliation.

My most satisfying experience in Israel was working in a Moadonit or after school program in my Synagogue, Or Hadash. This was my favorite experience at the Moadonit that occurred during Tisha B’Av in the summer of 2009.

Forty kids aged six to ten enjoyed various summer activities including volleyball, soccer, and dodge ball. The director, Jaffa, also gave a one hour presentation describing the building and destruction of both Temples. We also discussed the Holocaust and Israel’s memorial day. More than twenty thousand Israelis have died in open conflicts or by acts of terrorism since the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948. The Holocaust is almost always in the minds and hearts of Israeli Jews. We must never forget the murders of millions whose only sin was being born Jewish or having Jewish ancestors.

We had a short question and answer period after the presentation. I was surprised that none of the kids asked why we talked about these topics during summer fun time or complained. I asked my two English speaking “friends” in the group Naomi (8) and Shachar (7) to explain everyone’s cooperation. Naomi spent two years in Boston and answered in wonderful English; “most Israeli kids understand that remembering the past protects us in the present and future”. Shachar an American olah agreed and showed great pride in her new Israeli citizenship.

The following day, we had a group of visitors from Boston come to visit the Synagogue. The group was composed of roughly one hundred adults and kids from a sister congregation. We enjoyed dinner together and then went on a tour of the Temple’s bomb shelter. The shelter is an area of three hundred square feet that also includes a separate bathroom, shower, and first aid room. During the second war with Lebanon the twenty kids from our day school and fifty local children spent their days alternating between the shelter and our school facility. Each time a siren wailed the kids and staff ran down the three floors from the classroom to safety. Our previous past congregation president Jesse led the tour and explained to us that many Haifa residents left the city during the fighting but many chose to stay.

Jesse, who is a physician and American born, mentioned to me that my friend Naomi and her family chose to stay.

Posted by eshugerman 13:50 Tagged colorado israel war holocaust jerusalem or tisha b’av oleh hadash Comments (0)

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