Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Met a Druze Today

I Met a Druze Today

After spending the night in a remarkably serene Kibbutz in Parod, we found ourselves in the small Druze village of Peki’in in the Galilee Mountains of northern Israel. A small, centuries-old town of 5,200 people, Peki’in has a charm in and of itself. Green vegetation populated the hills around the buildings, some almost as old as the town itself, dating further back than the founding of the American colonies. Quiet and humid, a gentle breeze whisked the heat away and provided a breath of fresh air. Tranquil beauty can be appreciated wherever it may be found, regardless of country, politics, or religion, and Peki’in of course was no exception.

Our appetites suitably aroused from walking the mountainous streets as we toured the city’s historical sites, we enter the final landmark: a literal hole-in-the-wall where we will sit down for lunch. As we enter, we are greeted by a long, white table, covered in cloth with places set and chairs inviting us to stay a while. The walls, carved out of the mountain rock, are adorned with mirrors, tapestries, and decorative trinkets. A kind, bald man of apparent Arab descent welcomes us, and proceeds to serve us the most delicious course of meals I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying on this trip. The cuisine was distinctly middle-eastern, with no trace of European gastronomy. Having successfully stuffed our group to delighted exhaustion, limiting our escape, he offers us his experiences as a Druze in Israel, a group heretofore I was unaware of.

Roughly one-thousand years old, the Druze consider their faith an interpretation of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, with apparent Greek and Hindu influences. In stark contrast to the previous religions, the Druze religious texts are secret, and the religion itself is closed to converts. Their culture and language are evidently Arab, but their fealty is directly tied to the flag under which they reside. At less than 2% of the population yet intensely proud of their history and continued contributions to their community and nation, Israel likes to make them a poster child for the potential of Israeli relations with the Israeli-Arabs throughout the country.

L. A. W.

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