Golan Druze for Syria
Golan Druze for SyriaFlash 90

When the Druze left Islam in the 13th century to follow their spiritual guide, Al Daruzi, they had to head for the hills and close ranks to survive in an unforgiving Muslim world.

The Druze live in the contiguous mountain ranges that today straddle Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.

Part of their religion is to submit to local rulers and support the regime as long as they are not persecuted. The Druze are known to be good, courageous fighters and close-knit.

In Syria, where most of them live, they are pro-Assad because they, like the Alawi sect of Assad, Christians, and Kurds, are threatened by the majority Sunni population. In the Syrian civil war those living in Syria or nearby sided with the regime.

In fragmentized, lawless Lebanon, they maintain their own militia and thus protect their autonomy there

Israel has its own story. There is a history of Druze attacks on defenseless Jewish communities in Galilee during the long centuries of Ottoman rule. Nothing personal. Just take what you can from those who cannot resist.

On the eve of the War of Independence in 1948, the Arab populations and armies were preparing for a swift Holocaust of the Jewish population. The consensus in political-military circles throughout the world was that the second Holocaust was a certainty. The Jews had no chance.

The Druze neighbors in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria saw an opportunity to get in on some of the winnings and aligned with the invading Arab forces.

They always choose a winner. Or what they believe to be one.

What everyone believed was inevitable was what the Druze believed, but like everyone else, they were in for a surprise.

In a major battle at the beginning of the war, the Druze battalions attacked the lightly defended kibbutz, Ramat Yohanan.

It was supposed to be a walk in the park. Instead, the Druze were driven back with heavy losses.

In shock and licking their wounds, the Druze decided to sit out the rest of the war.

With Israel's victory and the Muslims on the run, the Druze appealed to the newborn state to allow them to stay and be a loyal part of the new Jewish state

The Jews, known for their soft forgiving hearts (like King Saul and King Ahab) and desperate for friends (as usual) embraced the Druze and all was forgiven. Impressed with the spirit of the Jews and their convincing victories over the Muslims, the Druze proved to be loyal citizens and good soldiers in the IDF. The tales of their courage and list of fallen soldiers are a source of pride.

Things worked out for a while. However; "the times, they are a changing."

When did this change begin?

It took a clear turn when Israel embraced its worst enemy, making far-reaching concessions to Yassar Arafat (Oslo Accords - 1993)in the hope of making him a friend. The Druze understood his Jew-hating speeches in Arabic. The Jews weren't listening.

This kind of very un-Mideast behavior shocked the Druze. They did not appreciate the sophistication of those "smart" Jews. They are just simple people.

When the new peace partners immediately began using the guns and safe enclaves Israel gave them to kill Jews, the Druze waited for the Jews to return to sanity. The old Israel that they respected was vanishing rapidly. As the piles of Jewish dead rose, they began to rethink their original decision.

Israel, more than any other country, craves quiet and approval. It has been paying for this with blood and land for decades now. It has not worked and the Druze are the first to understand why. It's the Mid-east, not the Mid - West

In the Galilee village of Peki'in where Mrs Sanan was the last surviving Jew who had lived there since the Temple period, live many Druze. Young Jewish families bought the property in the historic village to bolster the Jewish historical presence in this unique corner of the Land of Israel, The Druze were not welcoming and burnt them out. The Israeli authorities would not protect the Jews for fear of threatening the "special relationship" we have with the Druze.

Lord knows we have enough trouble with the Muslims. The Illusion of non-Jews on our side is too precious to lose. We fear being isolated and hated.

In 1967 when Israel liberated the Golan Heights from Syria, the IDF expelled many thousands of hostile Syrian citizens and thus made for the Jewish settlement of today.

The pro-Syrian Druze community on the Golan was the exception because they had Druze friends in Israel who lobbied the Israeli government to allow their kin to stay.

Like the Israeli Druze, the Golan Druze have benefitted tremendously from their association with the Jewish state and have been mostly quiet over the years. They do not accept the offer of Israeli citizenship for fear of the Golan being returned to Syria in which that case they would be dead meat.

On Syrian Independence Day, they demonstrate by raising the Syrian flag and burning the Israeli flag. Israel understands and is accommodating.

During the Syrian civil war, Israel backed a rebel group fighting the Assad regime near the Israeli border where the Druze live. The IDF set up a field hospital to tend to their allies wounded by Assad's army. The Druze on the Golan land did not like this, so when an ambulance carrying wounded allies of Israel passed through a Druze village it was attacked, and the Syrian patients were hacked to death.

Beginning June 21, 2023, in the Golan Heights there were massive riots by the Druze resulting in many injured and some deaths. Fifteen hundred police were needed to restore order. They were protesting the placing of wind turbines to produce clean electricity (for their communities as well) in their part of the Golan. Israel has placed wind turbines in other windy areas without problems.. The land is not Druze land although they tried to claim it is. They burned police vehicles and tried to burn down a police station.

It did not end there.

Riots and widespread road blocking spread to Galilee and Carmel where the rest of the Israeli Druze live. Identifying with their brothers on the Golan they paralyzed a chunk of Israel, learning from the Israeli left demonstations that nothing happens.

Prime Minister Netanyahu caved and announced the suspension of the positioning of the turbines for a week or so.

In addition, today Bedouin of the Negev rioted and blocked roads - why not?

If it were nationalist Jews doing the roadblocking, heads would crack immediately. There would be no concern for retaining a "special relationship" or quiet.

The Druze get it.

Attacks on Jews throughout the land have been increasing with no end in sight. Jews are being killed. Jews are being humiliated.

In their view, Jews are afraid. Jews are confused. Jews are demoralized.

To the Druze that does not look like the winner they chose to side with in 1948. They are seeking a winner today.

Shalom Pollack s a tour guide and author of the book "Jews,Israelis and Arabs.: He can be reached at [email protected]