Sunday, May 18, 2008

Druze in Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Egypt

Dienekes is a website about genetic and other relationships that I go to frequently. Along with GNXP, another one I visit & where I just picked up on a book that is called The Horse, the Wheel & Language, another one of my peculiar obsessions. Dienekes has a nice piece on the Druze, a small sect in the fighting in Lebanon & an Arabic-speaking ally of Israel. Which is why the authors of the piece on the Druze are Israeli.

My Lebanese uncle was a Druze from Allei above Beirut and we had often had long talks about the Arab world when I was a teen-ager---perhaps that was the reason that after joining the State Dept and being offered a job in the political section in Paris after two years in Lyon, I made a weird decision to turn it down for Arabic language studies.

I studied Arabic in Beirut & served in the State Dept. My uncle's many talks with me had been a bit of Druze oral tradition. For what it's worth [he didn't practice taqqiya with me as far as I know], he said that the Druze didn't consider themselves as "Arabs" though they spoke Arabic. In my study of the Druze [very informal while I lived in the Middle East], I found that some of their doctrine derived from the Fatimid Shi'a dynasty in Egypt, and that reincarnation was among the beliefs which differentiated them from mainstream Islam. [Also, FWIW, the ruling sect of the Alawites of Syria hold reincarnation, it is said, as a secret teaching.]

Also for what it's worth, my aunt's grandson just got a full scholarship to Northwestern U. journalism school, one of the best in the USA. The whole family is either very smart or, on the female side, very naive.

As an aside, I was lucky enough to visit Yemen many times while living in Jeddah and afterwards when working for Amoco. I even made a land journey to Sana with Ambassador Pickering & other American nomads. During this madcap adventure, we encountered some Yemeni Jews who told us that there were 5000 of their co-religionists living in villages in the North Yemen royalist stronghold never conquered by the socialists. We reported this and it was duly noted---the prevailing lore had been that the Jews had been evicted from Yemen completely & had gone to Israel. For the Australian genetic traces mentioned in the article, the Yemenis had a sea-faring tradition, since somewhat recently degraded, long ago which proselytized Indonesia [Aceh in Sumatra as early as 1000AD] and may also have hit Australia & picked up some Australoids as slaves. Yemenis were slavers from Zanzibar south to Kuwait & the Indian sub-continent. Serendib was the island of Sri Lanka discovered by Yemeni sailors, tradition has it.

FWIW Just some anecdotal stuff from my family & travels. And I have read a couple of Carleton Coon's writings on the region which l found very useful for the Arabian Peninsula. The oral traditions there are very strong & while political officer in the Embassy, I had traveled in Saudi Arabia to many provinces bringing back tidbits of strange anecdotal & anthropological data which I hope to share in other posts.

1 comment :

GW said...

You've got a fascinating background Dave. I look forward to reading more of your "war stories" and insights. Linked.