The Words of the Ben-Zvi Family
Blessing Ceremony for people of the Druze faith took place on the April 25. This endeavor began several years ago with a proposal brought by one key ambassador for peace, the Druze Sheik Ali Birani. He suggested using the occasion of the celebration of the prophet Jethro (in Arabic, Nebi Shueib) to invite True Parents to the Holy Land and to the holy place of the Druze people. This proposal was made to Rev. Kwak at a meeting that took place later with Sheik Moafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze in Israel. As events transpired, not much progress was made toward this for a couple of years, until a recent visit by UPF Cochairman Hyun-jin Moon, who had already met and developed a close friendship with Sheik Tarif during a visit to the Holy Land in 2007.
Chairman Moon proposed blessing the Druze people during the gathering on their high holiday. This idea was further developed in a meeting with UPF Secretary-General Thomas Walsh, Mr. Taj Hamad, Israeli UPF leaders and the top leadership of the Druze people. Several dates were proposed for the event. Eventually, those of us based in Israel decided to have the date of the holiday be the beginning point for the series of programs that will constitute our Global Peace Festival 2008. The idea was to promote true family values and the centrality of the Blessing on the opening day of the GPF events for this year in the Middle East.
The preparations that took place were primarily spiritual, because the idea of conducting the Blessing Ceremony fit within the unique circumstances of the Druze people and the Druze holiday. The spiritual preparation was a chain of one-day fasts and prayers offered by key ambassadors for peace and the local UPF members in Israel.
We held several consultations and planning meetings before the event. In Korea, we met with the organizing committee of the Japanese volunteers to the Middle East to discuss our program. In Israel, Sheik Ali Birani coordinated consultation meetings we held with the local Druze leaders, Sheik Taufiq Salame, Mr. Yakub Salame and Sheik Samich Natur. The plan formulated was to offer the formal blessing benediction on the high holiday.
We prepared to simultaneously distribute the holy drink by using water (the Druze people do not drink wine) and 30,000 holy true love candies prepared in advance with the seed of the holy drink.
On April 25, about ten thousand people gathered in front of the main stage. Throughout the entire period, about thirty thousand people went through the temple to pay their respects on this, the most important, Druze holiday. Early on the morning of the holiday, we brought a small delegation from Jerusalem including our Regional Chairman Lee
Sang-jin and UPF Israel Chairman Masatoshi Abe. Immediately following prayers we offered upon our arrival at Jethro's tomb, we met several Druze leaders.
We were warmly welcomed by Sheik Taufik Salame, Sheik Tarif's right-hand man, who had prepared an extraordinary table of food for us. Soon many of the senior sheiks assembled around us, and we had quite an inspiring discussion about the goals of UPF. We also explained the meaning of our work and the similarities between the Druze tradition and what UPF is trying to accomplish. On that occasion, I was able to explain the concept of the Abel UN and also the role of Sheik Tarif as a spiritual leader among spiritual leaders in promoting world peace and good governance in the Abel UN.
We were then formally invited to the main podium, which was placed on the top ramp of a large porch in front of Jethro's tomb. After a short introduction of our delegation, I invited Dr. Masatoshi Abe to give greetings on behalf of Father and Mother Moon. In conveying those greetings, he also delivered the blessing benediction.
In attendance were key Druze leaders as well as Muslim and Christian leaders and some Jewish guests that came to honor the occasion. The blessing benediction was heard throughout vicinity of the tomb by way of large loudspeakers mounted on the building so that all the people in the area down below could hear everything that was said.
While this was taking place, we had about forty Boy Scouts under the guidance of their two leaders delivering holy candy to the entire congregation, both the eminent guests in the upper area and the families who had come to the tomb in the lower area. Simultaneously the delivery of the holy candy and the blessing benediction took place. Following the benediction, a series of speakers came up to greet the audience, among them Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Majali and several religious and community leaders.
Finally, Sheik Tarif, gave the main address for the holiday. Israel's president, Shimon Peres, followed Sheik Tarif and extended his greetings to the Druze people as they celebrated the holiday.
The public part of the event ended there. We were then invited to a room reserved for important guests, where we met in person with several Knesset members and one government minister. Dr. Lee Sang-jin, Dr. Abe and I were also able to briefly introduce ourselves and our affiliation with UPF to President Peres.
Later, we were guided to the main feast, which took place outside, where we enjoyed delicious food that had been offered by different villages from around the country. Each village and family had sent homemade food that was unique and colorful.
While all the people present shared happily with one another, we were able to meet many of the Druze sheiks who attended our conference in Tiberias in October 2007. They expressed their deep impressions from that event and their longing to continue our interaction and to further explore spiritual and family values.
We then returned to Sheik Ali Birani's home at Daliat El Carmel and took some time for reflection on the entire event. We felt gratitude to God and appreciation to Father and Mother Moon for the opportunity
to reach so many at once and for the consensus within this great community that made this possible.
The Druze were formed about a thousand years ago; their origin is in Egypt. In the Arab world generally, they are seen as an offshoot of Islam, having had a prophetic age in which they received a message that was different from traditional Islam. For a period of about two hundred years, the religion was open to receive people, but then it closed. Nowadays you cannot become a Druze. You cannot convert to Druze, and in a sense you cannot leave the Druze. Another unique feature, which has made them close to us, is that a husband has one wife. This stands out among Islamic groups.
Their teaching is considered secret, because they believe only mature people who take their religion seriously should study it. People in the Druze faith are either religious or secular within the context of their religion. The majority are secular. Sheikhs, learned people, are the minority. For someone to become a religious person, you have to commit yourself to strict moral laws. You can never lie. You can never steal. If you violate those laws, it disqualifies you from being religious and you will not be admitted again to the prayer place.
Their place of prayer is called Hilwe. Praying is not something Druze do publicly. If asked to pray before a meal, a Druze might say something simple like, "Let's eat." It confuses those who are accustomed to the Protestant style.
Druze have few holidays. April 25, their major holiday, honors Nebi Shu'eib, which is the Arabic name for Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, who guided Moses. Because of this, tracing back, we can see a strong connection to the Jewish people, though closeness to Jews is not something Druze generally profess. In reality, the group of Druze staying in Israel is loyal to Israel, but this is not attributed to their closeness to Jethro, the father of Moses. It is attributed to taquiyya, which is a sort of rule that requires you to be faithful to the ruler of the land, to be patriotic in the country in which you live. In the Middle East, about a hundred and twenty thousand Druze are in Israel, twenty thousand in Jordan, about four hundred thousand in Lebanon, and between eight hundred thousand and a million in Syria. The Druze in Lebanon are loyal to Lebanon; the ones in Syria are loyal to Syria. They do have strong feelings for one another as Druze, though.
Their holiest sites are in Israel, like Nebi Shu'eib, Jethro's tomb. Another holiday is celebrated on September 10 at a mountain shrine to Nebi Sabalan, which is Arabic for Zeb'ulun, Jacob's son. One holiday they celebrate with Muslims is Eid al-Adha, a three-day holiday honoring Abraham's offering.
Most Muslims see them as a variation of Islam. The Druze in Israel see themselves differently, as an original teaching; however they are unhappy to see public discourse about those teachings, because they are sacred. They have more of a meditative heart; the way to develop is by reading the holy scriptures.
Particularly on the religious side, they are open-minded. They see themselves as unifying. The Druze is actually a derogatory name that came from their opponents. Their true name is al-Muwahidoon, which means the "United One' In my country, they serve as a connecting point because they have good friendships with Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The religious ones keep their dress very formal. They don't compromise under any circumstance. They believe that holding on to your faith is like holding charcoal in your hands. You have to be a real man to hold on to your faith.
I'm very inspired by Hyun-jin nim's open and loving approach. In a very short time, he was able not only to create close relations with the Druze leaders but also gain their trust and respect. For the Druze, meeting him was like connecting to someone who represents their own tribe, their own kin; they marveled to see so many similarities between their faith and the worldview Hyun-jin nim presented.
We have great hope that the Druze can spearhead the promotion of family values and the blessing. Also, because there are Druze living in all the neighboring countries, which are in conflict, we have great hopes that they can become the leading agents of peace in the entire Middle East.