Tag Archives: christianity

The Druzes community in the Golan Heights

The Druze religion is a schism of Ismaili Shia Islam. It was born in Egypt during the reign of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim, recognized as “mad” for some and “genius” for others. During an official ceremony in 996, he established himself as the last imam and the incarnation of God on earth. It was during this period that the split between Druze and Ismailis occurred.

Three Ismaili characters are the instigators of this new Druze religion, Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi, will give him his name, but later he will be removed from the group whose ideas are incompatible with the new doctrine.

The Druze doctrine is rooted in a desire to synthesize the three monotheisms with ideas from Manichaeism, ancient Egypt, India and the Greek world.

The Druze designate themselves as unitary. This term is doubly justified because the Druze affirm the strict oneness of God and because they aspire to unite with him.

Al-Hakim wants to unite by force the Sunni and Shiite cults to create a new Islam, largely inspired by Ismaili Shiism with only pilgrimage place in Cairo. The vast Sunni majority living in Egypt strongly contests this ideology. In 1020, Al-Hakim disappeared during one of his usual walks, near Cairo where he found peace and serenity. His body was never found, only his clothes tainted with blood.

The death of Fatimid Al-Hakim led to a wave of persecution against the Druze. Their doctrine is eradicated from Egypt. Followers of this new religion fled and took refuge in southern Syria, Lebanon and the Galilee, far from Cairo and the Fatimid Empire. A movement of proselytizing is created in these regions and part of the local Shiite population converts to this unitary Druze religion which is then enriched by contributions of Kurdish, Arab origin and becomes a community of multiple ethnic origin.

The divine hierarchy has five ministers considered by five colors. At the top, there is Divine Intelligence, Soul, Word, Previous and Next.

These are the five colors found in the Druze flag (green, red, yellow, blue and white).

The initiates are distinguished by their moral quality, their reputation and their spiritual elevation. They renounce earthly pleasure and their long mystical journey leads them towards the purification of the soul to the level of elevation which will unite them to God and the return of the Messiah Al-Hakim at the end of time.

Reincarnation is one of the core beliefs of the Druze community. After death, the deceased’s soul immediately enters a Druze newborn.

This religion is strongly influenced by Sufism which advocates the removal of material goods to stay closer to God. Jewish and Christian religions are better accepted in Druze writings than Islam. One of the Druze doctrines is Greek philosophy.

The Druze do not follow Islamic rules such as the pilgrimage to Mecca. They do not read the Koran but the books of wisdom, they do not pray in mosques but in prayer houses. There is no rite or prayer on Friday. On Thursday evenings the Druze wishing to get closer to religion meet to listen to the conference on the books of wisdom followed by recitation of the texts of Sufi poetry. The session leader then gives a signal and only the initiated can stay and participate in the real religious session.

For a long time, the disclosure of the Druze doctrine was worth its author’s death.

The only Muslim holiday celebrated by the Druze is Id of Al-Adha which celebrates the sacrifice of Abraham which will be celebrated on the same day by other Muslims. They do not practice fasting during the month of Ramadan but during the ten days before the Id of Al-Adha. The party lasts four days. The day of ‘Id symbolizes the day of the last judgment which represents the deliverance for the druze.

Proselytism is prohibited among the Druze. We are born Druze, we cannot become one. Marriages take place within the community only. A password allows members to recognize themselves. Polygamy is not tolerated and marital fidelity is one of the rules. The woman is equal to the man and can inherit the family patrimony if the parents establish a will, if this does not exist the brother will be the heir and if there is no male in the family the cousins will inherit.

There are approximately one million druzes living in the world, 143,000 Druze in Israel, including 20,000 on the Golan Heights. Following the six-day war the Golan Heights, until then Syrian, was taken by the Israelis, the Druze population became administered by the Israeli government. Some Druze accepted Israeli citizenship while others remained loyal to the Assad regime. Trade, especially that of apples which is an important production of the region passes in Syria. Some young Druze people go to Damascus to study in Syria, where education is free for them.

Young druze girls will be promised in marriage to young boys from Syria, the border crossing will then be open the time of their passage, thanks to the thousand efforts of the Red Cross, in order to join their future husband and will never be able to return to the despair of the family and the bride. A very beautiful film was made on this subject its title “The Syrian fiancée”.

Following the war in Syria, families are torn between pro and anti-Assad, people of the past united against the Israeli occupation no longer speak from house to house, and the “hill of screams” , where families once came to exchange news via megaphones on either side of the barbed wire border between Syria and Israel, is now deserted. The means of communication have improved significantly in recent years.

The height of the Golan Heights is between 500 and 1,000 meters above sea level, its length is 55 km long, a highly strategic crossroads by location, and geography. It overlooks the kinnereth lake with the city of Tiberias, the upper Galilee and the Syrian Damascus plain. Its main source of water flowing into the kinnereth Lake is the Jordan river. It is a perfect point of observation. It has become a military field filled with antennae and sophisticated military equipment.

 

Golan height druze leaders meeting with their syrian compatriotes

Golan height druze leaders meeting with their syrian compatriotes

DOMUS GALILAEAE – The Galilee’s Home

Domus Galilaeae The garden

Domus Galilaeae The garden

This magnificent building of Domus Galilaeae is in the lower galilee dominating the Sea of Galilee and the Mont of Beatitudes.

Domus Galilaeae first stone was laid in  January 1999, the building was built in a short period of time with traditional Tuscan stone.

The opening of the site was held in 2000.

Managed by the Catholic organization Neocatechumenal Way, Domus Galilaeae employs about 150 full-time people, including workers, technicians and volunteers. There are 37 Christian Arab workers, 32 Arab Muslims, 21 technicians, 20 Jews, Druze and 10 Maronites.

It was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II during his visit for the Holy Land Millennium .

In the center of the library is an ancient Torah.

Francisco José Argüello Gómez y Wirtz more fluently called Kiko Arguello Wirtz was born in Spain January 9, 1939. A Spanish artist who studied fine art at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid and received in 1959 the Special National Award for painting.

He is not only the architect but also the innovator of what became in 1964 the Neocatechumenal Way in the slums of Palomeras Altas in Madrid.

On May 13, 2009, he received an honorary doctorate by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

The center is designed as a place where Christians would learn about the living tradition of Israel following the footsteps of early Christian saints “who have returned to their Hebrew roots by studying the meaning of prayer, celebrations and Hebrew liturgies” .

John Paul II, who illustrated a new era affinity between Catholics and Jews, stressed the need to appreciate the Jewish roots in order to live an authentic Christianity.

Domus Galilaeae entrance hall

Domus Galilaeae entrance hall

Domus Galilaeae roof and terrasse overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Domus Galilaeae roof and terrasse overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Domus Galilaeae magnificent library

Domus Galilaeae magnificent library

Domus Galilaeae - the chapel

Domus Galilaeae – the chapel

 

 

Herod’s Palace in Jerusalem

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Herod's Palace in Jerusalem

Herod’s Palace in Jerusale                                          

                              Archaeologists say they have uncovered the remains of King                                                Herod’s palace in Jerusalem – and with it the site where the trial of                                                                            Jesus may have taken place.

The excavation of an old abandoned building near the city’s Tower of David Museum could have revealed the remains of a palace where the trial described in the New Testament took place, reports the Washington Post.

The building known as the Kishle is situated to the south ot the Tower of David and was built by Ibrahim Pasha, the Egyptian ruler in 1830, used as a military compound it became a police station and jail during the British Mandate.

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The Mosaics of the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes

Mosaics of the Church of loaves and fishes

Mosaics of the Church of loaves and fishes

Mosaic with the nilometer

Mosaic with the nilometer

 

The Benedictine Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, called Tabgha in Arabic or Heptategon in Latin meaning –  seven sources is located on the shores of  the Sea of Galilee on the ancient roman road – The Via Maris.

The magnificent Byzantine mosaics of the church, dating from the sixth century,  describe  the migratory birds crossing the Holy land and resting at the Sea of Galilee.

Israel is the passage of migratory birds on their way to Africa heading to Europe, one never get tired of watching flights of storks, cranes, pelicans, cormorants, kingfishers, hawks and many others above our heads in Spring or Autumn.

There is also a Nilometer in  this mosaic, a measure that was used in Egypt to know the height of the Nile.

                                     The fact that a nilometer is shown in this mosaic implies either :

                                   That this measure was used outside Egypt and the artist probably an                                                          Egyptian reproduced what he knew best.

                                    We know as well that the nilometer allowed to know the water level                                                    of the lake meaning  a better harvest if there was a lot of                                                              water and higher taxes to be pay by the farmers.

An Rock Hyrax fed by a bird

An Rock Hyrax fed by a bird

 

The Jerusalem Syndrome

A visitor walking barefoot winter and summer in the old city of Jerusalem

A visitor walking barefoot winter and summer in the old city of Jerusalem

For centuries, thousands of visitors have been visiting Jerusalem.
Among them there is a small number – victim of what experts call the ”Jerusalem Syndrome”.
 
This is the result of an emotional  trauma caused by the proximity of the Holy Places …
There are about forty people each year from among two millions of tourists, who have been hospitalized in Jerusalem for believing to be either the Messiah, Mary Magdalene or any other biblical character.
In the Capital they are being taken care of by the Emergency departments of Kfar Shaul Psychiatric Hospital. These ”would-be Messiahs” with their eccentric and bizarre behaviour are attracted by the mystique of the Holy City and are completely losing touch with reality. They become psychotic upon entering Jerusalem.
Contrary to what was expected, the year 2000 was not the safe haven for all these “false Messiahs.” Only a few arrived in Jerusalem, and were taken care of by the Israel Police, psychiatrists and psychologists.
Specialists from the Kfar Shaul Psychiatric Hospital in Jerusalem published in August 2000
in the British Journal of Psychiatry a study that reported on this syndrome:
 
”Jerusalem, a city that combines the sense of the sacred, history and paradise, has an unparalleled attraction for believers of various religions of the world – especially the Jews, Christians and Muslims.
When people dream of Jerusalem, they do not see modern Jerusalem and politically controversial, but the City Religious Scripture and biblical.
Since 1980, psychiatrists of Jerusalem met with a growing number of tourists, arriving in Jerusalem, suffer psychotic decompensation. Because of the high incidence of this phenomenon, it was decided to direct all such cases to a single institution – the psychiatric hospital in Kfar Shaul – for psychological counseling, psychiatric intervention and, if necessary, admission to hospital. Over a period of 13 years (1980-1993), 1200 tourists with serious mental problems were taken to this hospital in Jerusalem . Of these, 470 were admitted to hospital which sees an average of 100 tourists per year for this condition, including forty need to be hospitalized.”
An old Palestinian man with his donkey on the Mount of Olives like in a Biblical time

An old Palestinian man with his donkey on the Mount of Olives like in a Biblical time