Strange Druze

Michael Young of Lebanon’s Daily Star has a fascinating account of the mercurial Walid Jumblatt.

Asked whether it is true that he once with wicked humor offered the conservative Maronite Christian patriarch a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s leftist critique of the industrialized world, ”Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World,” Jumblatt answered yes and brought out two books he was currently reading. Both were utterly unexpected in that barren intellectual vale populated by most Lebanese politicians: ”At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities,” by Jean Amery, and ”The New Meaning of Treason,” by Rebecca West. He added that he is a great admirer of Robert D. Kaplan, whose hardheaded pessimism has so often been anathema to Jumblatt’s left-wing soul mates in the West. Jumblatt is forever complicating his secular, leftist image.

Jumblatt’s pragmatic ecumenism is common among Lebanese, which helps to explain why followers of Lebanon’s once-hostile militias have been demonstrating together against Syria since Hariri’s murder. Perhaps it is one reason that Christians have forgiven Jumblatt for what he did to them, even if they do not forget; another is that the Lebanese system of communal compromise is propped up by amnesia, necessary since few emerged from the civil war looking good. A third is that Walid Jumblatt, given his experience, versatility and influence, is perhaps the only national leader the opposition still has.Encounter1841

Toward the end of a lunch he was giving, Jumblatt ordered first one and then a second glass of liqueur. He was very tired, he said; the alcohol apparently was to help him nap. Friends say Jumblatt’s nights are sleepless. Walking an eternal tightrope does that to you.

If you’re wondering what a ‘Druze’ is I would recommend perusing the Institute of Druze Studies website at San Diego State University. There, among other things, you will find tantalizing bits of information like the following:

Although the structure of the Druze society helps unite them into a socially cohesive community, it also divides them into two main classes: “the initiated” known in Arabic as ‘uqqal, literally “wise,” who are familiar with the religious teachings; and “the uninitiated”   known as juhhal, or literally “ignorant” who are not initiated in the Druze doctrine. Only those members of the community who demonstrate piety and devotion and who have withstood a lengthy process of candidacy are initiated into the teachings of the Druze faith. Women may also be initiated in the Druze doctrine. The Druze tradition considers women to be more spiritually prepared than men to enter such circles because they are considered less likely to be exposed to deviant or immoral practices such as murder and adultery.