Questions And Answers Regarding The Druze In America
Sally Howell is a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and she has always been a keen student of Middle East History. Coming upon my article “The History of the Druze in America” she sent me a number of questions to more enlighten her on the makings of the Druze in America. I present her questions here, along with my answers.
SALLY HOWELL ANSWERS to the Questions from her email to Julia Makarem to
answer from “The History of the Druze in America ” article written for the 50th
Anniversary of the American Druze Society in July 1996 at the Renassaince Hotel in Detroit,
You State that they were very successful in their ability and willingness to help one another with loans, and hospital bills and the like. But you also state, “It contributed to the cultural, educational, and modernizational projects undertaken by the Druze in Lebanon and in Syria. In the name of patriotism and Druzism, the Seattle ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat’ showed a great sense of
responsibility and commitment here at home in the United States and abroad in Lebanon and in Syria.” I am wondering how they did this?
“The Druze helped each other, shared the joys and sorrows of their brethren
near and far, and they had their own Druze cemeteries, the resting places of many
Druze immigrants (God rest their souls.). They, above all, never lost
touch with their homeland. They contributed to every worthy or charitable
cause in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine and particularly to the conflict
between the Druze of Jabel Hauran, the Mountain of the Druze in Syria, and
the French in the early part of this century (1925). They contributed
heavily to that conflict, perhaps more than many of them could afford. For
the sake of true records of their contributions, one Druze immigrant from
Matoaka, W. Va. contributed more than $20,000.00. He was the late Joe
Jaber Shokair, originally from El-Kurayah Jabel el-Druze, Syria. The
contributions came from all the Druze in the western hemisphere, along with
the help of all the Druze in the Middle east, to support the bravery and
courage of the Jabel El-Druze, under the leadership, and the command of one
immortal Druze, Sultan Pasha al-Atrash.
What were these projects?
“Members of this society contributed to every worthy project in the
homeland. They helped build the Druze orphanage , Beit el Yatim, and the
University of Abey, Lebanon, El-Duwadiyyi, under the trusteeship of the late Aref Beik
el-Nakady, who, in fact, is called the father of all the Druze orphanages.
They helped build the Druze Council building, Dar al-Druze, in Beirut.”
Do you have any evidence of how much financial support they sent home, or rather, whether their support might have been both moral and philosophical?
Sally, the following is from my knowledge and my memories.
As I was growing up, my parents stressed that we must always help our
family in the mother land. Our relatives, especially, my father’s, were
always in need of money for one project after another. Once, I recall that
the silkworms that my grandparents were raising to supplement their income
from farming had died, and my father had to send money immediately to buy
more silk worms. Another time, the wells had to be redug (something like
that) and still another time, the roof on their home had to be repaired. I
could never begin to remember all the projects that my parents supported;
however, the projects never ended, and we never seemed to have the money to
buy us bicycles, etc. That really bothered me when my friends did not have
these problems. Another tradition, and that tradition still exists in the
Druze communities all over the world today, is giving money for the memory
of a Druze who has just passed away. A collection, at the funeral, is
always taken, and the family of the deceased person will send the money to
a worthy organization in his or her mother land in the name of the dead person.
While I was growing up, the Druze orphanage , Beit el Yatim, and the
University of Abey, Lebanon, El-Duwadiyyi,, as well as the Druze Council building, Dar el-Druze,
In Beirut were the places that the Druze seemed to automatically send the
money. Now, there are a number of other good causes, i.e., the dormitories
in Beirut for village girls who are studying at one of the universities in
Beirut, The Salamar Foundation, the home for the aged in the Chouf
Mountains in Lebanon, among many others. There are also a number of places
in Syria, as well as an orphanage. The records of all these places are at the Bentley Library
in my collection (Julia Makarem Papers, Call No.:0258 Aa 2; UAm).
Did they participate in debates that were carried out on both sides of the Atlantic?
Through al-bayan? Through correspondence? Through visitors and returnees?
There may have been some participation; however, I would say it was rather limited because of
the long distance and the limited means of communication at that time. I know that in my own
family, my father was surviving a depression, and his whole existence centered on the survival of
his family here in the United States. A letter took one month to reach us from Lebanon, and there
were no visitors from there; first, traveling was lengthy and expensive, and when anyone came, it
was because he had emigrated from there. Second, the person was usually more intense in
settling in the United States than he was of the political issues in his mother country. I do not have
the dates when the Al-Bayan began; however, I am sure that during the period it was publishing
the paper, it took up the current issues abroad, either in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and other Arab
countries. I assume this to be the case; I have no facts regarding the Al-Bayan to support any of
these issues, and unfortunately, those who would know, have long passed on. However, I will
continue to pursue the history of the Al-Bayan.
Do you have any insight into this history via your father and his stories
about the early days of the Michigan chapter?
I was quite young in the early days of the American Druze Society;
therefore, I cannot but say that the Society’s raison d’ etre was only
for the promulgation of the charitable and social aspects. Mr. Henry
Fleihan, one of those early émigrés from Lebanon who settled in Raleigh, North Carolina sums it
up quite accurately in this part of his article, The Roots of the American Druze Society. “The
dreams of the early Druze settlers, our fathers and forefathers, envisioned the necessity to
preserve their national heritage. They had stronger dedication to fellowship. They were
first to conceive the perception of activating the means of preserving their culture, faith, and
heritage so to enhance their new “foreign status.” They overcame many great odds and hardships,
both socially and economically, and still strived to perpetuate their identity wherever they
chose to live in this adopted land. They strived to instill the concept of Druzism into their children
and to preserve the string of their heredity---so not to fall into the melting pot of America.
Unfortunately, due to their limited educational background, whether in the English language or
their Druze faith, they sensed failure in conveying the definition of a Druze, both historically and
religiously. Interdenominational marriages, however, took place; much to the regret of the
parents. This was, and still is a concern today, not so much in the puritan concept of preservation
of our minimal number in the world, but as ones right to choose affiliation only when a Druze
receives total literal knowledge of his faith, and even then, conversion is forsaking ones identity
and origin.” I recall the times in 1946 that the Druze men in and around the state, as well as a
number from other states visited our home, like missionaries, calling for the meeting of Druze from all over the United States to gather with their families in a to be chosen specified place. The
subject of the survival of the Al-Bayan Arabic newspaper would be taken up, as well as the joining
together of the Druze youth in the United States. I was too young to attend the “great dance in
the hotel ballroom” yet, I was thrilled at the prospect of going to a large hotel and meeting so any
other young Druze from the United states and attending social events with them. I remember that
this was the breakthrough my parents wanted. We, on our own, decided we wanted to meet other
Druze youth our age !
How would you weigh these different issues, 80% mutual aid, 20% helping out back home?
I think that “helping out back home” was much less than 20%, and mutual aid was at least 80%
when it was needed. One good reason, I personally think, is because the Druze are closely knit
families, and they could not possibly give away 20% of their incomes and still maintain good
homes, as well as supplying their children with all their needs on the incomes they had. This was
the case in our family, and as I grew older, I realized that most Druze families were living as we
lived. The Druze in the United States considered themselves one family. The Druze in America
banded together to give anyone who needed help the funds he or she needed when he or she
had a grave situation. We were such a minority that it was unthinkable to allow any one of us to
fall. This is not to say that money was freely spread back and forth; on the contrary, the Druze
took care of their families, and each family considered the problems of one who had fallen into bad
times and do whatever was in their means to come to the aid of that person.
I know in my family, during the depression, there was a man from who was my mother’s relative
from her village, Ammatour, Lebanon. He was an Abu Shakra, and he lived with us for two years
while my father, Farris Mullin, was struggling to keep his family alive during those dire times. Each
morning, my father would give him two dollars for food and transportation to go out and look for a
job. There would be a hot meal waiting for him when he returned. When my mother, Nagela Farris
Mullin, tells the story, “He was able to finally educate his son in Lebanon who became a famous
doctor, and today, his grandchildren have prominent positions in the United States and in
England.” Without the assistance, from my parents, financially, as well as giving him a home, his
grandchildren would never be the people they are today. I don’t think they even realize how they
attained their life style they today have.
Can they be teased apart from one another, let alone in such a facile manner?
We, the Druze, have instinctively practiced ˜Taquiyya” (…A Muslim’s inbuilt and ineradicable proclivity to lie, deceive, and dissemble about the true nature of his/her beliefs...) since
early in the Movement, and I
honestly feel that is why, wherever you go, you find that a Druze is an instrumental part of the
community, the country; living the life as an ideal citizen. Therefore, a Druze was dedicated to
helping another Druze when the help was needed here at home. I had heard my father
speak of “no Druze criminals, jailbirds, or any person of disrepute.” The Druze were quite proud of
their standing in the community, and they also frowned on a Druze to become homeless or have to
beg for assistance from strangers. For example, my family took in and supported for two years during the Great Depression here my mother’s relative from Ammatour, in the Chouf Mountain in Lebanon, Abbas Abu Shakra, because it was inconceivable that my parents could allow him to go to a
stranger for survival is but one case that I am sure was repeated many times over in America in
those early year of immigration to the United States. I made a statement above, “Wherever you
go, you find that a Druze is an instrumental part of the community, the country; living the life as
an ideal citizen.” The practice of helping each other out and brotherhood continued into the 1950s when the
immigrants were the students who came to the United states for higher education. There was a
great influx of students to the United States in the 1950s and the 1960s, and the American
Druze who had ties to their families would welcome the students until they became settled in their
new lives. Khalid Talhouk from Aytat, Lebanon stayed with my parents until he settled in the
United States. He later married an American Druze girl, Julia Joseph, from West Virginia, and he
became a successful business man, as well as a community leader. My father’s relative, Sam
Amin, from Detroit, Michigan gave Kamal Shouhayib from Aley, Lebanon a home with his family
until Kamal was settled in his new country. He now lives in Troy, Michigan where he is an
engineer, a developer, a philanthropist, and a former Troy Citizen of the Year. His company, the
Choice Group, develops subdivisions and owns properties in five states; most of them are mobile
home parks. These stories are the same in every country in the world; where the Druze go, a new
successful and good citizen of that country is born. I can still hear my father’s words, “no Druze criminals, jailbirds, or any person of disrepute.”
Secondly, when you were president of the ADS in the 1960s, how would you say the attention of the organization was focused, toward ethnic, religious and immigrant concerns in the U S or toward national, ethnic, religious concerns in Lebanon?
By the time I became National President of the American Druze Society, the Society was in one of
its lowest declines in membership that it had ever witnessed. The Michigan Branch of the
‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat’ had, in 1943, converted its By Laws to conduct the meetings in English
rather than in Arabic. They did this to encourage the American born Druze to join the
‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat’ organization. They were proud, and justifiability so; they wanted the
young American born Druze to keep the name of their heritage alive for all the Druze generations
to come. Even though the brotherhood of those early pioneers was missing by the 1960s, the
“Mahrajan’ as the Annual American Druze Society (ADS) Convention was called, had seemed to
replace that brotherhood. One man, Mr. Abbas Dakdduk from Cleveland, Ohio, who had come to
the United Sates in 1937, told Mr. Henry Flehan that he was against completely revealing
the Druze Faith to the American born; however, he felt that it was imperative that they practice
the Faith which was what the ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat’ was all about. Mr. Abbas Dakdduk said,
“Learning is not as important as practicing a faith. God Almighty gave us the AKEL, if you
will call it in its human form, the MIND. The intelligencia to determine what is right and what is
wrong, as long as we keep it strong and healthy, free of drugs. Then, it would not be hard to
teach yourself and your children “Tareekat El-Towheed” (The teachings of the Druze Faith).” This
was an ideal position for the ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat’ members to take; however, they did not plan
on the obstacles that they were soon to encounter. Countries around the world began to face a
“brain drain,” and there was a huge wave of student emigrations from these countries to the
United States for higher learning. These students were intent on returning to their countries;
therefore, they came to the United States equipped with all the propaganda methods they needed
to further their cause in the political activities in their mother land. The Druze were no exception!
In Michigan, two young students arrived in the 1950s determined to spread their political
ideologies. They were from the “Metn” area in Lebanon. However, those first early immigrants,
such as my father, who had come to the United States were filled with fervor for their adopted
country. In fact, most of them had even served in the First World War in America, as did my father, and were proud
loyalists of this country, and they had taught their children well to be the same. Even a large
number of these early immigrants’ children, such as my brother, Roger Mullin, served in the draft
after World War 11, and they, too, were completely devoted to the United States. They had been
raised in a dominant society, and they intended to be a part of that society and to live out their
lives that way, just as their parents had. They wanted no part of the new immigrants who came to
the United States as students for “higher learning; yet, those students, along with their studies,
devoted a vast amount of their time on the problems of their mother country, and that impeded
their progress in living the “American way,” so when the first generation Americans discovered the
agenda of the new immigrants, the Americans simply departed and went their own way. The manner of
their actions was highly appropriate; yet, it, subsequently, led to the demise of the ‘El-Bakaurat
In the ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat’ meetings, in those early days, a fine of 50 cents was Imposed on a
member who had used profanity, or if he had spoken on a political issue from back home. Mr. Fred
Massey, one of the original members of the ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat, said, “Discussions were
always free and frank and devoid of all references to political parties which flourished in the old
country these days. The meetings were kept orderly, although, opinions differed and expressions
sometimes became heated and strident.” These new political issues of political parties brought
before the ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat by the new immigrants were far beyond the raison d’ etre of
the ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat,’ and it was not surprising that as the members sat precariously in
these meetings that they should begin to have problems among themselves when there was
discussion of the new politics that they were being subjected to. That was the culmination of the
Michigan branch of the El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat to disband, and in 1971, the members became a
part of the American Druze Society. However, the animosity that arose from the new ideologies
that the new immigrants were imposing on the American born members of the American Druze
Society showed immediately among the American born Druze, and they simply boycotted the
Annual Conventions, as well as any of the local activities by the Society. They had no concern
whatsoever in the politics of their parents’ mother countries. The pitfall of this was also, the new
Druze immigrants had come to all parts of the United States, and they immediately formed a union
among themselves. This became a catastrophe for the Annual Conventions because the membership of the American born Druze dropped drastically.
Such was the situation when I took office in 1962. Only one-hundred Druze attended the Annual
Convention in Chicago, Illinois, and that Convention was almost to be the last for the American
Druze Society. However, a common principle characterized those first immigrants and their
American born successors; they were designed, not only to uphold the name of the Druze, but to
spread goodwill among them. After all, they had been the only family many of them had ever
known; thus, the Annual Convention has continued on until today in spite of the hurdles it has had
to overcome. The Annual Convention of the American Druze Society which is now attended
by those latest immigrants, has remained successful, and it is also attended by many Druzes from
many other countries in the world. Those American born children of the first immigrants, however,
no longer attend the Annual Convention nor any other Druze activities. It is not always easy to
steer the course between the paternal attitude in society, which seeks in a benevolent way to
impose its will upon people and a genuine solicitude for their welfare; therefore, there is a void in
the Druze communities in America. On the other hand, those latest immigrants now run and
organize the Annual Conventions, and those Druze, along with the Druze from other
countries, i.e., Australia, Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, England, France, etc., feel they are part of the
extended Druze family in the United States. They, too, have begun Annual Conventions, and there
is a rapport among them and the Druzes of the United States. The Druze family has spread
around the world ! The American born children of those first immigrants, the first generation
Americans, however, may never come back to the fold. I, nor anyone else I know, have been able
to approach them, without any incursions upon their rights or intrusion upon their personalities, to
bring them back to the Druze Community.
Can you give examples? Was a divide discernable? Your history doesn’t give many clues in this regard. Did the language shifts in the organization impact the orientation of the group? How much contact did the ADS have with Druze in other parts of the world outside of Lebanon? What percentage of the active members of the organization at this time was American born?
I may have covered the above questions in my last answer. What do you think?
Thirdly, when you returned to the presidency in the 90s, how would you say the attention of the organization was focused? Can you give examples? I am especially interested to know who it was who was pushing domestic vs. homeland issues. Or, can generalizations be made in this regard? Perhaps it was immigrants who were pushing political issues and the American born who were pushing charitable concerns in Lebanon? What percentage of the active membership was American born?
When I was elected National President of the American Druze Society in 1998, I had already been
on the Board of Directors since 1992. It was an entirely different organization from the one that I
had presided over in 1962. The Lebanese Civil War had just ended, and there were a lot of highly
emotional issues that the American Druze Society had to tackle, which is understandable.
The membership was at its peak because thousands had left Lebanon to come to America due to
the Civil War, and there was cooperation among the old and the new immigrants. There was only
one agenda, and that was the preservation of the Druze, here in the United States and in the
home countries. The charitable activities increased in order to help those in need in Lebanon and
in Syria where there were large orphanages. Lebanon had many other organizations that needed
help, such as those to help the wounded as a result of the Civil War, as well as to help support the
families of the martyrs. There were so many children who needed to have an education, as well as
medical and psychological attention. A group of the American Druze doctors arranged for much
needed medical equipment to be sent to Lebanon. A group of Druze from all the countries where
the Druze were concentrated arranged to send medical supplies to Lebanon throughout the Civil
War. The American Druze Society had many successes in this endeavor, and the Druze in
America, as well as those in other countries became united in these causes. This has united the
Society, as well, and now, even though, there has again been a drop in membership, the Society is
well and strong.
Finally, when you were in Lebanon, how much contact did you have with the ADS?
My only contact with the American Druze Society while I was living in Lebanon was
restricted to my writings which were published in the American Druze Society’s magazine, Our Heritage. However, in 1981, I did attend an Annual Convention in Toronto, Canada as an
emissary of the Druze leader in Lebanon, Beik Walid Jumblat to invite the American Druze Society
members from all over North America to a World Druze Convention in Khalde, Lebanon. I made a
stop in about six states, as well in order to extend the invitation to the individual chapters of the
American Druze Society. However, even though many Druze from many countries in the world did
arrive in Khalde for the World Druze Convention, it did not materialize. The Civil War was at its
height, and there were developing circumstances beyond the control of the Druze body sponsoring
the Convention. It was not in the interests of the government of another country to have such a
gathering in Lebanon, and by no less than by the Druze leader, Walid Bek Jumblatt at the ‘helm,’
so there were threats which caused the Convention Committee to cancel all the wonderfully
planned activities, and, unfortunately, send participants from all around the world to go packing. I
will elaborate on that further in another work.
I also wrote some religious stories with my husband, Dr. Sami Makarem, for the Committee on
Religious Affairs for the Chairman, Dr. Nadim Kassem, and these stories were used at the Annual
Conventions. I worked with a few academics in Lebanon on material they would present to the
American Druze as speakers at the Annual Conventions they were going to attend in America. I
also worked with the Sheikh al-Akl of the Druzes in Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammed Abu Shakra, on
the material he would present to the American Druze Society at its Annual Convention which was
held in Khalde, Lebanon in 1973.
How active was the ADS or were American Druze in the various organizations and debates in which you participated in the 60s, 70s, and 80s?
I cannot comment on this until I do further research.
And, finally, finally, I would love to use your story about arriving in the U S during the riots of 1967. Have you written it anywhere?
I am sure that I have written something about my experience in June 1967 coming to the United
States as a result of an evacuation from Lebanon in my memoirs Traumatism
This is a chapter from my book. I began the first editing on May 30, 2004.
The dictionary definition of ’traumatism’ is that it is the result of a severe emotional shock having a deep, often lasting effect upon the personality.
I would like to clarify here that I am a normal and sane person. I would also like to state here that any normal and sane person who had been born and raised in the United States would be in a state of Traumatism due to such acts as I have experienced. I was young, and I was a newcomer in a foreign country.
The first distressing event that I experienced happened early on during my first five years in Lebanon. Sami was an FSI (Foreign Service Institute) instructor at the American University of Beirut for the American Embassy in Lebanon, and the time was a few years after the Arab Isreali War of June, 1967. This is also known as the ‘Six-day War.” It was during the evening of September 28, 1970. Sami, Toni Kassab, an instructor in the Arabic Department at the American University of Beirut, and I were returning from Baabda to Beirut. Toni Kassab was also involved in the Arabic Program for the FSI. The students, who were Americans, were living in Baabda, and they had invited us to a party that evening. Baabda, an influential suburb of Beirut, is also the site of the Presidential Palace, and it is relatively near to Beirut. However, it is still in the mountains, so as we drove down the mountain roads, we were extremely cautious; we were cautious about the mountain roads, as well as the news that trouble was brewing in Beirut. The party had ended rather abruptly because there had been an announcement on the radio that Beirut was swarming with demonstrations, so we were anxiously on our way back home. At the announcement on the radio, the party ended abruptly and all the guests rushed to get back to their homes. It was rumored (incorrectly) that Gemal Abdel Nasser, the president of the republic of Egypt had been assassinated. Actually, he was dead, but from a heart attack and not the victim of an assassin. He was an extremely popular figure in the Arab world, if not the most popular, because after Egypt’s defeat in the third Arab-Israeli War (Six-day War) in June, 1967, huge demonstrations of public support brought him back to power after he had resigned as a result of the defeat. Gemal Abdel Nasser sought to speak as a leader for all the Arab people and pursued neutralist policy encouraging Third World cooperation. He was totally loved by Arabs all over the world for his representation as an Arab statesman.
On the Aley Highway, which took us from Baabda to Beirut, we noticed a gallery that had been broken into. All cf Beirut was dark, and as is the practice, the gallery owner had left on the lights of the chandeliers that were on display. So, the gallery had been broken into, and the bulbs on the chandeliers had been broken. This should have been a warning to us to turn Out the lights of the car; however,, the Aley Highway has ever so many turns, and one must be able to see these turns or go over the side of the mountain. Sometimes, this happens even when one has the car lights on because it is a treacherous road.
Just as we were about to finish our decent down the mountain, we saw ahead of us a gang of two hundred or so young men. We stopped as they approached the car, but we were not prepared for what they did. All together, they picked up the car and were about to turn it over when we realized that we should have turned out the lights of the car. After we did so, the men began screaming at us that we were celebrating Nasser’s death. After some time, we were able to convince the crowd that we were unaware of the situation, and they allowed us, with no car lights, to proceed to Beirut. Needless to say, I was rather shaken. That night, we decided that Toni Kassab should stay over night and make a try for his home in East Beirut in the morning when the situation would be calmer.
When we awoke the following morning, it was to the shouts of the demonstrators who were out in full force, even more so than the preceding night. We sat on the veranda trying to plan a strategy for Toni to get home, as well as for us to leave Beirut and go up to our own village, Aytat. This is customary for people who live in Beirut to do. One always finds a safe haven in his own village among his own family and friends. It was noon by the time we decided what we should do. Toni would go to the American University until it was relatively safer for him to go to his home in the mountains in the eastern sector of Beirut, and we would start out for Aytat in the southern sector. Our Beirut home was rather near the American University of Beirut. We packed the car. That day was the start of my packing a bag that would always be ready for travel should the need arise; this bag continued to be packed and ready for travel for the next twenty years. The bag was something like a bag a mother-to-be has setting next to the door for her to take with her when she is ready to deliver her baby.
As we drove up the mountain road to our village, Aytat, demonstrators lined the roads. By then, we all knew that Gemal Abdel Nasser had died of a heart attack; however, the frenzy of the night before still was rampant among the crowds. I had a black scarf which I held out the window as a sign of mourning, and I did not stop holding it out the window until we reached the very door of our home in Aytat. I even began wearing black as a sign of mourning, as did most of the other women in many of the areas in Lebanon. I
did this for a few weeks. All of Lebanon, as did most of the other countries in the Arab World, mourned the death of this great man.
So, it was 1970 when I experienced my first bout of trauma regarding the situation in the country, and this was to continue until I left Lebanon seventeen years later.
In June, 1967, to me, the first day of the Arab-Isreali War, was just an announcement over the radio and in the newspapers. I came home from my teaching job to find Sami, and another professor at the American University cf Beirut sitting in my living room. They were making plans for my departure, as well as his wife’s from Lebanon. I thought then that it was rather premature to be discussing that subject. Mounir Bashur, Sami’s collegue, was also married to an American, Kathy Bashur, who was a teacher at the American Community School also on the American University of Beirut Campus.. Then, they did not have children, but we had two daughters, Sahar, and Rand.
As far as I was concerned, the Arab-Isreali War was a war between Syria - Egypt, and Isreal and therefore, would not affect me. However, I soon learned that the American State Department thought differently regarding the American involvement in the War. So, American Embassy personnel began evacuating Lebanon the very first day of the War. The building I lived in, The Green Tower Building in Tallet el-Khayyat, had an international residencey. The man who was the Director of the Voice of America, Robert Cummins, and his family lived in my building. So, they were among the first to leave, and since we had been good friends, I was asked to keep their cat. They fully intended to return, so they gave me money to buy a supply of cat food from Salloum’s Market in the Hamra area. Salloum’s had a variety of American products and catered to the foreign community. That afternoon, I went to Salloum’s and bought the cat food, as well as some necessary items I needed. I was waiting in the checkout line when suddenly, the owner of the Market, Gaby Salloum, came into the shop and announced that everyone had to vacate the Market immediately. He told us there was a ‘blackout’ and a ‘curfew,’ and he had to close the Market right then. I had no cat food at home, and since I knew Gaby quite well, I asked him to allow me to have the just the cat food. He refused, so I then asked him if I could take the boxes of cat food and pay him later. Even this, he did not allow me to do because he wanted me, along with the others, out of the Market immediately. I was beginning to become concerned, to say the least. When I got home, Sami had learned of the ‘blackout’ and the ‘curfew,’ We set to work and covered the windows of the house. And, this was no easy task because the entire front of our house, over sixteen square feet, was glass, and this was from top to bottom. Over half of the back of the house had glass from the top to the bottom, as well.
That evening, we watched the news on television. We saw the Americans leaving from Beirut International Airport. I was sad, and concerned; however, I still did not feel that this War would affect me anymore than it already had. We went to bed as usual. Then, the shock came. At around two o’clock in the morning, our area representative from the American Embassy came over. He told Sami and me that there would be a mass evacuation of all Americans from the American University of Beirut Campus by five o’clock in the morning. We were to have blankets and food for a few days. At first, both Sami and I refused because only I and Sahar and Rand would be
evacuated, and neither Sami nor I thought that this was really a necessary step to take. However, this man was quite insistent, and he even told Sami that possibly the blood of his wife and children would be on his hands. So, what were we to do? He had put the “fear of God” into us. I immediately packed one suitcase with the necessary items, and off we went to the University Campus to proceed with the evacuation. Sami stayed with us. We covered the girls with the blankets, and they ate the few sandwiches that I had brought that night.
When daylight came, busses arrived on Campus, and they were guarded by Lebanese soldiers. After all the formal steps were taken, Sami bid me and our daughters ‘goodbye,’
and we began our ride to the airport. That was when I really started to have misgivings about leaving Lebanon.
I had seen so few people I knew, and I felt so lost. By the time we reached the airport, I had made up my mind. I did not want to leave my husband! I told that to everyone who would listen to me; no one would answer. When I found the lady from the Embassy who was in charge of that particular evacuation that I wanted to return to Beirut, she simply screamed at me, “Impossible.” So there I was, boarding the plane for Athens, Greece along with the rest of the Americans. I did not know it then, but my ‘hell’ had just begun. I remember we were served chicken on the plane. I did not feel like eating and Sahar and Rand just would not eat, period. I moved the plate away; and then, I felt a tapping on my shoulder from the lady sitting behind me. She told me to wrap the food and eat it during the day while we were in Athens. She said that unless I had a lot of money and could afford to eat in a restaurant, I would have to wait to eat again when I boarded another plane to America. How sound her advice was!
The plane landed; we were bussed to a hotel in Athens, and we were on our own. The lady in charge of the evacuation announced to the Americans as we were standing in the lobby that we had arrived to our ‘safe haven,’ and now we were on our own to make the necessary travel arrangements to get ourselves to the United States. What a shock!! I had been led to believe that the American Embassy did everything for Americans; the American Embassy would even cover all the cost of the travel to America. I soon learned otherwise. We got the trip to Athens, Greece - period! It was our “safe haven.” We would have to pay for our stay in Athens, as well as for the remainder of our transportation to the United States.
What a dilemma!! I had only been in Lebanon for four years. I had not needed American dollars! I did not have American dollars! And, one must have American dollars to spend in Europe if he were coming from the Middle East in 1967. 1 soon learned this at the reservation desk in the hotel. Sami had given me Lebanese pounds for just this reason; he thought that in the event I needed any money, he had financially secured my trip home to the United States. After I was refused a room at the hotel, I went out into the street and just stood there in shock. Sahar and Rand were crying; they were hungry and tired. After all - they had been awake most of the night.
Anahid Manougian, a Lebanese girl who had been a classmate of Sami’s and now married to an American, came out of the hotel and saw me standing on the street. Her husband, had been told they must leave Lebanon, as well. Her husband gave me ten dollars so that I could at least get to Pan American Airways office and make plane reservations to America. I took a taxi, and when the driver learned of my predicament, he said that he could help me out. For the ten dollars he said, he would take me to the Pan American office; then, after I had made the reservations, he would take me to a hotel for the night. All this for ten dollars!! I should have known!! However, I was desperate because Sahar and Rand needed to sleep. The driver waited for me, and when I had made the reservation that was for the following morning; true to his word, he drove us to a hotel. I will never know where it is, nor what the name is, but I remember that it was a rather long drive. I told him not to pick us up in the morning because the Pan American office had arranged for a bus to pick us up. The taxi driver helped me register at the hotel, and he even carried my luggage up to our room. Safe for the night! What a relief!!
While I had been registering at the desk, I had noticed two girls sitting on a bench across from the desk. And, I had noticed that they looked at me kindly and smiled at us. Well, no sooner had I closed the door of the room and started to dress the girls for bed when there was a knock at the door. The two girls from the lobby were at the door. They asked what I was doing. I told them I was getting ready to put my daughters to bed for the night and then go to sleep myself. Then, they asked me to join them for an evening of fun and entertainment as soon as the girls had gone to sleep. I was no fool! I knew immediately what these girls had in mind. Then, suddenly I realized that this was what the driver of the taxi had intended all along. No wonder - a room for ten dollars. I had a feeling that it would be better for me not to refuse immediately, so I told the girls that I would join them as soon as I had settled Sahar and Rand for the night. I also realized that there would be little help from the part of the hotel if I told them what was going on. Then, as soon as the girls left the room, I went on with putting Sahar and Rand to bed for the night. However, I was terrified! I knew that I had to keep my wits about me. I had never been in such a position.
Another thing I soon realized was that the hotel had given me a room for ten dollars, and I had gotten just ten dollar’s worth of room. There was no bathroom in the room. It was down at the end of the hall. I dared not leave the room. The girls had returned to the door, and the knocking continued for long periods of time. Neither did I open the door, nor did I even answer. The knocking went on for a good part of the night. As well as bolting the door, I had put the only chair in the room under the door knob, and I sat on it all night. I was in a state of trauma, but I had to keep my wits about me. Sometime during the night, the girls stopped knocking at the door; however, I never left my place on that chair. Finally, morning came, and the clerk at the desk called and told me the Pan American bus was waiting for me in front of the hotel.
What a night it had been! I had fed the girls, Sahar and Rand, the food I had saved from the airplane. As far as the bathroom goes, the sink in the room had sufficed. The girls were so young that they just had accepted everything that I told them to do. We arrived at the airport. It was morning, and the girls wanted to eat and drink something. But, I had to keep telling them that as soon as we boarded the plane, they would get all they wanted to eat and drink. There was a plane close by to the Pan American area that had donuts, cakes, and bon jus, a soft drink the girls were familiar with in Beirut. When they saw the bon jus, they went on and on about how hungry they were. It was then that an American lady came up to me and offered me two dollars. She said that she had been on the plane from Beirut to Athens and had seen me on the plane. I tried to refuse, but she insisted I take the money. I agreed to take it only if she would give me her name and address for me to return the money. She said that it was not important but finally told me that she was on the faculty of the Beirut College for Women (BCW),
now known as the Beirut University College (BUC). When I asked for her in Lebanon, I learned that she had not returned to the College. I cannot now remember her name now - which is a pity.
Now, you may think that you will read that my trauma had ended. I was in the United States. But, not so! In the Metropolitan Detroit Airport where we disboarded the plane, I had to make contact with my family to get to their home. A phone call from a public phone was only ten cents, so I immediately asked the first person I saw to give me a dime, and I tried to explain my situation. He refused! And, the next one, too. This went on until I was in a state of hysteria. Here I was in America, and not one American adult would give me a dime for a phone call! What has happened in America??????????
I continued to ask people because there was just no other way for me to get ten cents for a phone call. A young boy, walking past with his father stopped and asked his father if he could give me the dime. His father told him that if he wanted to, he could. That was the way I got the ten cents. No adult in the Metropolitan Detroit Airport would help me!
When I went into my mother’s house, I could hardly believe I was home. It had taken me two very long days and nights to get there. However, as happy as I was to be in my mother’s home where it was so very comfortable for me and my daughters, I was still depressed because I had left Sami in Beirut - and so suddenly. I was still in a state of shock because it had all happened so quickly. My mother, on the other hand, was delighted to have me there with my daughters. Since June 6th, only two days before, she had not turned off the television set. She had been so worried about me and my family that she sat and watched the results of the war between Egypt, Syria, and Israel since the day it had started and she did not stop watching the news until she left home to go and pick me up at the airport. And, now I was doing the same thing. I had suddenly lost the confidence that I had about the war’s not affecting me and my family. I was terrified that something bad would happen to either Sami or someone in his family. This was not an entirely happy period of my life.
The summer of 1967 will always be remembered for the Arab-Isreali War in the Middle East; however, it will be remembered in the United States for another reason, as well as the Arab-Isreali War. The troubled, violent race riots that spread across the nation began that summer in the south eastern part of Los Angeles, California. Many riots erupted in United States cities during the 1960’s largely because of economic depravation and social injustices suffered by ghetto blacks. They included those in Detroit, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey in 1967, as well as the Watts right in Los Angeles, California. The Detroit riot was the most violent. It led to forty-three deaths and property damage of about forty-three million dollars.
Needless to say, I was not mentally nor emotionally prepared for such an event in my hometown in America. I had come home to America because the United States Government could not insure my security in Lebanon. From the July, 25, 1967 edition of the Detroit News, Jon Lowell, Detroit News Staff Writer wrote, “For most Detroiters, including those who lead the fifth largest city in the United States, there were no dark clouds . . . no quiet rumblings of a storm. When summer lightening that has stalked over land - riots - finally burst upon Detroit, it was on a warm Sunday morning in July. Thoughts were of stumbling Tiger (Detroit baseball team) efforts towards a pennant, vacations just finished or about to begin, new efforts to ease the traffic jams on the expressway. From the White House to the campus classrooms across the country, experts pointed to Detroit as the city that was doing things right. In City Hall, there were offices guiding an alphabet soup of programs aimed dagger-like at the heart ci what authorities said causes riots. Operating out of the mayor’s office was a 24-hour intelligence network pulled together to keep a continuing watch on the pulse of neighborhoods where even small trouble might start. Police officials had been to Watts and the other battered communities where riots had desolated the streets. They had studied the mistakes made there and drawn plans to avoid them in Detroit. ... But summer lightening struck Detroit on Sunday, July 23, 1967 with a fury unprecedented in the modem history of our nation. When it was over, whole blocks lay in rubble. Two weeks later, with the full toll still undetermined, 42 were known dead, thousands had been injured, more than 4, 000 had to be arrested, and some of the United States Army’s finest fighting men had been called into the streets of Detroit to end the madness. ... As August began, Watts and Newark were the bad riots -Detroit’s was the worst. For the people that lived in nice neighborhoods, it started at the most unlikely hour and the most unlikely day anyone could think of. Shortly before dawn on Sunday, the 10 precinct police cleanup squad raided an after hours drinking club over the Economy Printing Company at 9125 12th Street. ... It was a routine raid in a neighborhood that is used to raids. At night, 12th Street was “the turf” for prostitutes, pimps, junkies, and gamblers. Long-legged hustlers in hippie dresses, slick haired pimps in jitterbug suits and the usual assortment cf drunks accepted the raid with resignation born out of long experience. Getting ‘busted’ was part of 12th Street. Three Patrol Wagons were called to transport the 85 prisoners down to the precinct station on Livernois.
That day, I learned of the riot and also learned the it was spreading in the city like a flame. Monday morning, my mother decided that we should have more milk and bread because we might not be able to get out to shop in the following days. I agreed and walked to the supermarket which was down the street. I put only bread and milk in the grocery basket and stood in a long line to pay the cashier. Apparently, others had decided to do the same thing. Then, while I was still in line, the police came into the store and announced that everyone had to leave immediately because there were indications the riots were advancing to the area. People began to disband; however, I stood there and asked the policeman if I could just pay for the bread and milk in my grocery basket because I had young children. “Absolutely not,” he said, “the store has to close immediately!” I could hardly believe this was happening. I was nine thousand miles away from Beirut, and the same thing that I had encountered in the Beirut supermarket was happening in the Detroit supermarket. Again, I had to walk away without the items that I had gone to purchase. This happened in less than two months - in two different countries - my encountering each situation that was plagued with violence.
I do not like to call these events to be the cause of traumatism; yet, they have had a lasting effect on me because whenever new events appeared, I began planning the strategy needed to get supplies. These incidents have left a deep impression in my memory of the Civil War in Lebanon, more so than some of the events that were more tragic and devastating for me.
Sally, I will give a generic answer to the above questions together
because I found, among my papers on the History of the both organizations,
‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat’ and “The American Druze Society,” an article
by Henry Flehan, The Roots of the American Druze Society. Mr. Henry Flehan
has since passed away. He was one of those early immigrants who was active
in the the ‘El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat organization, as well as the American Druze Society holding a
pivotal role in each organization’s welfare. He lived in Raleigh, North Carolina. The
date of his writing is apparently after 1977 because he says in the beginning of his article,
“When this assignment was first given to me, it was a real challenge
because no accurate records were kept of either the Bakourah or the
Society. I am happy to say that I was able to gather much information
regarding both eras. Thanks to the following members of the American Druze
Society, without whom this history could not have been possible: Names---.
This history is by no means to establish the date or the place of the Druze
immigrants first set foot in the United States of America, but to establish
a correlation to the period the Druze groups formed in the west, and that
which gave impetus and reason to our present American Druze Society.
Therefore, it is fair to note that ever since the Druze pioneers came to
the new world, they created a new demographical status, whether they knew
this or not. Certainly, the intention was not to be indifferent or
independent of their Middle Eastern origin and heritage, but to be much in
accordance with the traditions, regardless of the new geographical
“To the benefit of our American born Druze which this society bears their
namesake, I will define in brief the nature of a Druze: It shall always be
believed, and never assumed, that the nature of a Druze is correlated to
his fidelity and identity regardless of his geographical presence in the
world. He is a Druze first and last, wherever you find him. He is a
person who can adapt to many cultures, only to enhance his betterment and
never lose sight of his identity. He is most covetous of his heritage and
entity among other societies in the world. He is proud and most protective
of his name, honor, family, country, and friends. He is, and for good
reason, referred to in the mother land as Iben Beini Mahroof, meaning The
Son of Tribute and Honor. It is reference he so courageously earned through
merit and deed. The Druze were and still are a most important part of the
history of Lebanon and Syria.”
Sally, this is my contribution to the History of the Druzes in America.