The Oral History Project Collections and Programs
Prior to the "Our Heritage," the publication manual for the American Druze Society was "The ADS Visitor" published by Joe Nappa from Shawnee, Oklahoma. Joe Nappa published the "ADS Visitor" single-handedly from his garage in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and he did this until the 1970s. When the "Our Heritage" became the publication manual for the American Druze Society, a number of editors have held the position. Emma Saley from Livonia, Michigan, Ray Hellal from Dallas, Texas, Kathy Stephensen from Michigan, then California, Raymond Hamden and his wife, Kathy from Charleston, West Virginia and then, Sahar Muakassa in New York as part of the National Office of the American Druze Society.. Also, during the years 1985 and 1986, Kathy Stephensen published a separate journal, "Our World." Now, the current American Druze Society manual "Our Heritage" is published by the National Office at the American Druze Cultural Center in Eagle Rock, California." Also, the Collection includes the Program Booklet for each Convention from the inception of the Organization, The First Mahrajhan of the Al-Bayan 1947, The Michigan Youth Club and now the American Druze Society.
November 18, 1996, I began Programs for my tenure as National President of the American Druze Society.
I wrote a chapter for an anthology about the Druzes. The book is called The Druze Profile. My chapter is the "Druze Social Values."
I started another project for the American Druze Society. I wrote the history of the Society going back to 1908 when the first El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat was established in Seattle, Washington. I had to gather the information from so many people. Henry Flyhan's documentation was a wealth of information, and my mother's knowledge was priceless in this endeavor. Aunt Hisson Bomorra from Flint, Michigan, Bahia Basheer from Richmond, Virginia, and many others helped me tremendously, as well as, the material so many people had about the El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat and the American Druze Society in those early times. They all came together to make the writing of the history of the American Druze Society, i.e., the Druze in America materialize.
I edited the English translation of the Druze Domestic Laws. It was good for me to do this last work because I became informed of the inner workings of the Druze Faith. I cannot say that I am completely impressed with all the Druze Laws of Domestic Relations: however, there is a semblance of justice and equality between the sexes. The Druze Laws of Domestic Relations have been the workings of the Faith since its inception, and since none has denounced the Laws as unjust, they will remain on the books as they are. The late Sheikh Helim Takieddine, Kadi el-Methheb, head of the Druze religious court, made amendments to the Laws, but he needed to do more. He was the one before the present head of the Druze Religious Court, Sheikh Mercel el-Nasser. There is one person, Dr. Intisar Azzam, from California, who has made an attempt do some writing on the subject, but she apparently has not pursued the work because I have not heard about her in regard to this work for the past three years. From Lebanon, I also wrote on the History of the Druzes, as well as, other aspects.
All of these writings that I have been lead into doing have given me the impetus to put certain things in my program during my tenure as President of the ADS. Among the most important of these things will be the formation of a 'World Druze Ladies Association." This could be a standing committee of the ADS. Even though our faith is one of the most advanced among the faiths of the world, it does continue to suppress women. Not so physically; on the contrary, Druze women are spoiled and pampered in most cases. However, the suppression is in inheritance and in legal standing of the women, as well as, in the children in some cases. I have seen this again and again, and so did Dr. Intizar Azzam, the person who began a writing of such. But she quickly dropped the work, and now I feel that I must attempt to form this organization of Druze leaders here in America to pick up on the work again and make the World Druze Ladies Association materialize. There will be other benefits from such a ladies association, but mainly, we will be in a position to demand more change in our Domestic Laws. Ironically, this summer, there was a serious matter here in Detroit because of Druze marriage laws, and it took many in this community to solve the matter. So, there is a dire need for change! Besides, when women get together, they get things done!
Another project I want to materialize is the writing of children's books to teach the Druze Faith. This is not a difficult task with the great number of people we have here in the United States who are more and more becoming well versed in the Druze Faith. The problem will not be the work because we have the knowledge, the writers, and the artists - only in the funding. I will arrange to get sponsors for the project, and this should not be difficult, in view of the fact, that those who have just recently come to the United States, as a result of the Lebanese Civil War, and have become quite successful, will rally for such a project. I feel that they are more determined to teach their children the Druze Faith than were our fathers. I truly believe our fathers had a defeatist attitude because it was 'The Dominant Society" who ruled while they were raising us. That is no longer the case either, and even the children are more interested in knowing their faith than we were while we were growing up. Also, remember almost all these children have, at one time or another attended the ADS Conventions, and many have made lasting friendships as a result of being born a Druze. The many marriages that are a result of the Conventions never cease to amaze me. But then, I was also one of those people.
There is still another project I want to materialize, and this one is for the Druzes in Lebanon. The project has two parts.
First, to help in funding a dormitory in Beirut for girls from the villages to live in and thus be able to attend a university in Beirut. The second part is to form relationships between two university students (one in Ameica and one in Lebanon). This must be started so that the student from America can help the student in Lebanon financially, no matter how little he or she has to give. Just think, we, the Druzes, have become in most cases, a wealthy group of people in the United States. At this Convention in Detroit in 1996, the Ambassador of Lebanon, His Excellency Riad Tabbara, said in a speech he gave to us, "You Druze are unique among the Arabs of Lebanon. You are all rich, and you are educated, as well." He told the people that when he looked around at any Druze gathering he had attended, the people were mostly prominent business executives and professionals and wealthy. You know, that is true to the most extent. Very few Druze now in America are less than wealthy or do not have the means to become wealthy. This is also a result of our fathers who came as very poor immigrants, but they gave everything they made to their children in order to become educated. These educated Druzes are the ones now those are wealthy. Not many other Arabs devoted so much to their children's welfare, as did those early Druze immigrants. And, this is also the case in Lebanon in the Druze community. The children's education is number one; however, the parents are not financially in a position to always make this possible. The Civil War in Lebanon left many Druzes devastated financially. This was apparent all over Lebanon before I left there, and there were more and bigger battles after I had left. I would like to see the children of these wealthy Druze in America befriend a Druze student in Lebanon, and each give him or her financial help - no matter how very little it might be. I remember my days in Lebanon - and even though I taught at thew American University of Beirut (AUB) where only the wealthy could attend, I had close contact with students from the Lebanese and Arab state-run universities. The tuition at these universities is minimal; however, the books are costly, to say the least. Also, many times, students do not attend classes because they do not have the money for transportation to these universities. So you see, even a small amount of money would be help. You know, I feel that since we are an extremely small number of people left in the world, our survival will depend on the unity or our people. We have so many shortcomings; yet, we have a faith that is worth preserving.
Therefore, these are my projects for my tenure as President of the American Druze Society. I can, with your help, make a difference. This was my promise to you before you elected me. Help me keep this promise!
I need help in contacts with Druze women in all countries.
I need help in writing children's stories when the author will be supplied with the information.
I need artists to draw pictures for the story.
I need help in arranging student relationships between here and Lebanon.
Julie Mullin Makarem
National President Elect