History of the Druze in America 1996
The 50th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held at the Westin Hotel, Renaissance Center, Detroit, Michigan from June 25th through June 30th. The president of the Society was Faouzi Mokarem and Abdul-Magid Ghreizi as the Vice President. Board members: Ramona Alley, Riad Al-Awar, Dr. David Najar, Ramsey Kaed Bey, Julie Makarem, Haitham Ballout, Hani Chtay, Sami Merhi and Ziad Alameddine. National Treasurer: Sahar Muakasa.
Riad Al-Awar was the Convention Chairperson for 1996.
The Convention Committee members: Khalil Harfouche, Labiba Harfouche, Amin Musleh, Susan Musleh, Moutasem Abu-Hamdan, Madeleine Al-Awar, Fadi Hemadeh, Omar Abu-Hamdan, Wajdi Abouchakra, Layla Hatoum and Nawal Chehayib, Samir Makarem, Lama Makarem.
Kamal Shouhayib was the Chairperson of the Golden Jubilee Committee.
The members of the Golden Jubilee Committee were Maya Jaber, Chakib Jaber, Fadi Hamadeh, Khalil Harfouche, Nawal Obeid, Ajaj Andary, Ramona Alley, Julie Makarem and Dr. Rima Muakkassa.
President Mokarem, in an attempt to strengthen the finances of the ADS, worked hard to get the ADS registered with the Combined Federal Campaign in order to solicit funds for the ADS. This beginning of inflow of funds from completely different sources has began and is likely to increase in the coming years.
The 50th convention was very successful in terms of various cultural, entertainment activities and honored guests. Dr. Wahbah Sayegh presented CORA Book V that deals with the “Fundamental Beliefs” of the Druze Faith. Dr. Sayegh has made possible, for the American Druze Society members, a way to study the Druze Faith, for without CORA Books, the knowledge we now have of our faith would not have been possible nor so easily accessible.
Mr. Faouzi Abed, from Lebanon, gave a lecture on the importance of Education in Lebanon. Mr. Fayez Salaheddine, from Lebanon, represented the Druze Foundation for Social Welfare. The Druze Foundation for Social Welfare is an organization that looks after the needs of the Druze Community in Lebanon. Mr. Salaheddine gave an interesting and informative lecture in which he updated the work of the Foundation for the year. Mr. Nabih El-Saadi, from Sweida, Syria gave an interesting lecture about tenets that constitute the “Druze Identity.” Dr. Marwan Abou-Chakra, Director General, Ain Wazein Hospital was the representative to the Health Establishment of the Druze community.From Syria, Mr. Hazzaah Aboufakher and Mr. Mohammed Tarabieh represented the Syrian Druze Orphan’s Home.
Dr. Naji Jurdi introduced the lecturers who presented an interesting seminar on the ADS History from 1908 –to the present. Mrs. Julie Makarem wrote the History of the Druze in America for (1908 - 1946), as well as for (1947- 1970) and Mr. Ajaj Andary wrote the History of the Druze in America for (1971 - 1996).
The presentations were given by: Ms. Julie Makarem read (1908 - 1946), Ms. Romana Alley gave an oral account of her convention experiences from (1947-to 1970), and Mr. Ajaj Andary read (1971 to 1996).
Ms. Julie Makarem compiled and updated the History of the Druze in America for the years 1997 through 2006 (See below.)***.
The President’s Night Dinner honorary guest speaker was Sheikh Makram Alameddine who came from Lebanon to join the conventioneers in celebrating the 50th Annual convention. The master of Ceremony was Mrs. Ramona Alley. Other guest speakers were Mr. Fayez Salaheddine from the Druze Foundation for Social Welfare in Lebanon, Sheikh Sami Abilmona representing Irfan Establishment in Lebanon, Sheikh Salman Abdel Khalik, representing the Iman Hospital in Alley, Lebanon, and Mr. Hazzaah Aboufakher, Director of the Druze Foundation for Social Welfare in Sweida.
The Master of Ceremony for the Grand Banquet was Dr. Anis Obeid. Jamie Helal sang the National Anthem. This was followed by a piano recital by the renowned pianist, Mr. Walid Hourani. The children sang under the direction of Mrs. Nawal Obeid. The children, who were from all over the United States, were Natalie Boukhzam, Ghida Hamad, Zeina Houtum, Nabil Harfouche, Ashraf and Ayman Malaeb, Leila and Fuad Muakkassa, and Nada and Sarah Shouhayib. Mr. Moutassem Abou-Hamdan read a Message from Mansour Pacha AL-Atrash from Syria extending his sincere wishes for the Druze community in America in celebrating their 50th convention.
Unbeknownst to the recipients, the elders (age 70 and above) who were attending the convention were presented with bronze medallions that would be worn around the neck. There were about thirty two elders who received the award. Dr. Fuad & Leila Muakkassa, Ms. Anise Assaf, Mrs. Afifi Masri, Mrs. Salimi Azzam Joseph, Uncle Jack & Lily Hamady, Mr. George Rafey, Mrs. Dorris Bouchar, Mrs. Adele Williams Aboulhosn, Mrs. Dorothy Halawy, Dr. Richard Baz, Dr. Abdallah Najjar, Mr. Kamal Najjar, Mrs. Lilian Sefa, Mrs. Hisson Bomorra, Mrs. Bill Taylor, Mrs. Florence Najjar, Mr. Amin Abukhzam, Mrs. Zabad Radwan Jawhary, Mr. Anis Halime, Mr. Joseph Hamady, Mrs. Sally Hamady, Mr. Hussein Al-Awar, Mr. Sleiman Al-Awar, Mrs. Hajjar Hamady, Mr. Ameen Fares Al-Awar, Mr. Adil Najar, Mrs. Helen Abou-Ismail Sams, Mrs. Amal Abu-Hamdan, and Mrs. Wadad Radwan, Mrs. Nagela Mullin.
His Excellency, Ambassador Riad Tabarrah, Ambassador of Lebanon to the United States was the guest of honor. Ambassador Riad Tabarrah said, “You are to be commended for your attainment of high education among your people. You have prospered abroad and become successful in all fields. You are to be commended for the formation of this American Druze Society which you have kept alive here in these United States for fifty years. You are to be applauded for your good works to your people back home, and you are to be praised for your good name in America.”
Mr. Kamal Shouhayib, Chairman of the Golden Jubilee Convention, announced the opening ceremony of the Photo Exhibition. The Photo Exhibition displayed the story of the Druze in America for the last 100 years. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was done by Mrs. Salimi Azzam and Uncle Jack Hamady. The Photo Exhibition brought tears to many ADS members who were fascinated by the collection of 300 photos displaying Druze families in America and the past 49 ADS conventions. The Photo Exhibition remained on display throughout the remainder of the Convention.
End of the History of the Druze in America from 1908 to 1996.
The World Druze Organization,
The World Druze Organization, sponsored by Mr. Walid Beik Jumblat and the Druze Council for Research and Development of Druze history and culture, did not materialize. That year, in Lebanon, 1980, during the height of the Lebanon Civil War, the Druze planned a renaissance, and their goal was to unite the Druze of the world under one roof every year. Thousands of Druze from abroad returned every year to Lebanon to be with their families, and the idea of a World Druze Organization was welcomed by all. Julie Makarem and Emma Saley from Livonia, Michigan left the Toronto Convention and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon in time for the Word Druze Organization Convnetion in the Summerland Hotel. The day before the official opening of the Convention, Julie and Emma visited the Summerland Hotel for a tour of the rooms where the activities would begin to take place the following day. The meeting room, large enough to hold one hundred delegates, was set up as the United Nations meeting room in New York is set up. Emma Saley and Julie Makarem also registered as guests to attend the World Druze Organization Convention. At the time, there were 600 Druzes from all over the world already registered to attend the Convention. Many of the attendees were stayiong with their families while they were in Lebanon, and they were not all guests of the Summerland Hotel. Julie and Emma had left Toronto and returned to Aytat, Lebanon, where Emma was staying with Julie and Sami Makarem, so they went to the Summerland Hotel together in the afternoon. That evening, a meeting of the Druze in Aytat and the surrounding villages took place in Sami and Julie’s Aytat home. The purpose of the meeting was to confirm and review the arrangements for the Welcoming Party for all the attendees to be held the following day in Sami and Julie’s Aytat home.
The meeting was in progress when Julie was called away to answer a phone call from Beirut. The call was from Mr. Samir Mujahid, the secretary of the Druze Council for Research and Development who, under the auspices of Mr. Walid Beik Jumblat, were sponsoring the World Druze Organization Convention to be held in the Summerland Hotel in Khaldie, Lebanon beginning the following day. Mr. Samir Mujahid told Julie that the Convention to be held at the Summerland Hotel the following was to be immediately cancelled at the threat of death to Mr. Walid Beik Jumblat, Mr. Anwar Khalil, and Dr. Sami Makarem. Julie told Mr. Samir Mujahid that she wanted to discuss the reason for the telephone call before she told Dr. Sami Makarem or any others who were at the meeting, so she went to a house across from her home to call back Mr. Samir Mujahid. Emma Saley accompanied Julie Makarem to the Timani home across the road from her home where they placed the call to Mr. Mujahid. Mr. Samir Mujhaid confirmed the information he had given Julie, and he also told her that she was to relay to the organizers that there must not to be any large congregation of Druzes during the period the Convention was to be held. Following the information regarding the Convention, Mr. Sami Mujahid told Julie that the attendees were to be told that due to security in the country, the Convention would be cancelled. He also told Julie that all she and Dr. Makarem were to tell the people at the meeting in their home was to go home and listen to the news on Channel 7 by Mr. Arafat Hijazi, the anchor man. Julie did that !! Of course, there was bedlam after the people attending the meeting had been told about the cancellation of the Convention. The Convention organizers and all the Druze in Lebanon had been working and anticipating the Convention for almost a year. Many, many hours and days had been spent in preparation, so this new turn of events was not taken lightly. However, we ended the meeting, and all the people at the meeting went to their homes to listen to the news.
That evening, when we listened to the news, we were shocked beyond comprehension. The cancellation of the Convention was the first item on the broadcast, and the anchorman, Mr. Arafat Hijizi on Channel 7 from the TV Station in Tallet El-Khayat, said that due to the lack of organization by the organizers of the World Druze Organization Convention, the Convention was cancelled. PERIOD!! That was it !
None of us, however, was fooled ! The instructions were from the Syrian Mukhabarat, and no one dared to defy their orders. So much had happened in Lebanon throughout the entire Civil War at the hands of the Syrian Mukhabarat; we all knew the consequences, and no one wanted to enter the world of “Syrian” tactics to accomplish their aims. As you can imagine, I was livid, and so I became defiant, as well. I had already planned a huge reception at our Aytat home for one of the activities during the Convention, and I planned to keep it. The invitations were prepared, the food had been ordered, and the preparations were all in progress. I WAS ORGANIZED ! So, the Makarems, had a gala event, and more than four hundred guests attended the party. You can imagine the disappointment of the Druze, many of whom had traveled from their countries to Lebanon just for the Convention. The time, the cost, the energy – all had gone because of the Syrian Mukhabarat. I had to get the “word” out to the people, and I did not hesitate to do so. The event at our home was one of the few events that there was. There were a few others that also extended invitations to the people who had come from abroad, but these events were minimal. I was so pleased that Ms. Emma Saley from the American Druze Society, and a National officer had been with me and witnessed the entire debacle. She left for America soon after the Convention was to be finished, and she told all the Druzes she could reach in the United States the “Story of the World Druze Organization Convention.” She even had her registration badge to show the people that there was complete intent to hold the Convention, and it had been completely organized.
See Toronto Convention, 1980 by Julie Mullin