Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 21st, 2018

Solving the 2,000 Year Old Mystery of the Druze

Note: I don’t mind posting controversial articles and letting the reader apply their reflective minds. I sense this article falls within the hasbara or Zionist propaganda to lure the Druze in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon to engage in spying for Israel’s interest.

The origins of the Druze people and their religion have fascinated historians, linguists and geneticists for centuries.

Druze farmers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Druze farmers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It is in what we now call the Middle East that humans domesticated plants and animals, built the earliest cities, devised the first alphabet, and wrote the first literature.

But while many of the mysteries in the region’s history still abound, few have attracted more varied speculation than the origin of the Druze people and their religion. Modern genetics gives us powerful new tools to decipher the origin of the Druze.

Much like the Ashkenazic Jews, the origins of the Druze people and religion have fascinated historians, linguists and geneticists.

For nearly a millennium, travellers and their neighbours have wondered and hypothesised about the beginnings of this enduring people, and their exclusive religion in the mountains of Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Benjamin of Tudela, the Jewish traveller who passed through Lebanon in 1165, was one of the first European writers to refer to the Druze by name. Even then, they were known as mountain-dwellers, and Benjamin described them as fearless warriors who favoured the Jews. But he could not state their origin, and he was not the only one to be mystified. Over the years, people have proposed that the Druze have Arabian, Persian or Near Eastern origins.

Reports from Cairo’s ruler, Al-Hakim (996-1021 CE), give us the first glance into the Druze and Druzism.

Al-Hakim had sent missionaries throughout Arabia, to win new believers. His missionaries claimed the Druze had splintered from Isma’ili Islam, a branch of Shia Islam. (Sects opposing the Caliphs’ institution)

After Al-Hakim’s sudden disappearance, the new ruler eradicated the faith in Cairo.

The Druze who took residence in the mountains of what is now Lebanon, Syria and Palestine not only survived, but flourished.

Since the 11th-century Crusades, the Druze have played a distinctive role in the region. (How distinctive? any details?)

Also in the 11th century, the Druze closed their faith to new adherents. You cannot become a Druze. This exclusivity also means that modern-day Druze people contain the genetic signature of the their Druze ancestors.

The Geographical Population Structure (GPS) technology, which works in a similar way to the satnav geolocation system, uses DNA instead of satellites to predict the most recent geographical origins of a DNA sample. To infer the origin of Druze ancestors, my lab at the University of Sheffield has applied the GPS technology to the DNA of Israeli Druze. (Meaning Palestinian Druze?)

Most of the Druze, we have found, can be traced to the highest mountains in Turkey, northern Iraq and southern Armenia, and to the Zagros Mountain belt bordering Mount Ararat – very close to ancient Ashkenaz.

By comparing the DNA of contemporary Druze to DNA dated 1,000-4,000 years ago from the Levant, Turkey and Armenia, my lab confirmed these findings.

This means that, genetically, the Druze really are different from their neighbours.

Unlike Palestinians, Bedouins and Syrians who share between 36-70% of ancient Levantine ancestry, the Israeli Druze have only a minor Levantine component of 15% and a significantly higher (80%) ancient Armenian ancestry.

Ashkenazic Jews, by contrast, had a major ancient Anatolian ancestry (96%) and a residual Levantine one (0.5%), in support of their non-Levantine origins.

The Druze have long preferred to live among high mountains, which has helped them maintain their close social structure, as well as providing them with protection. Our results indicate that the Druze habitation in high mountains is an ancient practice, one that their ancestors brought with them from what is now Iraq, Armenia and Turkey.

But why did they come to the Middle East? Can DNA help us answer that?

Fortunately, since the Druze maintain a close-group social structure, each group preserved a different aspect of the Druze history.

Genetic testing is thereby able to determine that the Druze DNA experienced its last major admixture event, where Druze mixed with local Levantines (Syrians), between the early ninth century and the early 12th century. The date overlaps with the expansion of the Seljuk Turkish Empire into the Levant during the 11th century to fight the Crusaders.

We know that after pushing away the invaders, the Seljuks settled in Iran, Anatolia and Syria, and that the Druze were first recorded in that region around 150 years later.

The genetic similarity between Druze and Armenians supports speculation that they had Seljuk ancestors.

Most likely, the Seljuks would have, upon their arrival in the Levant for the Crusades, mixed with the native population. Some of them would have likely adopted the Druze faith.

The Druze genome is therefore like a very long museum with separate rooms for Near Eastern and Levant exhibits, and including rooms for mixed inheritances that could not be sorted. Now, we can put together the remaining evidence to reconstruct the Druze’s history.

The Near Eastern ancestors of the Druze emerged near the Fertile Crescent, in the region that saw the rise of domestication and agriculture.

Unsurprisingly, it was also a major convergence point on the Silk Road, with trade routes leading to Constantinople and Antioch. This is when the Druze likely encountered the Ashkenazic Jews who played a key role in global trade.

The genetic similarity between Druze and Ashkenazic Jews is very high, although they emerged from different ancient founding populations (Anatolians and Armenians). However, although they started at the same place, they went their separate ways.

By the eighth century, Ashkenazic Jews had abandoned ancient Ashkenaz and moved north to Khazaria and west to Europe. (Read my note). Two centuries later, the Druze ancestors began descending to the Levant to fight in the Crusades.

When the Druze re-encountered Ashkenazic Jews in Palestine centuries later, neither population recalled its Near Eastern origins, and both peoples developed a rich heritage based on their experience over the previous millennium. (Now the propaganda or hasbara starts)

However, as both populations, to a large extent, favoured marriage within the community, each retained Near Eastern relics in its DNA museum, which allowed us to tell the end of this 2,000-years-old odyssey.

This article originally appeared in Aeon

Note: The Khazaria “kingdom” was over-run by the Russian Ivan in the 11th century and the Ashkenazic dispersed in the neighboring regions. Many of them transferred to eastern Europe. The Ashkenazic adopted the Jewish daily customs and rituals, as many early Christian sects did in proselytizing in the Near East and onward to the Caucasus and even toward China. Jesus and his disciples (from the province of Tyre and Galilee) were Not recognized as Jews by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, even though they also followed the daily Jewish practices and customs.


It hugely Matters: unnecessary extended trial Experience of Palestinian teenage girl Ahed Tamimi

Israel’s prosecution of Ahed Tamimi under an Israeli military court for putting up resistance to Israel’s occupation regime epitomizes the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive for generations.

It is now known by virtually everyone who follows the Palestinian struggle that a 16-year-old girl named Ahed Tamimi, who is now 17, confronted Israeli soldiers on her family’s land shortly after her cousin, Mohammed, was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, causing a coma.

The video of her actions has gone viral, showing the world a courageous young woman engaging in nonviolent acts of resistance, and then a day later in the middle of the night being arrested in her home and then charged with a series of crimes.

As is standard Israeli practice in the arrest of children, Aden was hauled off to an Israeli prison facility out of reach of her family and then denied bail.

As has been widely noted, Ahed Tamimi is a heroic victim for those in Palestine and elsewhere who approve of the Palestinian national struggle, and commend such symbolic acts of nonviolent resistance. Ahed has also been often called ‘iconic’ because her story, now and before, is so emblematic of the extraordinary perseverance of the Palestinian people who having endured fifty years of occupation, and seventy years since the mass dispossession of 1948 known to Palestinians as the Nakba.

This prolonged ordeal continues to unfold without a decent ending in sight.

The fact that Ahed is a child and a girl reinforces the double image of courage, stubborn resistance, and victimization. It is also notable that as early as 2013 Ahed gained prominence when given The Handala Courage Award by a Turkish municipality in Istanbul, an occurrence given great attention due to a breakfast in her honor arranged by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

While only 13, Ahed opened an art exhibit in Istanbul aptly titled “Being a Child in Palestine.”

The Israeli reaction, as might be expected, was as negative and denigrating as the Palestinian response was affirmative; maybe more so. Israel’s Minister of Culture, no less, Mira Regev referred to Ahed this way: “She is not a little girl, she is a terrorist. It about time they will understand that people like her have to be in jail and not allowed to incite racism and subversion against the state of Israel.”

The internationally known Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, was more precise in describing the punishment that fit Ahed’s supposed crime: “Ahed Tamimi should serve a life sentence for her crime.”

More luridly, Ben Caspit, a prominent journalist, made a rather shocking assertion of how Ahed’s type of defiant behavior shockingly deserves to be addressed outside the framework of law: “In the case of girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark without witnesses or cameras.”

Some critics have read this statement as advocacy of sexual abuse, even rape, but whatever its intention, the fact that such language can be used openly at the higher levels of Israeli discourse, without arousing an Israeli backlash is suggestive of a terrorist style of governance relied upon to break the will of Palestinian resistance.

Mira Regev’s reaction to the Tamimi video clip situates the Israeli reaction to Ahed Tamimi’s in ways that seem to reflect the dominant mood in the country that perversely reverses the realities of oppressor and oppressed, victimizers and victims: “When I watched that I felt humiliated. I felt crushed,” finding the incident “damaging to the honor of the military and the state of Israel.” (Is this sentence good to Israel or against its brutal actions?)

It is in this strange sense that it is Israelis, not Palestinians, who experience humiliation in the current situation—despite Israel being in total control of every aspect of the Palestinian life experience, which for Palestinians involves a daily encounter with oppressive policies designed to frighten, humiliate, and subjugate.

In contrast, Israelis enjoy the benefit of urban freedom and prosperity in an atmosphere of normalcy with relatively high levels of security in recent years that has greatly diminished the security threat, and in the process, effectively erased Palestinian grievances and aspirations from public consciousness.

When Palestinians are noticed, as in this incident, it tends to be with derision, and expressions of a domineering Israeli political will that considers it entirely fitting to impose punishments on Palestinian children of a severity totally disproportionate to the gravity of the supposed crime.

It is this disparity between the reality of Palestinian resistance and the rhetoric of Israeli oppressive options that gives Ahed Tamimi’s story such symbolic poignancy.

Of course, there are more sophisticated Israeli responses to Ahed’s challenge.

Some commentators claim that what is disproportionate is the global attention devoted to the incident, even suggesting that it was a cynical ploy meant to distract world public opinion due to the failure of Hamas to deliver on its call for a third intifada in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and so move the U.S. Embassy.

Other critics insist that the incident was staged by the Palestinians, with cameras at the ready, and not as spontaneous as the video wants us to believe. Such a contention seems irrelevant, even if correct, as Ahed’s defiance was prompted by the shooting and wounding of her cousin a short time before, which was certainly not staged, but rather a reflection of oppressive and violent Israeli responses to Palestinian demonstrations of resistance.

To belittle her acts as instruments of ‘infowar’ is also to ignore the uncertainty she faced when so strongly confronting Israeli soldiers and challenging their authority. She could not have known that these soldiers would not violently retaliate, as indeed some Israelis wished had happened to avoid ‘humiliation’ on the Israeli side.

Ahed’s bravery and dignified reaction seem to be authentic given the wider context, as does the resistance of the Tamimi family in the town of Nabi Saleh that undoubtedly socialized Ahed into a culture of nonviolent practice.

I think these polarized responses to the incident offer a defining metaphor for the current phase of Israel/Palestine relations.

The metaphor is given a special vividness because Ahed Tamimi as a child epitomizes the mentality and tactics of an oppressive state: the prospect of Ahed’s case being heard by a military court that finds that more than 99% of defendants are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused.

This is reminiscent of South African administration of criminal justice at the height of apartheid racism.

Beyond the legal fate of Ahed’s case is the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive generation after generation.

Related article: Benny Morris’s Untenable Denial of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

This article was originally published at on February 13, 2018.

Invisible Bike Helmet?

You know what kind of sucks about riding a bike? Other than all that pedaling? Bike helmets.

Sure, they keep that overrated “brain” from getting splattered, but they take a lot of the open-air-joy out of things, and they’re not comfortable.

A pair of Swedish women have developed a remarkable solution: the invisible bike helmet.2P

Jason Torchinsky posted this Nov. 7, 2013

Swedes Develop Invisible Bike Helmet


Wouldnt the womans hair bother the helmet?


Ad here I thought it was all that drug testing, after having one testicle taken away.

Tired of strapping ugly, uncomfortable styrofoam-and-plastic turtle shells to their heads, the pair came up with a pretty revolutionary solution that does manage to give you full head protection without, remarkably, wearing anything on your head.P

Swedes Develop Invisible Bike HelmetSExpand

I’d like to just come out and tell you the secret of how their Hövding helmet works, but this video does such a nice job of building suspense I kind of don’t want to ruin it.

So I won’t post any pictures showing the operation, and don’t follow that link to their site if you don’t want to spoil a minor surprise.P

Once you see how it works it all makes sense, and is a very clever solution that draws from a number of technologies that are well-established and familiar.3P


Good call, I’m glad I watched the video.

If you’re so jaded that the tiny joy of a mild surprise doesn’t appeal to you, click away.4P


Or if the video plays <10 seconds and stops, like it does for me 😦

Regardless of how wrong they are about discounting cars in the future, they’ve done a pretty impressive job with the design and engineering of this, and I wish them all sorts of luck.P

(via TravelingGreener)P




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