Sulha ceremony took place Feb 27, 2009, at the “Beit El Shaab” (People’s House) in Shefaamer near Nazareth.
The ceremony brought to an end a conflict that started when on May 16, 2004, Whehebe Moheen, a man in his 60’s murdered Manal Najeeb Abu Raed, his widowed daughter in law, wife of his son, and mother of his two grand daughters. The late Manal lost her husband to cancer two years earlier, and was living in the couple’s home, in the Druze village of Daliat El Carmel, near Haifa.
About 300 family members, dignitaries and residents of Shefaamer and Daliat El Carmel participated in the reconciliation ritual. They gathered, along with Christian and Muslim dignitaries, including mayors of the two towns involved, Parliament members (Druze and Muslim), The religious leader of Israel’s 1,000,000 Druze, and a sizable contingent of Druze religious leaders from many Druze villages in the north of Israel.
The ritual started with a retinue of Sulha Committee members (Jaha in Arabic), along with the mayors of both towns, and the Druze community’s top religious leaders left the main hall and descended to a downstairs hall where family members of the killer’s family were waiting. The retinue invited the killer’s relatives along and escorted them to the main hall, where the two families (males only) met in formal greeting, shook hands with each other and with other dignitaries, and drank a small quantity of ceremonial coffee.
When all the participants settled down in the hall, the ritual continued with Sheikh Muafak Tarif, religious leader of Israel’s Druze explaining the conditions of the reconciliation agreement and praising both disputant families for managing to bridge their differences in favor of a pact that brings an end to the conflict for all generations, past, present and future.
When a Sulha involving the death of a man takes place, the killer’s family travels to meet the victim’s family under the ritualistic protection of a Sulha Flag (Rai). However, when the victim is a woman, tradition says that no Rai is needed, and the offender’s family does not need to undergo the ritualistic humiliation of having to approach the ceremony under the protection of a white flag.
Civil, religious and political leaders spoke in praise of reconciliation and against violence. The speakers included two mayors, two parliament members, family members of both disputants and members of the Sulha committee.
Following the speeches, the dignitaries signed the Sulha agreement, and after the document was declared officially endorsed, the killer’s family handed the leader of the sulha committee (Sheikh Muafak Tarif) a bag containing the blood money (Diya) compensation, and the Sheikh handed the bag to cousins of the murdered woman. The bag contained 200,000NIS (about $50,000). This is about half what a “normal” conciliation payment would be, but the killer’s family refused to bring more money, claiming that they have no resources, and cannot run themselves bankrupt because of “crazy” uncle. In order to compensate for the “truncated” Diya, the victim’s family agreed that the Sulha agreement will say that they were given a Diya of 400,000 NIS (about $100,000), but have decided to give half of it back to demonstrate their desire to reconcile, and to be seen by the community to be doing the “right thing” in helping the killer’s family avoid ruinous debt.
The Diya money was ostensibly destined to be held in escrow for the two minor daughters of the murdered woman, but Sulha committee members conceded that there is no mechanism to verify that this is indeed how the money is used. Since the girls are staying with their maternal grandfather and their maternal uncles, the assumption is that the money will either be kept for the girls as dowry, or that it will be used to finance their upkeep.