Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

'The Druze' film wins awards

In May 2019, Dr. Ken Hanson, coordinator of the Judaic Studies program at UCF, traveled to Israel to produce a video documentary titled "The Druze." He was accompanied by his editor, Milos Ajdinovic, visiting lecturer in the Nicholson School of Communication, and Shmuel Kilstein, an undergraduate history major. Together, they spent two weeks traveling from northern Israel to Jerusalem to interview several members of the Druze community.

Hanson undertook this project for several reasons. The Druze are neither Jews nor Arabs, though they are Israeli citizens and serve in the Israeli Army. Hanson shines a light on this small group's religion and culture and their significant contribution to Israeli society. The video will be useful in the Judaic Studies courses offered at UCF on modern Israel. Hanson also wanted the documentary to be "capable of being entered into film festivals, to showcase the creative work we can do at UCF, on a minimal budget."

Hanson recently submitted the documentary to a number of festivals. Thus far, the film has been awarded:

• Finalist status for the Florence Film Awards

• Best Documentary Short at the Oniros Film Awards, New York, and

• Best Documentary Film, Calcutta International Cult Film Festival,

Because of the CICFF win, the documentary is qualified for the Golden Fox Awards and the annual live screening gala of CICFF, which will be held in Kolkata in January 2021. Hanson also will receive trophies from CICFF and the Oniros Festival.

For the documentary, Hanson interviewed the mayor of Daliyat Al-Karmel, the largest Druze village in Israel near Haifa. He also met with a celebrated Druze general in the IDF, Amal Assad. Assad was the first Druze officer to be promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He also made headlines in the Jerusalem Post in 2018 when he spoke out against the Nation-State Law, which had just passed.

There are about 120,000 Druze in Israel and they are the most integrated minority in the country. "My people have been here for 400 years and we fought for this land and this country," Asaad told Yaakov Katz of the Post. "We defended it, and I felt like I was part of this family; and suddenly this law comes in and says: 'Hold on one minute. This home is just for Jews, you need to leave and stand outside and you are no longer part of the family. If you want, behave nicely, and then we might give you approval to join. We will decide, since this is our home.'"

Assad wants the majority of Israel to remain Jewish and for Israel to be the Jewish state. But he wants the law to state that the Druze are Israeli.

Hanson's film examines the challenges Israel faces as it tries to preserve its Jewish character while at the same time being a diverse and multi-ethnic society that welcomes the Druze as brothers.

The film can be accessed here: (https://bit.ly/2IvGJ9K)


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