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After hundreds of Druze rampaged for three days, looting and burning Christians' cars, homes, and businesses throughout the town of Mughar, Arab Christians believe they face a stark choice: Rebuild or pull out from their hillside community of 20,000 in northern Israel.

Dozens of Israeli police now guard Mughar's Christian quarter. Residents have cleared away much of the damage following the anti-Christian riots that started on February 10. But the scars remain. Broken windows mar the town's only Christian church. Patches of melted asphalt mark where Christians' cars had been torched. Fire-gutted homes and shops are everywhere. Iron supports in doorways hold up a block-long charred building in danger of collapse. The building contained several Christian shops, including the town's largest clothing store. Tense calm prevails.

Soon after the attacks, Druze leaders met with Christians from Mughar and surrounding towns to restore peace. Political and religious tensions between some Druze and Christians had diminished in recent years. But Kamal Ghanem, a local Druze, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "For 50 years we have nurtured our relations, and it was all destroyed in one day."

There are 100,000 Druze in Israel. Mughar's population includes 10,000 Druze, 5,000 Christians, and 5,000 Muslims. The Druze sect departed from Islam in the 11th century when Imam Hakim declared the caliph al-Hakim to be an incarnation of God. Nearly all the Christians in the region are Orthodox or Catholic.

Since that meeting, Hamzeh bin Ali, a previously unknown radical group, told Christians to leave Mughar or face attack. The Hamzeh bin Ali group also demanded that Christians post white flags on their homes, according to one Christian leader. "All ...

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May 2005

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