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The Druze Faith and Community

The Druze community in Israel represents a rich, ancient culture and faith. Druze towns and holy places, located in beautiful mountain settings from Mount Carmel in the west to the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights in the east, invite visitors to steep themselves in tradition and enjoy traditional hospitality.

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Druze Star

The 118,000-strong Druze community in Israel represents a rich, ancient culture and faith that has made a great contribution to Israel over the years. Their towns and holy places, located in beautiful mountain settings from Mount Carmel in the west to the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights in the east, invite visitors to steep themselves in tradition and enjoy traditional hospitality.

The Druze faith, an offshoot of Islam accented by ancient Greek philosophy and other traditions, was founded in Fatimid Egypt at the end of the 10th century. Among the faith’s first leaders were Hamza Ben-Ali and Mohammad  al-Darazi. The popular name of the faith, Druze, stems from the latter’s name, however the Druze call themselves Al-Muwahidun, from the Arabic word “unity,” which stresses their  monotheism, or Al-Ma’aruf, which comes from the word “knowledge.”  The Druze believe that Hamza was the last of those chosen by God to reveal God’s truth to humanity, preceded by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed.

Eventually, the center of the faith moved from Egypt to Lebanon and Syria and gained new believers, particularly in the region around Mount Hermon. By the mid-11th century, it closed to new members. To this day, one cannot convert to the Druze faith, which believes that Druze souls are continuously reincarnated.

To avoid persecution in its early days, the Druze guarded the secrets of the faith among a select few. To this day these individuals, both men and women, known as "ukal", are chosen by community leaders based chiefly on their moral lifestyle, and may then delve into the Druze sacred books. Druze religious men can be recognized by their shaven heads, white skullcap and dark pantaloons. Religious women wear dark dresses and white head-scarves.

Other than life-cycle events, the Druze have few ceremonies. They do attend a prayer-house, or hilwa, make vows to God for healing and other needs, and celebrate pilgrimage days to the leaders of their faith, including Nebi Shueib (Jethro), Nebi Yaf’ouri, Nebi Sabalan, Abu Abdullah, El-Khader and Nebi Zakariya. Among their prohibitions are alcohol consumption and gambling. They are fiercely loyal to their home-countries; in Israel, the Druze young men serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

The Druze flag flies at all their holy sites and in their towns, frequently alongside the Israeli flag. The five colors of the flag are said to represent the leader Hamza and the four prime proclaimers of the faith. Another interpretation is that green symbolizes nature; red – the heart; yellow – wheat; blue – water and sky; and white – purity.

At Druze holy sites, which are almost always open, visitors must remove their shoes before entering, and dress modestly (long-sleeved shirts and head coverings are usually to be found near the entrance). Photographs are prohibited inside.

 

 Sites & Attractions

 
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 Accommodations

 
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Druze