The State of Israel is a country of many varied ethnic minorities including Circassians, Christians, Muslims, Bedouins and others. One such sector of the population whose fate was sealed with that of the State of Israel are the Druses. The Druse religion is a very special one that is very different from Islam. It dates back to ancient Egypt and is a combination of Islamic monotheism and Greek philosophy with influences from the Hindu religion. Like most religions, the Druses have saints, and these include the Prophet Sabalan. The Prophet Sabalan is in the second place of the hierarchy of the founders and disseminators of the Druse religion, only after the Prophet Shuaib.
Certain people believe he has a connection to Zebulon, one of Jacob’s sons who is also mentioned in the Druse holy books. The origin of the name is that of a “Sablani” man, meaning a man with a long “sabla” or beard and, according to another interpretation, a wise, tranquil man. The Druse attributed colours to the five most important prophets; the colour blue was chosen to be the colour of the Prophet Sabalan, the holy prophet who tells the truth.
Prophet Sabalan’s Day is an official holiday for the Druse community in the State of Israel that is held annually on 10 September. The Druse celebrate this day and mark it with a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prophet that, according to the Druse faith, is located in Upper Galilee, near the village of Horpish, populated mostly by Druse. The village stands on the summit of Mount Zebul, 814 metres (2670 feet) above sea level. His burial place is the second most important site in the Druse religion after the burial place of the Prophet Shuaib. According to the Druse faith, the hallmark of the Prophet Sabalan was a life of austerity and asceticism and devotion to the worship of the deity. After Sabalan’s attempts to spread his faith failed, he fled to Galilee where he settled in a cave on Mount Zebul, spending most of his time in studying the holy scriptures. The cave which served as his dwelling-place later became the place of his burial.
On the day of the pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prophet Sabalan, religiously observant and secular Druses come to perform their religious duties and settle matters relating to their community. It is customary on this day to greet people with the words “Ziara makbula” (Zebulon son of Jacob). In addition to the pilgrimage to the tomb, the religious holiday provides an opportunity for thousands of members of the community to get together and to hold a big “happening” in the area, with picnics and celebrations, thus helping to maintain contact with the increasingly secular sections of the community. There are also performances representing episodes in the life of the prophet, with an emphasis on caring for the aged and infirm (during the progress from the cave to home), petitions to the prophet and the swearing of vows. Since many Druse serve in the Israel Defense Army and the Feast of the Prophet Sabalan often falls close to the date of the Jewish New Year, there are sometimes joint celebrations between Jewish and Druse soldiers.
The surrounding of the tomb on Mount Zebul is a large and carefully tended area with a breathtaking view of Galilee. It includes the tomb in the cave, buildings for offering prayers and making vows, and a room for lectures and instruction, in which Sheikh Qassem lectures on how to increase the importance of the place. Food and drinks are not allowed in this sacred area , nor are shoes which must be removed at the entrance; the head must also be covered upon entering. No payment is demanded at the entrance to the tomb but a symbolic donation of money can be left in the collection box for the holy tomb. The position of the tomb on Mount Zebul offers visitors magnificent views: Mount Meron dominates the eastern skyline, Mount Hermon and the Mountains of Lebanon are in the north and the west respectively, and there are the coastal plain and towns of Nahariya, Acre (Akko) and Haifa.