The Israeli Druze are a respected and valued minority that has tied its destiny with the destiny of the people of Israel. This unique bond is expressed in the loyalty that is felt by the Druze residents of the State of Israel and their good relations with its Jewish residents that also includes serving in both the military and the armed forces. In addition many of them have integrated in all levels and positions within Israeli society and constitute an integral part of the public, medical and judicial services as well as politics. The Druze have been recognized by the state of Israel as a separate religious entity, and therefore led their lives while maintaining autonomy in many areas. The Druze are the ones who adjudicate in matters that fall between religion and personal status such as marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and spiritual leadership.
While the Druze are small group in absolute terms, best guess estimates is of about a million Druze worldwide, with most living in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. In Israel the Druze population is approximately 104,000, of which nearly 18,000 live on the Golan Heights and were under Syrian rule until 1967. The Druze are Arabic speakers and their culture draws heavily on the Arab culture, however they have rejected the Arab nationalism and developed a strong bond with the people of Israel.
The Druze religion is a very special religion that is completely independent of the Muslim religious teachings, its roots lie in the 10th century AD in Egypt and is the result of the combination between Muslim monotheism, Greek philosophy and the Hindu religion. The religion does not accept new followers, and a person cannot convert to become a Druze. Another uniqueness in the Druze religion is its relation to its holy scriptures – as opposed to the Bible or the Quran the holy scriptures of the Druze are only available to the Druze clergy and they are the only ones allowed to read them. Another interesting fact about the Druze faith is that they whole heartedly believe in reincarnation. For the Druze, reincarnation them is an unequivocal belief, and they therefore do not cry over their dead or visit their graves.
Most of the Druze live in villages and town in the north of Israel. Most of these settlements are exclusively inhabited by Druze, but during the last century some of these villages have transformed into mixed communities inhabited by a Muslim and Christian minority. The biggest Druze settlement in Israel (and also the southernmost one) is Daliyat-Al-Carmel, situated atop the Carmel Mountain, in the middle of the Carmel national park south of Haifa. The place attracted many tourists from Israel and the world as a welcoming place to meet the Druze culture including an experience of shopping for the community’s authentic products. As in most places in Israel, it is recommended to try out the Druze cuisine, delicious by any standard, while visiting Daliyat-Al-Carmel.
Other notable towns and settlements are Osfiya, also situated on the Carmel Mountain and Shfar’am situated on the road leading to Nazareth. To the north, overlooking the sea lies the village of Manda which is comprised of 60% Druze, 20% Muslims and 20% Christians. Close by lies the village of Rama, adjacent to Carmiel and next to it the village of Sa’ajor. Near situated the Miron mountain we find the village of Beit Jan which is located at the highest point in the Galilee (940 meters above sea level) and lies not far from the ancient village of Pke’in, one of the oldest settlements in Israel. .Other Druze villages in the region that can be visited are Ein-Al-Asad, Sama village, Abu Snan, Julis Jar and Horfish. Near the Golan Heights you can find Magdel Shams, Masaade, Bukaata and EinKanya.