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The Israeli Druze (Arabic: الدروز الإسرائيلية, Hebrew: דְּרוּזִים יִשְׂרְאֵלִים) are a religious minority in Israel. In 2012, there were 130,600 Druze living in the country. In 1957, the Israeli government designated the Druze a distinct ethnic community at the request of its communal leaders. The Druze are Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel who serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Members of the community have attained top positions in Israeli politics and public service. Most Druze dissociate themselves from Arab nationalism. Before the establishment of the State of Israel, the Druze were not recognized as a religious community and were discriminated against by the judicial system. They live mainly in the north of the country.
The Druze (Arabic: درزي, derzī or durzī, plural دروز, durūz; Hebrew: דְּרוּזִים, druzim) are an esoteric monotheistic religious community found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. The religion incorporates elements of Ismailism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism and other philosophies. The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid "People of Unitarianism or Monotheism" or al-Muwaḥḥidūn "Unitarians, Monotheists." Sheikh Amin Tarif was the preeminent religious leader of the community until his death in 1993.
Military service and public office
Druze citizens are prominent in the Israel Defense Forces and in politics. The bond between Jewish and Druze soldiers is commonly known by the term "a covenant of blood" (Hebrew: ברית דמים, brit damim).
A Druze politician, Majalli Wahabi, served as the acting President of Israel in February 2007. Five Druze lawmakers were elected to serve in the 18th Knesset, a disproportionately large number considering their population. Reda Mansour a Druze poet, historian and diplomat, explained: "We are the only non-Jewish minority that is drafted into the military, and we have an even higher percentage in the combat units and as officers than the Jewish members themselves. So we are considered a very nationalistic, patriotic community."
In 2007, Nabiah A-Din, mayor of Kasra Adia, rejected the "multi-cultural" Israeli constitution proposed by the Israeli Arab organization Adalah: "The state of Israel is Jewish state as well as a democratic state that espouses equality and elections. We invalidate and reject everything that the Adalah organization is requesting," he said. According to A-din, the fate of Druze and Circassians in Israel is intertwined with that of the state. "This is a blood pact, and a pact of the living. We are unwilling to support a substantial alteration to the nature of this state, to which we tied our destinies prior to its establishment," he said. As of 2005[update] there were 7,000 registered members in the Druze Zionist movement. In 2009, the movement held a Druze Zionist youth conference with 1,700 participants.
In a survey conducted in 2008, Yussuf Hassan of the Tel Aviv University found that more than 94% of Druze youth classified themselves as "Druze-Israelis" in the religious and national context.
On 30 June 2011, Haaretz reported that a growing number of Israeli Druze were joining elite units of the military, leaving the official Druze battalion, Herev, understaffed. This trend has led to calls for its disbandment.
The Druze revere the father-in-law of Moses, Jethro, whom some Muslims identify with Shuʻayb. According to the biblical narrative, Jethro joined and assisted the Israelites in the desert during the Exodus, accepted monotheism, but ultimately rejoined his own people. The tomb of Jethro near Tiberias is the most important religious site for the Druze community.
Amin Tarif was the qadi, or spiritual leader, of the Druze in Palestine and Israel from 1928 until his death in 1993. He was highly esteemed and regarded by many within the community as the preeminent spiritual authority in the Druze world.
In January 2004, the current spiritual leader, Sheikh Muwaffak Tarīf, called on all non-Jews in Israel to observe the Seven Noahide Laws as laid down in the Bible and expounded upon in Jewish tradition. The mayor of the Galilean city of Shefa-'Amr also signed the document. The declaration includes the commitment to make a "...better humane world based on the Seven Noahide Commandments and the values they represent commanded by the Creator to all mankind through Moses on Mount Sinai."
The Druze in Israel live in a handful of sectarian villages and several mixed-religion Arab localities, over the Golan heights, Upper and Lower Galilee and Mount Carmel, as follows (Population figures and percentage of overall population):
- Daliyat al-Karmel (15,000 – 96.9%)
- Yirka (14,750 – 98.9%)
- Maghar (11,600 – 57.8%)
- Beit Jann (10,600 – 99.8%)
- Isfiya (8,500 – 80%)
- Kisra-Sumei (7,000 – 94.5%)
- Julis (5,700 – 100%)
- Yanuh-Jat (5,300 – 100%)
- Hurfeish (5,250 – 95.8%)
- Shefa-'Amr (5,150 – 14.1%)
- Peki'in (4,150 – 76.5%)
- Sajur (3,700 – 100%)
- Abu Sinan (3,450 – 27.6%)
- Rameh (2,200 – 30.4%)
In the Golan Heights:
- Majdal Shams (9,700 – 99.9%)
- Buq'ata (5,900 – 99.8%)
- Mas'ade (3,100 – 99.9%)
- Ein Qiniyye (1,735 – 98.9%)
Druze of the Golan Heights
There are four Druze villages on the Golan Heights. In the late 1970s, the Israeli government offered all non-Israelis living in the Golan citizenship, which would entitle them to an Israeli driver's license and enable them to travel freely in Israel. Most continue to regard themselves as Syrian citizens, with less than 10% having accepted Israeli citizenship. Those who apply for Israeli citizenship are entitled to vote, run for Knesset and receive an Israeli passport. For foreign travel, non-citizens are issued a laissez-passer-by the Israeli authorities. As Israel does not recognize their Syrian citizenship, they are defined in Israeli records as "residents of the Golan Heights." In 2012, due to the situation in Syria, young Druze have applied to Israeli citizenship in much larger numbers than in previous years. Residents of Majdal Shams are not drafted by the Israel Defense Forces. Public support for the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad has historically been high among Golan Druze. Assad's government is seen as a vital ally in their resistance to Israeli occupation, and has secured agreements with the Israeli government to permit Golan Druze to conduct trade across the border with Syria. Some tensions have recently arisen in the community due to differing stances on the Syrian civil war, though open public support for the Syrian opposition is relatively uncommon.
In the 2009 elections, 1,193 residents of Ghajar and 809 residents of the Druze villages were eligible voters, out of approximately 1,200 Ghajar residents and 12,600 Druze village residents who were of voting age. During the 2011 Syrian uprising, several rallies of Golan Heights Druzes were held in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
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