Druze in Israel
|143,000, 1.6% of Israeli population (2019)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Israel (including occupied Golan Heights)|
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The Israeli Druze (Arabic: الدروز الإسرائيليون, Hebrew: דְּרוּזִים יִשְׂרְאֵלִים) are a unique religious and ethnic minority among Arab citizens of Israel. In 2019, there were 143,000 Druze living in Israel, 1.6% of the total population of the country. Even though the faith originally developed out of Ismaili Islam, Druze are generally not considered Muslims. 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. 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; they call themselves al-Muwaḥḥidīn, lit., "the Monotheists") are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. The religion incorporates elements of Isma'ilism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and other philosophies. The Druze call themselves Ahl al-Tawhid - "People of Unitarianism or Monotheism" - or al-Muwaḥḥidūn, "Unitarians, Monotheists". Amin Tarif was the preeminent religious leader of the community until his death in 1993.
Relations with the Jews on the eve of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War
During the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine, the Druze in Mandatory Palestine were under pressure from both the Jewish Yishuv leadership and from the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, and found it difficult to form an opinion about the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs. Noble Druze men from nearby countries visited Druze villages in Palestine and preached neutrality. During the early days of the conflict, a meeting of all the noblemen from all the Druze villages was conducted in Daliyat al-Karmel, where they all agreed not to take part in the riots instigated by the Arab Higher Committee. This decision was backed by Druze leaders in Jabal al-Druze. In the Druze community, there were opposing trends: In mixed Druze and Muslim villages such as Isfiya, Shefa-'Amr, and Maghar, where there were old sectarian disputes, and in Druze villages near Haifa and the Jewish settlement in the western Galilee, the local Druze leaders tended to prefer the Jews in the conflict; at the Druze villages deep in Arab areas, the local leaders were more careful with support of the Jews. Josh Palmon was tasked by the Jewish Agency for Israel to manage the relationship with the Druze. He initially led a preventive approach with the Druze, aimed at making sure the Druze will not join the Arab Higher Committee.
The contacts between the Druze and the Jewish leadership were made through Labib Hussein Abu Rokan from Isfya and Salah-Hassan Hanifes from Shefa-'Amr (both became members of the Knesset after Israel's establishment). Hanifas managed to bring the Druze village Yarka to co-operate with the Jews.
Arrival of Druze volunteers from nearby countries during the war
During the war, Druze volunteers arrived to Mandatory Palestine in order to help defend the Druze villages there. When the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) was created by the Arab League, Shakib Wahhab, a Syrian–Druze military commander resigned from the Syrian army and established a Druze battalion for the ALA, collecting Druze volunteers who joined mostly due to economic reasons from Syria and Lebanon. Wahhab brought around 500 men and arrived to Shefa-'Amr in Palestine, where he established his command on 30 March 1948. The commander of the ALA, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, planned to deploy the Druze battalion in the northern regions of Samaria under his command, but the military committee of the Arab League decided to establish a separate command for the Druze for the region near the city of Haifa, excluding Acre. Wahhab traveled through the western Galilee region and sent men to the Druze villages of the Carmel. As the Druze volunteers arrived, there were attempts to talk with the volunteers, due to fear local Druze will join them. Najib Mansour, the head of Isfiya, met with agents of the Hagannah in Haifa to discuss the arrival of Wahhab. Mansour did not agree to the demand that the local Druze would forcibly oppose the volunteers, and instead proposed the Jews bribe Wahhab to abandon his command.
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).
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 1973, Amal Nasser el-Din founded the Zionist Druze Circle, a group whose aim was to encourage the Druze to support the state of Israel fully and unreservedly. Today, thousands of Israeli Druze belong to Druze Zionist movements.
In 2007, Nabiah A-Din, mayor of Kisra-Sumei, rejected the "multi-cultural" Israeli constitution proposed by the Israeli Arab organization Adalah: "The state of Israel is a 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 the Druze and the 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 by Dr. Yusuf Hassan of Tel Aviv University found that out of 764 Druze participants, more than 94% identify 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, under-staffed. This trend has led to calls for its disbandment.
On May 15, 2015, it was announced that the Druze battalion Herev would be shut down, thereby allowing Druze soldiers to integrate into the rest of the IDF, a wish that was relayed to IDF senior staff by leaders in the Druze community as well as former Herev battalion commanders. After the July 2015 Draft, the IDF no longer listed the Druze unit as an option. By September 2015, the battalion had been disbanded, and its soldiers joined to other units.
The Druze religion branched off from the religion of Islam, and is now considered its own religion separate from Islam. The religion was created in the 10th and 11th centuries in Egypt, with aspects of Hindu and Greek philosophy incorporated into the tenets of Islam. Conversions are not permitted in the Druze religion, because they believe that the first generation after the establishment of the Druze religion had an opportunity then to join the religion, and everyone alive today is reincarnated from that generation. Much like the Abrahamic faiths, the Druze religion is monotheistic, and recognizes many prophets, including Jesus, John the Baptist, Mohammed, and Moses. Their most respected prophet in their religion is Jethro, Moses' father-in-law.
Within the Druze community, there are two different sub-groups. There is the al-Juhhal, or the Ignorant, and al-Uqqal, the Knowledgeable. The al-Juhhal group does not have the permission to view the holy texts, and they do not attend religious meetings. About 80% of the Druze people fall into this category of the Ignorant. The al-Uqqal must follow ascetic rulings including following a dress code. The most powerful 5% of the Knowledgeable group are where the spiritual leaders of the religion come from. As for important rules that the Druze must follow, they are not allowed to drink alcohol, eat pork, or smoke tobacco, similarly to the dietary laws in Islam. Polygamy is prohibited, and men and women are viewed as equals. Many of the Druze living in Israel fully participate in Israeli society, and many of them serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The Druze revere the father-in-law of Moses, Jethro or Reuel, a Kenite shepherd and priest of Midian. In Exodus, Moses' father-in-law is initially referred to as "Reuel" (Exodus 2:18) but then as "Jethro" (Exodus 3:1). 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 and they gather there every April.
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 in pre-1967 Israel (Upper and Lower Galilee and Mount Carmel) and on the Golan Heights. The population figures are as follows (absolute figures and percentage of overall population):
(not including Golan Subdistrict)
|Haifa District||Golan Subdistrict
(sub-section of Northern District)
Status and position of Golan Heights Druze
There are four remaining Druze villages in the Israeli-annexed portion of the Golan Heights—Majdal Shams, Mas'ade, Buq'ata, and Ein Qiniyye—in which 23,000 Druze live. Most of the Druze residents of the Golan Heights consider themselves to be Syrians and refuse to take Israeli citizenship, instead holding Israeli permanent resident status, and in place of an Israeli passport use an Israeli-issued laissez-passer document for travelling abroad, on which the citizenship paragraph is left empty.
Since the adoption of the 1981 Golan Heights Law, the territory has been under Israeli civil law, and incorporated into the Israeli system of local councils. After the annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981, the Israeli government offered citizenship to all non-Israelis living in the territory, but (as of 2011), less than 10% of the local Druze accepted it. In 2012, however, due to the Syrian Civil War, dozens of young Druze have applied for Israeli citizenship - a much larger number than in previous years. By 2017, nearly 5,500 out of 26,500 residents had applied for and received an Israeli passport since 1981. The yearly number of applications steadily rose, with 183 applying in 2016, compared to only five in 2000.
During the 2011 Syrian uprising, Druze in the Golan Heights held several rallies in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Public support for the Assad government has historically been high among Golan Druze, and Syria 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 has been relatively uncommon.
In the 2009 elections, 1,193 residents of the Alawite village of Ghajar and 809 residents of the Druze villages were eligible to vote, out of approximately 1,200 Ghajar residents and 12,600 Druze village residents who were of voting age. As Israel does not recognize the Syrian citizenship of Golan Druze, they are defined in Israeli records as "residents of the Golan Heights". Those who apply for Israeli citizenship are entitled to vote in Israeli elections, run for Knesset, and receive an Israeli passport. Residents of Majdal Shams are not drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.
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- Should be updated to a link to "Golan Subdistrict" article once that article is created and written in English
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...still consider themselves citizens of Syria today... Since the Israelis annexed the Golan in 1981, the Syrian Druze have been eligible for Israeli citizenship, but most reject it and instead have permanent resident status and a , with their citizenship line empty, except for a line of stars.
- Golan Heights Law, MFA.
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