The Druze are a religious minority living in villages in northern Israel. Not so famous and known from people outside of the Middle East. Usually when I tell foreigners about the Druze of Israel they think I mean Druids of the Celtic people. So no Celts around here.
The Druze religion begun in Egypt during the 11 century. It started as a sect in the Ismailiyah which is itself a sect in the Shia Islam. The scholars and preachers were affected by the Greek philosophy and Gnosticism. The first preacher of the religion was Hamza Ibn Ali who start spreading the new religion and was recognized by the governor as the Imam of the new religion in 1017.
The religion was called by it followers "El Muhwahidun" or the Monotheistics. Another preacher of the religion was Muhamad Al Darzi who slowly started change the believes and create a new religion. A conflict started between Ibn Ali and Al Darzi and Al Darzi was defeated.
It's unclear how come the people of this religion is called after the guy who lost the battle. Some say they were called after Al Darzi by their Muslim neighbors as an act of humiliation naming them after one of their false preachers. Some say that actually Al Darzi was a devoted important preacher and that’s why they are called after his name.
In 1043 the religion was declared as closed and that it will never accept new believers. And until this day you can't become a Druze. Sorry guys.
A Secret Religion
The religion itself is secret and is known only to the religious people which are the minority in a community. The secular people know some of the main principles and beliefs. At the age of 15 the kids decide if they want to be religious or not, although they can choose to become religious later in life if they want to.
Their pray house is called Hilwa and it's a very modest building with no decorations and only carpets on the ground to sit on, only religious people are allowed in. Kids under 15 can enter to get a taste of the religious life.
From the little known about their belief we know that Reincarnation is a paramount tenet in the Druze faith among believing in one god. It is forbidden to marry with no Druzes and if someone do so, he and his children will not be seen as Druzes anymore.
More about the Religion :
Loyalty To The Hosting Country
The Druzes were heavily persecuted during the years, as a result they settled in remote mountain areas where they could defend themselves and practice their religion. In their belief they can disguise their true religion and practice other religion acts to be seen from the outside as followers of the ruler religion to prevent persecution and harassment. The Druzes don’t hold a will to create a Druze state and poses a principle of being loyal to the country they are living in.
they are known to be very involved in their countries politics and security forces in higher percentage than their percentage in their total population.
The Druze in israel
In Israel the Druze live in villages in the north of the country. Some of them are mixed villages with Muslims and Christian population, some are only Druzes villages. The relationships between the Jews and the Druze were generally good throughout history and when the clashes between the Arabs and the Jews started at the beginning of the 20th century, the Druzes remain neutral more or less. On one hand they felt close to the Arabs by culture and language and feared of what will happen if the Arab will win, on the other hand they were oppressed by the Arabs and were seen as Kufar or heretics.
With the establish of the state of Israel the Druzes declared their loyalty to the state and in 1957 were recognized as a distinct religious minority something they didn’t get in any other state (Usually they were seen as Muslims in other countries) and since that year they also draft to the military as an obligatory service.
On the 2009 elections the Druzes had 6 parliament members more than twice as their represented in the general population.
The biggest Druze village is Dalyat El Carmel not far from Haifa.
If you are in Haifa and want to visit the Druze you can go to Isfiya.
Traditional dancing in the IDF:
The Druze of the Golan Heights
With their principle of being loyal to the country which they live in. The Druzes of the Golan heights are in a tricky position. The Druze in Syria were supporters of the Assad regime. After Israel captured the Golan height following talks and peace negotiations of give it back to Syria, the Golan Druzes don’t want to be seen as traitors.
If they will declare loyalty to the state of Israel and then there will be a peace agreement between Israel and Syria and Israel will give back the Golan and they will be back under Syrian control they will be seen as traitors by the Syrians.
They chose not to have an Israeli citizenship and they don’t serve in the military like their brothers from the Galil. They keep in touch with other Druze villages in Syria and get special permits to visit there and keep marriage connections.
Since the civil war in Syria their situation got even more complex. Officially they are still loyal to the Syrian regime but underground more and more young people apply for Israeli citizenship.
More about history and political background in Israel: