The largest Druze town in Israel (and the most southern) is Daliyat el-Carmel, located on Mount Carmel in the heart of the Carmel National Park, southeast of Haifa. Established some 400 years ago, Daliyat el-Carmel has a population of 13,000 Druze residents, who trace their ancestry to the hill country near Aleppo (Halab) in northern Syria, attested to by their strong Aleppo accent and the name of the largest family in the village - Halabi. The large market in the center of the town boasting traditional Druze and Arab products draws tourists from Israel and from abroad. The shrine of Abu Ibrahim is located in Daliyat el-Carmel, and the ruins of several Druze villages are located in the vicinity.

 
Located north of Rama, on the peak of Mt. Meron, is the all-Druze village of Beit Jan. The village is situated at the highest point in Israel (940 meters above sea level), and has a population of some 9,000.  
Not far away is Peki'in, one of the most ancient villages in the country. It was frequently mentioned in historical sources from the thirteenth century onward, noting its many springs, flourishing gardens and orchards, and its small Jewish community, which has been present there almost continuously since the Second Temple period. In and near the village are significant sites for Druze and Jews, including a restored Jewish synagogue dating back to the Roman Period. The oldest Druze school in the region was established in Peki'in by the Russian church at the end of the nineteenth century.
 

 

 
The village of Hurfeish is situated on the road that runs east from the coastal town of Nahariya, and the site of the tomb of the important prophet Sablan. On September 10th each year, Druze come to celebrate his festival in the village.
 
The only all-Druze town in western Galilee, Yirka, is the site of one of the largest factories in the Middle East: the steel mill belonging to the Kadmani Brothers. The factory has enabled the village to develop a large commercial and industrial zone. Home to about 11,000 Druze, Yirka has a number of important sites, the most significant of which is the tomb of Sheikh Abu Saraya Ghanem, an important Druze religious scholar of the early eleventh century.

 


Other Druze Villages
Isfiya, also on Mount Carmel, was built on the ruins of a Byzantine settlement. Many Crusader ornaments and relics found on the walls and in the houses led historians to believe that the village was once a Crusader center. In 1930, remains of the fifth-century Jewish settlement of Husifah were unearthed in the village. They include a synagogue with a mosaic floor bearing Jewish symbols and the inscription "Peace upon Israel", and some 4,500 gold coins dating from the Roman Period. The modern village was founded in the early eighteenth century, when residents made their living from the olive oil, honey and the excellent grapes growing in the region. Some 9,000 people live today in Isfiya: 70% Druze, the rest Christians and Muslims. The tomb of Abu Abdallah is located here.

Northeast of Haifa is the village of Shfar'am, a settlement with ancient roots. Shfar'am is mentioned in the Talmud, and in the second century was the seat of the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish religious and judicial body). The Jewish community in Shfar'am, dating from the end of the Middle Ages, slowly dwindled away during the 19th and early 20th century. Some 27,000 Druze, Christians and Muslims live in Shfar'am today, and the village has a number of holy sites and prayer houses for all three communities, as well as housing for discharged Druze soldiers.

Further north, overlooking Lake Kinneret, is Maghar, believed to be the site of the city of Ma'ariya, where a priestly family lived in Talmudic times. Historical sources mention the many olive trees surrounding the village, which still thrive there today. Some 17,000 people live in Maghar today - 60% Druze, 20% Muslim and 20% Christian.

The village of Rama (population 7,000) north of Maghar, was built on the site of the ancient biblical town of Ramot Naftali. Rama is noted for its level of culture, dating back to the Mandate Period; in 1948, the proportion of physicians, attorneys, and engineers in Rama was the highest in the Arab sector. Nearby is the smaller village of Sajur.

Ein el-Asad, the only all-Druze village founded in the twentieth century, is located nearby. The village's original residents came from Beit Jan and from Syria and Lebanon. Kafr Sumei', west of Peki'in, is thought to be the site of Kefar Sama, mentioned in ancient Hebrew literature.

South of Kafr Sumei', Kisra was the smallest Druze village in the country in the nineteenth century. The village now has about 3,500 residents. The nearby village of Yanuah is mentioned in the Bible (as Janoah), the Talmud, and Crusader documents. Next to the village is the shrine of the Muslim prophet Shams.

Abu Sinan, another large Druze town in the area, is mentioned in Crusader documents from the year 1250, as the fortress of "Busnen". Abu Sinan became important during the reign of the Druze Emir Fahr ed-Din al-Mani, who built a palace there for his son Ali in 1617. Today Abu Sinan is home to about 10,000 persons - 35% Druze and the rest Christians and Muslims. The tombs of the prophet Zechariah and Sheikh al-Hanbali are located in the town.

South of Abu Sinan is the tranquil village of Julis, homeof Sheikh Amin Tarif, the longtime spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze community, who died in October 1993. His grandson Saleh Tarif, who lives in Julis, was the first Druze to be appointed a minister in the Israeli government.

Druze have lived in Jat, a small village northeast of Abu Sinan, since the eleventh century. Druze sacred texts mention Sheikh Abu Arus, who was responsible for the propagation of the Druze faith in the region, and was buried in the village. The population of Jat today numbers some 8,000.

The village of Hurfeish is situated on the road that runs east from the coastal town of Nahariya, and the site of the tomb of the important prophet Sablan. On September 10th each year, Druze come to celebrate his festival in the village. In 1972, a monument was erected in Hurfeish in memory of Druze soldiers who fell serving with the Israel Defense Forces.

 


 

Information Courtesy of Dr. Naim Aridi, a Druze Scholar
Photos Courtesy of Dunia Ata


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