Israel may be known as the world’s only Jewish state. But a closer look at the country will surprise you with its melting pot of diverse cultures and religions. One of the most interesting is Druze, a unique ethnoreligious group descended from Islam that has elements from other religions like Christianity and Buddhism. As of 2019, there were 149,000 Druze living in Israel. The Druze people’s primary language is Arabic.
In Israel, the majority of Druze settlements are located in the northern region. Discover and learn their illustrious history, rich culture, and delicious cuisine. If you want to explore and experience Druze life and culture, here are the recommendations of the best-known Druze villages in Israel.
1) Daliyat al-Karmel
High up the hills, not too far away from Haifa, is Daliyat al-Karmel (“vineyards of Carmel”). Located on Mount Carmel in Haifa District, it is the largest Druze settlement in Israel. Daliyat al-Karmel is known for its bustling, colorful market where you can find locally grown produce, homemade delicacies, traditional wares, furniture, and a lot more. Check out also the local galleries showcasing beautiful crafts and artwork.
Don’t also forget to visit some of the town’s landmarks, including:
- Abu Ibrahim Shrine (the oldest landmark);
- Laurence Oliphant House (which houses a museum dedicated to the fallen Druze IDF soldiers);
- Druze Heritage Center;
- Garden of the Mothers (dedicated to the victims of the Mount Carmel forest fire in 2010)
- Muhraqa Carmelite Monastery (dating back to the 1840s).
Right next to Daliyat al-Karmel is another Druze town, Isfiya, in Haifa District. Actually, Isfiya and Daliyat al-Karmel merged as Carmel City, but it was only short-lived.
Although Isfiya is predominantly Druze, a few number of Christians, Muslims, and Jews also reside there for practical reasons – mainly, low rent rates.
Isfiya was built upon the ruins of a former ancient settlement. In modern days, the village has become a bustling tourist attraction. Every year, Druze from other parts of Israel and elsewhere make their annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Abu Abdullah, one of the major figures of the Druze faith.
Israelis love to visit Isfiya and Daliyat al-Karmel for their ancient buildings and delicious cuisine. They may also want to experience other things like trying their hand at making oil candles.
3) Beit Jann
Beit Jann is a Druze village located at the peak of Mount Meron, in Israel’s Northern District. It is believed to be established during the Byzantine or Roman period. This charming village consists mainly of residential buildings and guesthouses made of reused ancient stones.
Around 200 guest rooms and active tourist sites, restaurants, and small cafés take advantage of the gorgeous, lush verdant mountains and the breathtaking views – the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the cliffs of the Golan Heights in the east to the Gilboa Mountains in the south. Tourists love to stroll through the narrow winding alleyways with quaint markets selling locally grown produce, homemade food products, and handmade traditional crafts and homeware.
Julis is a village and a local council in Israel’s Northern District. While its name is still subject to debate – either named after Julius Caesar or after an Arabic word – there’s no debating that Julis is an attractive village to visit.
You can begin your visit in Julis at the Druze Center House, which devotes itself to preserving Druze heritage. Then check out fascinating Druze crafts, cultural artifacts, traditional homeware, and a fascinating section dedicated to traditional medicine and spiritual traditions. Enjoy the rest of the day with a walking tour of the picturesque winding alleys, Druze heritage houses, and the splendid Almona Gardens.
The tomb of Sheikh Ali Fares is located in this village. The Sheikh Ali Faris Cave – also known as the “Lonely Cave” – is two kilometers east of the town. Many other Druze prophets are interred in Julis, and their tombs have become pilgrimage sites among the faithful from different parts of Israel. If you happen to visit Julis in November, you will enjoy the annual Olive Festival. And don’t leave Julis without trying the traditional Druze food and sweets!
Hurfeish is a Druze town in the Northern District, believed to be established during the brief Greek period.
Hurfeish is a small village that can be easily explored in a day. But it will leave anyone in awe with its Galilean views. Verdant fields cover the breathtaking views of Mount Zvul, where Sabalan, a Druze prophet, is buried. Every year, the faithful flock to his tomb and shrine, which are also open to visitors.
But more than the views and the attractions, the village’s history, centuries-old tradition and warm hospitality from the locals will surely leave visitors with a more lasting impression. Whether you love lace or not, you should not miss visiting Hurfeish’s wonderful lace art center, where local women and visitors gather weekly and take part in traditional lace and embroidery work.
Yanuh-Jat is a Druze village in Northern District, merged between the two former separate villages Yanuh and Jat. It overlooks Yehiam Fortress and the Western Galilee, and the views are no less than impressive.
Like most Druze villages in Israel, Yanuh-Jat has shrines, including the tombs of little-known prophets named Shamsa and Abu Arus, serving as Druze visitation sites. A local museum offers visitors a fascinating look into traditional Druze life and culture. Watering holes and caves are pretty abundant in the area, and you can explore them on foot. Don’t forget to try (and buy) their freshly prepared pitas and olive oil.
Peki’in is a Druze village in the Northern District, located eight kilometers (almost five miles) east of the predominantly Jewish city of Ma’alot-Tarshiha. Peki’in itself was a Jewish community, a status it had maintained since the Second Temple period. But after the 1936 – 1939 Arab revolt, most Jews did not return to Peki’in, with only a dwindling number of Jewish families left.
In modern times, Peki’in enjoys a bustling tourism industry. According to the head of the village’s tourism department, around 60,000 tourists visit Peki’in every year. Don’t forget to check out its renowned olive oil press and traditional beehives, where you can have the chance to get some hands-on experience in making these delicacies.
If you’re a fan of the globally famous skincare brand Gamila Secret, a stop to its original store and visitors center will surely be a fun and unforgettable experience.