The Druze Community
Learning with Mount Carmel Arabic Immersion, you will also be deeply immersed in the life and ways of your host village, and learn much about the Druze community.
With the distinct black-and-white dress of many Druze women and men, beliefs shrouded in mystery, and unique geo-political situation, the Druze are indeed an intriguing community. The Druze live primarily in mountainous regions of Lebanon, Syria, and northern Israel.
Historically, the origins of the Druze religion and community go back to the Shi’ite Fatimid dynasty in Egypt. Over a tumultuous period of about thirty years in the early 11th century, the Druze religion was born, won converts, and then was persecuted and closed to proselytism and conversion. In effect, the Druze of today are descended from those who joined the faith community prior to 1043.
The Druze call themselves Ahl at-Tawhid (the People of the Unity) or al-Muwahhidun (Those who Unify), and trace their religion to the teachings of Hamza ibn ‘Ali ibn Ahmad, a Persian Isma’ili scholar, philosopher and mystic, who first gained adherents to his belief in Cairo between 1014 and 1017, under the rule of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim. The name Druze is of unclear origin, and one of its earliest uses that refer clearly to the Ahl at-Tawhid was the description by the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela in the mid-12th century.
The Druze belief system shows strong influences of Greek and various Eastern philosophies, and places particular emphasis on reincarnation. The Druze symbol consists of five colors (green, red, yellow, blue and white), arranged either as a star or in a horizontal flag. The colors represent five key elements in Druze philosophy:
Green stands for al-‘Aql (the Universal Mind)
Red stands for al-Nafs (the Universal Soul)
Yellow for al-Kalima (the Word)
Blue represents al-Sabiq (the Cause)
White represents al-Tali (the Effect).
With its center of power displaced early on from Egypt to the mountainous regions of the Levant and Syria, the Druze community has endured periods of persecution and tragic turns of fortune over the past millennium. During various periods, the Druze had to live outwardly as Muslims and practice their religion in secret. The Druze have also seen periods of autonomy, security, grandeur, and even regional dominance.
As a result of its tumultuous and often painful history, the Druze religion is partially secret to this day, and even within the community there is a distinction between those who have full access to the belief system (called ‘Uqqāl ) and non-initiates (Juhhāl ).
In Israel today, many Druze are readily identifiable due to the distinct dress of observant members of the community: women wear a black dress with a thin translucent white head scarf, which can be worn loosely over the head and shoulders, or tightly wrapped to cover the chin and lower face. Men often wear a black tunic and leggings, with a red fez and white turban or various kinds of white head coverings, but can also be seen wearing colorful Druze skullcaps.
The Druze of Israel are also noteworthy for the harmony that characterizes their relationships with both the overall Arab population of the region and with Jewish Israelis.