07 Apr An important non-Jewish Zionist group in Israel
Although there are millions of Christian Zionists around the world, among them those who played a great role in the return of Jews to the land of Israel and the establishment of the Jewish state (as told in the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem), there is also a small and unique non-Jewish group living in the north of Israel that is also firmly Zionist. They are the Israeli Druze.
The Druze are a religious and ethnic minority in the Middle East, living primarily in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Their population in Israel is estimated at some 130,600. Although the Druze faith originally developed out of Islam, Druze are not considered Muslims. In 1957, the Israeli government designated the Druze as 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 and the border police, where several have reached top command positions.. They are represented as well in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. They live mainly in villages in the Galilee and Mount Carmel. Tens of thousands of Israeli Druze belong to Druze Zionist movements.
The Druze religion branched off from the religion of Islam in the 10th and 11th centuries in Egypt, with aspects of Hindu and Greek philosophy. Conversions are not permitted. The religion is monotheistic and recognizes many prophets, including Jesus, John the Baptist, Mohammed, and Moses. The most respected prophet in their religion is Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, whose tomb is located near Tiberias and is a site of pilgrimage. The Druze do not have established rituals and prayers as in other religions, and only a minority of Druze, especially spiritual leaders, have access to the holy texts and can attend religious meetings. The Druze believe in reincarnation, that is that everyone living today was once someone else.
As for important rules that the Druze must follow, they are not allowed to drink alcohol, eat pork, or smoke tobacco. Polygamy is prohibited, and men and women are viewed as equals.
Another Druze group lives on the Golan Heights, formerly part of Syria and incorporated into Israel following the war of 1967. Most of these Druze still consider themselves to be Syrian, though a growing number have exercised their right to become Israeli citizens.