The Druze are a tight-knit social and religious community of mostly Arab descent with an estimated one million members worldwide. Most Druze live in Syria, Lebanon and Israel, and about 40,000 live in the United States. They do not allow conversion to their religion, and only the child of a Druze mother and a Druze father is considered Druze.
Click on the photos below to learn more about the Druze faith, culture and history.
- The Druze believe in five cosmic principles represented by the five-colored Druze star: Aql the Universal Mind (green); Nafs the Universal Soul (red); Kalima the Truth (yellow); Sabq the Cause (blue) and Tali the Effect (white). Their monotheistic faith is often described as an offshoot of Shia Islam, but does not require ritual prayer or mosque attendance. The Druze holy book is called the Hikme book (or the book of Wisdom).
(Photo by www.metaltraveller.com)
- The Druze community is divided into two groups: the initiates, called Uqqal (the knowers or intelligent), and the uninitiated lay majority, or Juhhal (ignorant). The Uqqal make up about 20 percent of the Druze population. They participate in religious services and are able to learn the secret teachings of the Druze religious doctrine. As seen in these photos, Uqqal women wear a loose white veil known as the al-mandil, and men wear white turbans. The Juhhal typically wear Western clothes. While they are unfamiliar with the specifics of the Druze religious doctrine, they must be faithful to God, respect elders, and honor women.
(Photos by Ben Aronoff, Fogline Studio, www.flickr.com/photos/fogline)
- One of the most important Druze gathering sites is the shrine near Tiberias in Israel. Druze gather here on April 25 each year to celebrate their independence as a religious community in Israel, which was granted to them in 1957.
- Inside of the Druze shrine near Tiberias, Israel, is the tomb of Jethro, their main prophet. Jethro is the father-in-law of Moses, whom Muslims call Shu’ayb. Many Druze view themselves as the descendants of Jethro.
(Photo by Ben Aronoff, Fogline Studio, www.flickr.com/photos/fogline)
- Due in part to their long history as a persecuted minority, Druze often live in villages that are located on higher ground. In the 1500s Druze villages prospered in the Chouf Mountains of southern Lebanon. The area of southern Syria where they live became known as Jabal al-Druze (mountain of the Druze). Ein Qinya, a Druze village near Mount Hermon Nature Reserve in Syria, is pictured above. A minority of Druze live in the Golan Heights region that Israel seized from Syria in 1967. There are about 120,000 Druze in Israel, or about 1.6 per cent of the population, located in eighteen villages, many of them exclusively Druze. Druze number about 230,000 in Lebanon, and about 420,00 in Syria, or about 4 percent of the population.
(Photo by Fred DeGregorio)
- The Druze have lived in the Levant (the area bordering the Mediterranean Sea that now includes Syria, Lebanon and Israel) since about 1015. They have a reputation as formidable warriors, which began in 1100 when Crusaders ruled Syria. In 1926, under the military leadership of Sultan Pasha al-Atrash (pictured above), the Druze played a key role in Syria’s fight for independence from the French.
(Photo from Otrakji family collection, www.mideastimage.com)
- Many Druze have been killed while fighting for the Israeli Defense Forces. The Daliyat Al-Karmel memorial (pictured above) pays them tribute. Druze fought alongside Jews in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that led to the founding of Israel. Druze also serve in the Israeli government. Five Druze lawmakers have been elected to serve in the Knesset (Israel’s legislature), a disproportionately large number considering their population.
(Photo by Cyndee Trinh)
- The Druze play a more important role in Lebanese and Syrian politics than their small population would suggest. The Progressive Socialist Party led by Walid Jumblatt (pictured above) is officially secular and non-sectarian, but it is supported mostly by the Druze. It alternately cooperates with dominant Muslim and Christian parties, effectively functioning as a powerful swing vote. (Photo by Ben Aronoff, Fogline Studio, www.flickr.com/photos/fogline)
- Druze women have always had the right to own and sell property, and most are literate and educated. In the photo above, two Druze students wear regular school uniforms, while the third wears the white veil traditionally worn by initiated Druze women. A woman's honor is one of the most important factors in Druze family life, and its defilement is cause for great humiliation. (Photo by Ben Aronoff, Fogline Studio, www.flickr.com/photos/fogline)
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