Katie Gonzalez
Last updated: 9 February, 2014

A visit to Israel’s largest Druze settlement

Katie Gonzales has visited Daliyat al-Karmel to learn more about Druzian life and fashion.

Daliyat al-Karmel — located high in the Carmel mountain range of Northern Israel — is home to approximately 150,000 inhabitants, 97 percent of whom are Druze. Although the land was once revered for it’s fertile soil (and it’s name in fact translates to “vine of the Carmel”), most residents no longer work in agriculture, and are instead employed in the defense forces or work outside the village on the hill.

I had wanted to go to Daliyat al-Karmel for quite some time due to my general fascination with the Druze. With the known hostility between the Arabs and Israelis, and the publicized disdain for the African refugees, this political/religious group—officially considered “Arab”—isn’t much talked about or acknowledged in Israel.

Perhaps this is due to the closeness that they’ve developed to the Jewish immigrants who have come to populate Israel and hold prominent positions in its government and institutions over the years. According to one of my Druzian friends, many of them tend to align closer to Israel’s stance on political and social issues. Although recently there has been an increased unwillingness on behalf of the Druzian youth to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, it still seems relatively common and accepted (that is, these individuals don’t usually contend the mandatory conscription for Israeli citizens of a certain age).

Although originally of Islamic origins, the Druze now consider their faith to be a combination of all three monotheistic religions. They believe, however, that the rituals and ceremonies practiced by others Muslims, Jews and Christians have distorted the true sentiment behind faith. The Druze is now a closed-to-converts community, which perhaps lends to their secrecy and the overall lack of understanding about their religion and culture in Israel.

But even though the Druze might blend in politically and religiously, some stand out for other reasons: their wardrobe.

Druze men typically wear white hats that resemble a Jewish kippah, although their interpretation was always, in my experience, larger and covered more of the head itself. The Druze men in Daliyat al-Karmel also typically wear navy or black billowy harem pants (there really is not a better descriptor for them).

But beyond admiring the fashion, there was unfortunately little else to do in Daliyat al-Karmel when I arrived. The one “main street” was lined with old antique shops, all seemingly peddling the same one-of-a-kind “oldish” objects. Since I did not visit the village on a Saturday, I missed the shuk that typically attracts visitors with the allure of various musical instruments and copperware.

I instead opted to check out the town’s military memorial, which featured old machinery from a previous war, and a mural depicting the Camp David Accords. Although faded, it was still very interesting to see the interpretation of historical events, culminating with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shaking hands over former US President Jimmy Carter. 

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