A few years ago I was on a plane in the U.S. and started small talking with the woman sitting next to me. Religion came up and when I told her I identified as a Jew, she laughed and told me that when she tells people which religion she identifies with, people often think she is saying “Jew.”
She told me that she was “Druze” and asked if I had heard of it. I nodded my head excitedly and told her that I had visited a Druze village while on an organized tour to Israel!
I remember them welcoming us with open arms and superfluous amounts of food. While we were being served lunch, a few Druze taught us about their religion and cultural values. Although their religion is secretive, they were open about teaching us the basics. Additionally, they were happy to answer any question we had.
While you are on a Holy Land tour, it is an amazing opportunity to meet Israeli Druze to learn about the fascinating Druze lifestyle.
Fact #1: Druze is a monotheistic religion and are often referred to as “People of Monotheism.”
Fact #2: Druze originated in Egypt at the end of the 10th century.
Fact #3: Druze is a blend of Islam, Hindu, and Greek philosophy.
Fact #4: In addition to not having Druze clergy, there are no ceremonies or rituals. This is because they believe ceremonies and rituals are distract one’s connection with God.
Fact #5: They do have a sacred text called Kitab Al Hikma (Epistles of Wisdom), which is only available to religious Druze.
Fact #6: Instead of following the Five Pillars of Islam, they: (1) Speak the truth, (2) Support their community, (3) Abandon the old creeds, (4) Purify from heresy, (5) Accept the unity of God, and (6) Submit to the will of God.
Fact #7: Like Muslims, Druze are forbidden from eating pork, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Fact #8: Druze do not have nationalistic ideals and therefore, support the country they live in. However, they do have a flag and a five-pointed star symbol. Both contain five colors, each representing a limit which shows the difference between humans and animals.
Fact #9: There are religious Druze women and they are preferred over men because they are perceived as better “spiritually prepared.”
Fact #10: There is a population of over 100,000 Israeli Druze. Most Druze communities are in the North. There are also large populations of Druze living in Syria and Lebanon.
“Breaking Bread Journeys” – a new Palestinian and Israeli tourism concept
Jerusalem — “Breaking Bread Journeys” is a new Palestinian and Israeli experiential tourism concept that will be introduced to the US travel industry and media at the New York Times Travel Show in February in New York. The concept was recently created by two tour operators, Christina Samara, a Palestinian and owner of Samara Tourist and Travel Agency, and Elisa Moed, founder of Israel-based Travelujah. Both women were introduced by Tony Blair’s Quartet Initiative and are launching this new tourism concept with the support of the United States Agency for International Development under the Compete Project in the West Bank, which emphasizes economic development, including tourism, as a path to peace and stability.
“We realized that travel brings people together in many positive ways and helps in the pursuit of stability, prosperity and peace in the entire Holy Land,” said Christina Samara. “So we designed a set of very special Palestinian and Israeli cultural and historic tours that include many of the classical sites that both of our companies have long been offering.”
“However, we believed that what tourists really want is to experience the land in a personal way and we knew that by working together we could provide authentic experiences that would otherwise be virtually impossible,” explained Elisa Moed. “Each of our experiences provides opportunities for small groups to engage directly with local communities. These include experiences for faith-based clientele, as well as other market segments that are keen to learn and enjoy local traditional cuisine, art, and music and, of course, break bread with the people of the land.”
Tourism to the Holy Land is important for both Israelis and Palestinians. In 2012, the Israeli tourism industry received 3.5 million visitors, and the Palestinian tourism industry received over 1.8 million visitors. In fact, visitors to the Palestinian Territories increased over 40% from 2007 to 2013– a positive sign that the region can safely receive increasing numbers of visitors.
“We intend to visit the United States during the period of 28th February – 2nd March 2014 where we will be meeting tour industry professionals in the United States and we look forward to meeting tour operators, media and organizations interested in offering our rich, comprehensive cultural experiences in the Holy Land,” said Samara.
Samara Tourist and Travel Agency is being supported in the development of this initiative by the United States Agency for International Development through their COMPETE project in the West Bank as part of the Agency’s strategy to develop the Palestinian tourism sector and to make a significant impact in job creation and increased investment.
To view a brief Breaking Bread Journey tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY5RbCrMu70
For more information, contact Christina Samara at +972-54-237-5288 or Elisa Moed at +972-52-744-4033. They can also be reached via email at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Their website is at: www.breakingbreadjourneys.com