Israel’s forgotten tribe
One notable exception, though, is Naim Araidi, a Druze professor who was appointed Israel's ambassador to Norway last year. "The Druze community is a great community," said Araidi upon his appointment. "I have not seen another sector, including some Jewish citizens of Israel, whose loyalty is so strong."
Indeed, history has shown that the Druze are a faithful and welcoming people. "I'm biased because I'm Druze," said Asad. "But I think that no-one else offers hospitality and respect to guests like the Druzim. We just love people."
For a taste of this famed hospitality, travellers should head to Isfiya, Daliyat's neighbouring village, where the Nations & Flavours group can arrange for you to join a traditional Druze family meal. Much of Druze food comes from locally-grown herbs and plants; specialties include vine leafs stuffed with rice, pita breads cooked in a taboon oven sprinkled with zaatar (made from hyssop herb), mansala (cooked eggplant with chickpeas and tomato sauce) and kababi (kebabs served with tahini and salad). The Druze are also known for their distinctively large-but-flat pita breads.
Stay at the El-Manzul Druze Lodging in Isfiya, a huge house where guests can enjoy a Jacuzzi, massages and a traditional Druze breakfast of labneh, pita bread, olives and a variety of small salads. Just out of town is the Muhraka Monastery – a stunning Catholic church built on the highest peak of Mount Carmel, and an excellent vantage point over the Mediterranean coast to the west and the sweeping grassy plains of the Jezreel valley to the east.
From a great height
Further north in the Upper Galilee region, Druze villages can be found scattered on hilltops spreading all the way up to the Syrian border. One of the biggest is Beit Jann, on the peak of Mount Meron. Here, from the highest point in Israel (940m above sea level), it is possible to see the whole of the Galilee, Lebanon and Syria. The aptly-named Touch the Sky is a deluxe Druze hotel and restaurant pitched on the mountainside, run by the Abu Haya family, that offers guided tours of the Druze holy sites
About 12km west is the tiny Druze village of Yanuah, where the Sa'ad Family has been running their Druze-style guest house for nearly 50 years. Yanuah, mentioned in the Bible as Janoah, has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and the town is built on the remains of Byzantine and Crusader settlements. Travellers to the village can visit an old olive press, sample the local bakeries and explore some ancient biblical-era caves.
At the northern tip of Israel, not far from the troubled Syrian border, is the village of Majdal Shams. Despite the current turmoil in Syria, nearly 9,000 Druze people live in this peaceful retreat set among apple and cherry orchards. It is also a stone's throw away from Mount Hermon, which due to its altitude turns into a surreal Middle Eastern snow-covered ski resort in winter.
Nearby, Nimrod’s Fortress, an old Arab castle dating from 1229, has an end-of-the-world feel. Although it was not built by the Druze, shepherds from the tribe were the keepers of the fortress and the first to call it Qal'at Namrud, after the Biblical hunter Nimrod. Dubbed “the most exquisite ruins in the world” by Mark Twain, the fortress looks out across the Northern Golan Heights towards the road to Damascus. Over there, the Druze in Syria face an altogether more dangerous reality.