Throughout the trip, the students had opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture of Israel. As part of this ethnic immersion, we enjoyed a dinner in a Druze village. The Druze religion presented both some familiar elements as well as several that were unique to us.
Student Samuel Magnuson recollects the dinner, shares background on the Druze, and gives his thoughts on their culture:
On Wednesday, March 11, after a full day in which we visited the Yardenit Baptism site, Haifa University, and the Bahá’í Gardens, we went to a Druze Village near Haifa for dinner. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me because we got to eat an incredible meal prepared by one of the women in the Druze village. I will explain more about what we learned about the Druze in a minute, but I must first discuss the food. When we arrived, we entered a dining hall where we sat at tables of about eight per table. The meal was family-style, meaning that the hosts kept bringing bowls of deliciousness for us to pass around. Of note, we ate stuffed peppers with arguably the sweetest rice I’ve ever experienced. We also had stuffed grape leaves, a really tasty chickpea dish, meatballs, Mediterranean salad, and a main dish of turkey with rice. While all of it was incredible, I must say that the stuffed peppers and chickpeas stood out to me, partially because neither of these dishes are ones I have been incredibly fond of in the States. However, the way the dishes were prepared that night (possibly because of the sauce) led me to eat seconds, thirds, and maybe fourths of each of these items. I also drank several glasses of what I thought was sweet tea . . . only to find out after that this was actually date juice. Fortunately, my stomach was prepared for such an altercation at this junction of the trip.
After dinner, we gathered around in a circle for Turkish coffee and desserts. During this time, one of the men from the community, a secular Druze, talked to us about the Druze beliefs. For starters, there are religious Druze and secular Druze. A secular Druze can decide to become a religious Druze, and vice versa, but this man informed us that once one chooses to become a religious Druze, that person typically remains loyal to the religious practices for life. I would say there are two key characteristics of the Druze beliefs. First, the Druze view themselves as being “loyal” to land on which they live. The significance of this is that they will serve and fight for whichever government controls the land on which they live. In the Golan Heights region, where many Druze live, the Druze were loyal to Syria prior to the 1967 War, but those living in the territory conquered by Israel are now loyal to Israel. The other unique trait of the Druze is that they believe in reincarnation. I found the explanation that the Druze man gave us about this belief fascinating, although several of my classmates struggled to reconcile this belief with their own. All in all, the dinner at the Druze village and learning more about the Druze people made for a very enjoyable mid-trip evening.