Blog post written by Cory, Master student in Israel Studies 2016-2017
A week after classes started, the Israeli Studies MA faculty held a welcoming dinner for us in Isfiya עספיא, a small Druze village located on Mount Carmel and a short driving distance from the University of Haifa. We carpooled with our professors to this nice, quaint residential home where we were greeted by this very hospitable and friendly Druze couple and their son, who was dressed in his Army uniform. This family had prepared an extravagant Druze feast where we had the opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of delicious traditional dishes.
The dinner was relaxing, informal, and a great opportunity for us to meet our professors and learn more about their academic backgrounds. Professor Gur Alroey, the Director of Israeli Studies, focuses his research on Early Zionism, Jewish Migration, Jewish Settlement in Palestine in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and the conflict during the Mandate period (1920-1948). Program coordinator Dr. Judith Bronstein’s fields of research are the Crusades (1096-1272), Military Orders, and Ecclesiastical History. I am currently taking her course on ”Nationalism, Zionism, and Israeli Archeology.” Dr. Moshe Naor’s fields of research are Israeli History, War and Society, History of the Jewish community in Palestine, and Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle East. I am currently taking his course on “Arab-Jewish Relations in Mandatory Palestine.” Dr. Estie Yankelevitch’s fields of research are the Jewish Settlements in Palestine, Palestine in the Mandate period, and the History of Education in Palestine. Overall, we were given a very hospitable welcoming by the Israeli Studies faculty and had an opportunity to eat incredibly delicious Druze cuisine.
Since the dinner, I have returned to Isfiya עספיא several times to explore
the area and also go grocery shopping. From the dormitories, I simply jump on bus 37 א to go to Isfiya עספיא and I am there in ten minutes. I found a butcher shop name “Oman Ha-Basar ” אומן הבשר with reasonably-priced meat and a nearby grocery store where I buy fresh vegetables and the rest of my groceries.
The Druze I have encountered there are very friendly and welcoming. It is fascinating to hear them switch back and forth between speaking Arabic and Hebrew. As an ethno-religious minority group within Israel, the Druze have played a vital role in protecting the State of Israel by serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. The Druze are not a minority group who seek autonomy within Israel and they do not have national aspirations of their own. This has allowed them to not only integrate into Israeli society, but also into other countries such as Lebanon and Syria where the vast majority of their communities live. Unfortunately, the Druze have recently been the frequent target of extremist attacks from groups such as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and Al-Qaeda in places throughout Syria. This has, of course, caused much consternation and apprehension for the Druze in Israel who identify strongly with their fellow brethren in neighboring countries.