125,000 Druze Live in Israel
As of December 2009, there were 125,000 Druze living in Israel, the Central Statistics Bureau has announced. The figures were released in honor of the Druze holiday celebrating the prophet Yitro (Jethro), a central figure in their religion and known in Druze tradition as Nabi Shuaib. Druze make pilgrimages to what is believed to be his tomb near Tiberias during this holiday period, from April 25 to 28.
Druze make up 1.7 percent of Israel's total population, and 8.1 percent of the Arab population. The Druze population is growing at a rate of 1.8 percent – slightly faster than the Jewish population's growth rate of 1.7 percent, but more slowly than the Arab Muslim population, with a growth rate of 2.8 percent.
The vast majority of Israeli Druze – 98 percent – live in 18 villages. Seventeen of those 18 villages are in northern Israel while the eighteenth, Ir Carmel, formerly the separate towns of Daliat el Carmel and Isifiya, is in the Carmel mountains near Haifa.
In 12 of those villages, at least 94 percent of the village population is Druze, while in the remaining six, 100 percent of the population is Druze.
Although Druze speak Arabic, they are recognized as having a separate religion and have their own religious court system.
Many Druze Israelis serve in the IDF, including high ranking officers. Many have received awards and have lost their lives in battle. A Druze soldier, Magdl Halaby, has been missing since 2005 when he was 19. Druze politicians serve as MKs in each of Israel's three largest Knesset factions: Kadima, Likud, and Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home). In 2004 Druze religious leader Sheikh Tarif signed a declaration urging non-Jews to keep the seven Noachide Commandments espoused by Judaism. This week, it was announced that six Druze firefighters would become the first to serve in Judea and Samaria.