Daily Israel Report

Israel Allows Annual Druze Pilgrimage to Syria

Israel has relented and allowed 550 Druze to travel to Syria on their annual pilgrimage despite security warnings.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/12/2011, 4:24 PM

Druze protesters at Majdal Shams
Druze protesters at Majdal Shams
Flash 90

Israel has relented and allowed 550 Druze to travel to Syria on their annual pilgrimage despite security warnings because of the undeclared civil war there.

The Interior Ministry on Sunday withdrew travel permits at the last minute as the Druze were waiting for buses to transport then, because of warnings from security officials.

The Golan Heights Druze publicly back Damascus.

The Druze practice what is often referred to as the “secret religion” and are not classified as Arabs or Muslim. Approximately 40,000 Druze live in the Golan Heights along with an equal number of Jews who have moved there since the Six-Day War in 1967.

Israeli Druze generally are fiercely loyal to Israel and serve in the IDF, many of them as combat soldiers, but the Druze community in the Golan Heights largely affiliates with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has demanded that Israel surrender the strategic Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty. Druze traditionally are loyal to whatever rule seems to be in control, and their appareht loyalty to Syria is not due to an affinity for that country but due to fear of what would happen to them if Israel actually did cede the Golan Heights  From 1967 until the time that the possession of the area became a political issue in Israel, Druze in the Golan were as loyal to Israel as those in the Galilee.

Demonstrations against Israel earlier this year, hundreds of Syrians infiltrated across the border and were hosted by supportive Druze in the town of Majdal Shams, located on the Hermon mountain range.