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Nebi Shu’eib

Nebi Shu’eib is a huge mosque-like structure nestled at the base of the Horns of Hittin. The building houses the traditional tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, (Exodus 3:1) a prophet in the Druze tradition. The Druze religion believes that Jethro passed on rules about justice and righteousness to Moses. Both the Israeli flag and the Druze flag (comprised of five bands of color representing the five major Druze prophets as well as elements in nature) fly over the impressive complex. From the expansive courtyard there is a spectacular view of the Arbel Cliffs and Sea of Galilee. The complex was constructed as a place for Druze to congregate, particularly on April 25 each year to celebrate ziyara together, as well as a place of hospitality for all people. The chamber housing the tomb-marker dates back to the 3rd century, and travel reports from the 11th century mention the place as a holy site. The current building dates from 1880.

The Druze religion dates back to 10th century Egypt as an offshoot of the Ishmaili sect. While they are Arab culturally and use the Arabic language, they maintain separation from the mainstream Muslim and Christian Arabs in Israel. They are located primarily in southern Syria and northern Israel. They believe in the major prophets of the three monotheisms, and also incorporate elements of Buddhism into their theology, and highly esteem other historical figures including the major Greek philosophers and Alexander the Great.

The Druze are a non-prosyletizing religion because of their belief in reincarnation. They believe at some point in history all people had the chance to be Druze, so those that rejected the Druze religion could not accept it in a later reincarnation. They believe that Christianity, Judaism and Islam were corrupted by rituals, and therefore have no liturgy and virtually no rituals of their own. It is also a secret religion, where certain knowledge is reserved only for certain religious leaders, a feature thought to be incorporated from Shia Islam.

The Druze are loyal to whichever country they live in, and even fought on the side of Israel in war of 1948. While other Arab citizens of Israel are exempt from serving in the Israeli military, Druze citizens perform the same military service as Jewish Israelis. Druze are easily recognizable by their distinctive dress– the men wear white turbans and large, puffy Ottoman-style pants, the women cover their heads with a white cloth.

You will need appropriate dress in order to enter the complex– pants past the knee and shoulders covered. The tomb is just inside off the expansive patio. As in a mosque, you will need to remove your shoes and cover you head (there are scarves available as well as baseball hats and plaid shirts for modestly) in order to enter the tomb. Photography is not permitted in the tomb. The tomb-marker is covered by a green satin cloth, a color associated with Jethro. By the far wall there is a patch of stone that is said to be the footprint of Jethro. The western wall hosts a picture of the Druze leader Sheikh Amin Tarif.

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