The Jewish Village Ma'ariya has become the Mostly Druze Village Marar / DR.R.S.Lissak

The village Ma'ariya was established, according to archaeologists during the 4th century BCE, and has been continually populated ever since.

The village Marar is situated in the Lower Galilee, about 4 KM south of the Hananya junction. The village is home to about 19,000 residents: 58% are Druze, who are the village’s oldest inhabitants. 22% are Christians and 20% are Muslims. The village population includes also Bedouins who have pitched their tents near Marar, and have recently, since the year 2000, begun building large houses on the outskirts of the village.

When the ancestors of the present population arrived

Most scholars believe that the Druze settled in the village in several waves. They came from the Lebanon valley. The first wave came by the end of the 15th century or the beginning of the 16th century. The second arrived during the 17th century and the last wave came during the 18th-19th centuries. The historian Al- Ot'hmani, who lived in the 18th century, wrote that they arrived in the 13th century, and there is another version, that they arrived by the end of the 11th century, after adopting the Druze faith in 1073.
The Christians settled in Marar in the past 150 years, i.e., since the 19th century, and the Muslims arrived in the past 100 years, i.e., since late 19th or early 20th century.

The meaning of the village's name

During the Roman and Byzantine periods the village was called Ma’ariya, probably due to the many caves (Me’ara in Hebrew) found around it. The name Marar is also named for the many caves found in its area. However, some say the word is Arabic for “battle”, and that the name indicates that village was the site of a battle.

The Second Temple Period (538 BCE – 70 CE)

The Israeli Archaeological Department held several excavations in the village and decided that it was first settled by the end of the Persian period, i.e., during the 4th century BCE. Ma'ariya was fortified before the Great Revolt (66-70CE). During the excavations archaeologist unearthed the Hellenistic neighborhood of the Jewish village. The remains prove that the village had commercial relations with abroad.

The Roman Period (70CE – 324CE) and the Byzantine Period (324CE – 640CE)

Ma’ariya was a Jewish village along the Roman and Byzantine periods. It was one of the priests’ settlements in the Galilee. The priestly clan Bilga settled in the village after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. It was the 15th priestly “Watch”, in the Temple. There is evidence from Jewish sources that the Bilga family adopted the Hellenistic culture during the Seleucus occupation of Israel in the 2nd century BCE, and one of its daughters even left Judaism and married a Syrian- Greek soldier.
There is no other information about the fate of the Jewish village.
During the excavations the remains of houses were discovered, and local ceramics and ceramics from abroad were found. Also, some remains of the local synagogue were unearthed.

The Crusaders Period (1099 – 1260)

After the Crusaders conquered the country, the village was given to a Franconia knight.

The Mameluk Period (1260 – 1516)

The ‘Araydi family has been living in Marar for 600 years, meaning they arrived during the Mameluk period. One of the family members claims that they took on the Druze faith as residents in the village rather than in Lebanon or Syria. A tradition that has not been corroborated claims that the family became Druze when the religion formed, i.e. at the end of the 11th century or early 12th. This would imply that there were Druze living in the village whose ancestors resided there before accepting the Druze faith.

The Ottoman Period (1516 – 1918)

Merar is mention in the Ottoman census of 1598, but the census defined the residents as Muslims. According to the residents 55% of the villagers were Druze at that time.
The relations between the Druze and the Bedouins who controlled the area around the middle of the 18th century were tense and many Druze farmers were forced out of their villages.
Victor Guerin visited Marar in late 19th century and wrote that it is a large village arranged in three neighborhoods: Druze, Muslim, and Christian. Guerin noted the many caves in the area and mentioned that some were used as burial caves and some for storage or residence. He also mentioned that as the water holes were not usable, the village women had to bring water from the Mansoura spring.


Contrary to Guerin, a villager of the ‘Araydi family claims that the village was not divided according to faith until the 1970’s or 1980’s, when this division began. The Christians settled in the south of the village, the Muslims in its north, and the Druze in the east and west. Young couples in the new neighborhoods, however, belong to all three faiths. The old church has been torn down and replaced by a school. Although the Muslims did not have a mosque until 20 years ago, today there are two and a third is under construction.

Many of the Druze villagers serve in the Israeli army and some sign on for permanent military and police service. Soldiers returning from regular service find little employment in the village and therefore tend to marry late.

‘Azam ‘Azam, who was arrested in Egypt and falsely accused of spying for Israel, is a resident of Marar. Although innocent of the charges laid against him, he served an 8 year sentence in the Egyptian jail until released in 2004.

Riots between the Druze and the Christians in Marar, where Druze youth destroyed Christian property, broke out in March 2005.
The village was shelled and hit by rockets during the war with Hizballah in summer 2006.

Most of the Druze live in the Galilee, in 13 villages and three mixed villages of Shfar’am, Ramma, and Kfar Yassif.
The Druze of Osaffiya’s and Dalyat El- Carmel live on mount Carmel. The residents of Osaffiya came from Jabal Lubnan in Lebanon, while the residents of Dalyat El Carmel are from the area of Haleb in Syria.

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