An Israeli Druze, a senior lecturer at the Academic College of Education in Haifa and a researcher at the University of Haifa and at the International Academic Center for Conservation, Dr. Janan Faraj Falah is the first non-Jewish recipient of the 2017 Jerusalem Unity Prize.
The Druze are a unique religious and ethnic minority in Israel. Although their faith originally developed out of Ismaili Islam, the Druze are not considered Muslims. The Israeli government has designated them a distinct ethnic group. They are a community of loyal Israeli citizens who serve in the Israel Defense Forces and many have attained top positions in Israeli politics and public service. Today, tens of thousands of Israeli Druze belong to “Druze Zionist” movements.
Their social customs are notably different from those of Muslims or Christians. They are known to form close-knit, cohesive communities that don’t allow anyone in, while fully integrating in their adopted homelands. If one marries outside of the faith, he or she is no longer considered Druze.
In addition to receiving the “Jerusalem Unity Prize,” Dr. Janan Faraj Falah is the first Israeli Druze woman to receive a Ph.D. and become a professor of literature at an Israeli university.
Dr. Faraj Falah established the Women’s House of Peace in Akko (Acre in English) which serves as a center for culture, research and art, seeking to promote the activities of both Jewish and Arab women in the northern region of the country.
The motto of the Foundation is “Women bring life into the world” and in practical terms, the Foundation enhances the quality of life, provides proper education, empowers women’s leadership and encourages women everywhere.
The Foundation works to bring Jews and Druze closer together. It recently led a first-of-its-kind project in Israel, and a first in the field of medicine: providing support to Arab and Jewish patients who suffer from diabetes.
Dr. Faraj Falah also serves as the chairperson of the Academic Committee of the Galilee College, the Ghetto Fighters’ House (Beit Lohamei HaGetaot) and the International Academic Center for Conservation in Akko. In addition, as if this was not enough, she is an activist at the Golda Meir Center in Haifa, which operates on behalf of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote the activities of women from third-world countries.
Dr. Faraj Falah is the author of the book The Druze Woman, which discusses the status of the Druze woman in Israel, particularly in the context of Druze religion and Druze law.
In line with her personal motto – “If you believe in something, you must create circles of people and link them together until your goal is attained” – she also founded and has managed the Women’s Vision of Akko Foundation since 2003. The Foundation brings both Jewish and Arab women together to work towards promoting the status of women in Israel.
Her belief that women have the power to lead transformations and to change the fate of mankind is truly admirable.