Israel might be the only democracy in the Middle East, but unfortunately, peace seems to be elusive there whenever religious groups mix—East Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Hebron, to name a couple of instances. There are a couple of well-known exceptions to this rule—namely Nazareth—but even that city found itself embroiled in conflict in the wake of 2014's Operation Protective Edge.
One place in Israel that has been a bastion of religious coexistence for more than a century is nestled in the mountains just north of Nazareth. And chances are, you've never heard of it, even if you've traveled to Israel before.
The History of Peki'in
Also known as Buqei'a, Peki'in has been a religious melting pot since as early as the 16th century, when Ottoman tax registers report its population as being almost evenly split—77 vs. 79—between Arab and Jewish households. Fast-forward to 1922, when the ruling British report that the 652 people living in Peki'in consisted of 70 Muslims, 63 Jews, 215 Christians and 304 Druze, the Druze being an Arabic-speaking, Unitarian ethnoreligious group.
Today's Peki'in, to be sure, is officially regarded as a Druze village, although sizable numbers of Jews, Muslims, and Christians exist among its population, which numbers nearly 6,000. Although the city hasn't been immune from conflict throughout the years—an Arab uprising in 1936 temporarily forced all Jews out, and Hezbollah rockets from Lebanon hit the town in 2006—it's history has been peaceful overall.
Peaceful Peki'in in Tourist Attractions
Peki'in's peaceful brand of multiculturalism is evident nearly everywhere you go in the town, starting in the town square, where the Druze flag is proudly displayed alongside Israeli flags. It's not uncommon to see veiled Druze and Muslim women happily interacting with bare-headed Christian and Jewish women, or the children of various religious groups playing happily.
Another way to see this is by visiting the town's various houses of worship, all of which sit within close proximity to one another. In less than an hour, you can visit the Peki'in Synagogue, which is said to contain stones from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as well as the second-largest Greek Orthodox church in Israel.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get to Peki'in from anywhere in Israel is to rent a car—given Israel's small size, you're never more than four hours from Peki'in! You can also reach Peki'in by public transport from several points within Israel's Galilee region, of which Peki'in is part.
Most buses to Peki'in connect in the nearby city of Karmiel, which itself has direct bus service to largest cities in Israel's Galilee region, such as Nazareth and Afula. The website for NTT, the company that operates the service, is only in Arabic and Hebrew, so your best bet is to simply turn up at a bus station in a major Galilee city and ask the attendant to help you plan your journey to and from Peki'in.