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Israeli Jews, also known as Jewish Israelis, can refer to:

Israeli Jews are found mostly in Israelmarker, as well as many other countries in diaspora. Israeli Jews mostly speak Hebrew and most practice Judaism in some form.

The Jewish community in Israel is composed from all Jewish ethnic divisions, including Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Beta Israel and a number of converts. The Israeli Jewish community manifests a wide range of Jewish cultural traditions, as well as encompassing the full spectrum of religious observance, from the Haredi communities to Jews who live a secular lifestyle.

Depending on religious definitions and varying population data, Israel is home to the largest or second largest (after the United Statesmarker) Jewish community in the world.Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the Israeli Jewish population was 5,435,800 in 2007 (75.7% of the total population). The Jewish population includes Jews who define themselves as Jewish by religion as well as those who define themselves as Jewish in cultural terms. As a contrast, The American Jewish population was estimated to be approximately 5,128,000 (1.7%) of the total population in 2007 (301,621,000) but may be as high as 6,444,000 (2.2%).

An IDI Guttman Study of 2008 shows that majority of Israeli Jews (47%) identify themselves first as Jews and Israeli second, and that only 39% consider themselves first and foremost Israeli.

Jews living in the region prior to the establishment of the State of Israel are referred to in English as Palestinian Jews and in Hebrew as "HaYishuv HaYehudi Be'Eretz Yisra'el (The Jewish Community in the Land of Israel).



Jews have long considered Israel to be their spiritual home. A series of Jewish kingdoms and states existed intermittently in the region for over a millennium until the failure of the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire ended up with widescale expulsion of Jews from their homeland in the 2nd century CE. After crushing Bar Kokhba's revolt in 135, Emperor Hadrian renamed Provincia Judaeamarker to Provincia Syria Palaestina, a Greek name derived from Philistine (Hebrew פלשת Pəléšeṯ).

It was later conquered from the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines) by the Muslim Caliphate in the 7th century and became populated by Arabs. Throughout the centuries the size of Jewish population in the land fluctuated. Before the birth of modern Zionism, by the early 19th century, more than 10,000 Jews lived in the area that is today's Israel.

Following centuries of Diaspora, the 19th century saw the rise of Zionism, the Jewish Nationalist Movement, a desire to see the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine, and significant immigration. Zionism remained a minority movement until the rise of Nazism in 1933 and the subsequent attempted extermination of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. In the late 1800s large numbers of Jews began moving to the Turkish and later British-controlled region. In 1917, the British endorsed a Jewish homeland in Mandate Palestine by passing the Balfour Declaration. The Jewish population in the region increased from 11% of the population in 1922 to 30% by 1940

In 1937, following the Great Arab Revolt, the partition plan proposed by the Peel Commission, was rejected by the Palestinian Arab leadership; but accepted tentatively by Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion. This was notable, as Ben-Gurion showed a willingness to essentially accept about 1/3 of the land that would ultiamately be won by Israel in the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war. As a result, in 1939, the British caved to Arab pressure because of support needed for WW2, abandoned the idea of a Jewish national homeland, and abandoned partition and negotiations in favour of the unilaterally-imposed White Paper of 1939, which capped Jewish immigration, and put subject to review under further agreement with the Arabs. Its other stated policy was to establish a system under which both Jews and Arabs were to share one government. The policy was viewed as a significant defeat for the Jewish side as it placed severe restrictions on Jewish immigration, while placing no restriction on Arab immigration.

In 1947, following increasing levels of violence, the British government withdrew from Israel. The 1947 UN Partition Plan split the mandate into two states, Jewish and Arab, giving about half the land area to each state. Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the United Nations General Assembly, the Palestinian Arab leadership rejected the plan to create the, as yet un-named, Jewish State and launched a guerilla war.

On May 14, 1948, one day before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine led by prime minister David Ben-Gurion, made a declaration of independence, and the state of Israelmarker was established on the portion partitioned by UNSCOP for the Jewish state.

1948 Arab-Israeli War

Hoping to annihilate the new Jewish state, the armies of Egyptmarker, Lebanonmarker, Syriamarker, Jordanmarker, and Iraqmarker invaded the territory partitioned for the Arab state, thus starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The nascent Israeli Defense Force repulsed the Arab nations from part of the occupied territories, thus extending its borders beyond the original UNSCOP partition. By December 1948, Israel controlled most of the portion of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan Rivermarker. The remainder of the Mandate consisted of Jordan, the area that came to be called the West Bankmarker (controlled by Jordan), and the Gaza Stripmarker (controlled by Egypt). Prior to and during this conflict, 711,000 Palestinians Arabs fled their original lands to become Palestinian refugees, in part, due to a promise from Arab leaders that they'll be able to return when the war is won.

Most Israeli-Jews refer to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War as the War of Independence, while most of the Arab citizens of Israel refer to it as the Nakba (catastrophe), a reflection of differences in perception of the purpose and outcomes of the war.

1949 - present

After the war, only 14-25% (depending on the estimate) of the Arab population remained in Israel. When Israel refused the reentry of most, and when subsequent offers of partial repatration were rejected, they became refugees (see Palestinian refugee and Palestinian Exodus).

Meanwhile, Immigration of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab lands doubled Israel's population within within one year of its independence. Over the following years approximately 850,000 Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews fled or were expelled from surrounding Arab countries and Iranmarker. Of these, about 600,000 settled in Israel (See also Jewish exodus from Arab lands).

Israel's Jewish population continued to grow at a very high rate for years, fed by waves of Jewish immigration from round the world, most notably the massive immigration wave of Soviet Jews which arrived to Israel in the early 1990s following the dissolution of the USSR, who, according to the Law of Return, were entitled to become Israeli citizens upon arrival. About 380,000 arrived in 1990-91 alone.

Since 1948, Israel has been involved in a series of major military conflicts, including the 1956 Suez War, 1967 Six-Day War, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1982 Lebanon War, and 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, as well as a nearly constant series of ongoing minor conflicts to preserve its national interests. Israel has been also embroiled in an ongoing conflict with the Palestinians in the territories which has been under Israeli control since the Six Day War in 1967, despite the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13 1993 and the ongoing efforts of Israeli, Palestinian and global peacemakers.

Today (2009), approximately 5.8 million Jews live in Israel, out of a population of over 7.1 million Israelis. Most of Israel's Jews live in Jerusalemmarker and Tel Avivmarker.


According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, as of 2009, of Israel's 7 million people, 75.4% were Jews of any background Among them, 68% were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel) — 22% from Europe and the Americas, and 10% from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries. Nearly half of all Israeli Jews are descended from Jews who immigrated from Europe, while around the same number are descended from Jews who immigrated from Arab countries, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia. Over two hundred thousand are, or are descended from, Ethiopian and Indian Jews.


Israel is the only country in the world with a consistently growing Jewish population due to natural population increase unlike the Jewish communities in the Diaspora in which the Jewish population in general is either declining or steady, with the exception of the Orthodox and Haredi Jewish communities around the world, whose members often shun birth control for religious reasons, have experienced rapid population growth.

  • 1800 estimate: 6,700
  • 1880 estimate: 24,000
  • 1915 estimate: 87,500
  • 1931 estimate: 174,000
  • 1936 estimate: > 400,000
  • 1947 estimate: 630,000
  • 1949 census: 1,013,900
  • 1953 census: 1,483,600
  • 1957 census: 1,762,700
  • 1962 census: 2,068,900
  • 1967 census: 2,383,600
  • 1973 census: 2,845,000
  • 1983 census: 3,412,500
  • 1990 census: 3,946,700
  • 1995 census: 4,522,300
  • 2000 census: 4,955,400
  • 2006 census: 5,137,800
  • 2009 census: 5,634,300

Significant Jewish population centers

The majority of the Jewish population in Israel is located in the Central area of Israel.

Significant population centers
Rank City Population

% Jews

1 Jerusalemmarker 760,800 63.7 Jerusalem Districtmarker
2 Tel Avivmarker 392,700 91.4 Tel Aviv Districtmarker
3 Haifamarker 265,300 81.2 Haifa Districtmarker
4 Rishon Lezionmarker 226,300 93.8 Center Districtmarker
5 Ashdodmarker 209,600 91.0 Southern Districtmarker
6 Petah Tikvamarker 194,100 92.2 Center Districtmarker
7 Netanyamarker 179,200 93.5 Center Districtmarker
8 Beer Shevamarker 187,500 88.0 Southern Districtmarker
9 Holonmarker 170,900 92.7 Tel Aviv Districtmarker
10 Bnei Brakmarker 153,200 98.5 Tel Aviv Districtmarker
11 Ramat Ganmarker 134,400 95.1 Tel Aviv Districtmarker
12 Bat Yammarker 129,300 85.1 Tel Aviv Districtmarker
13 Rehovotmarker 108,400 94.9 Center Districtmarker
14 Ashkelonmarker 110,600 88.4 Southern Districtmarker
15 Herzliyamarker 84,500 96.3 Tel Aviv Districtmarker

Ethnic and religious groupings

In his book from 2001 "The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Culture and Military in Israel", the Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling identified and divided the modern Israeli society into seven population groups (seven subcultures): The secular upper-middle class group, the national religious group, the traditionalist Mizrahim group, the Orthodox religious group, the Arab citizens of Israel, the Russian immigrants group and the Ethiopian immigrants group. According to Kimmerling, each of these population groups have distinctive characteristics, such as place of resident, consumption patterns, education systems, communications media and more.

The ethnic division as of 2009 is as follows. The population breakdown of the origins of Israeli Jewish population includes non-Russian immigrants not considered Jewish under Halakha.

Ethnic Makeup of Jewish Population of Israel
Ethnic group Countries of origin Population % of total
Mizrahi Jews, and Sephardic Jews Morocco 800,000 15.20%
Iraq 404,000 7.70%
Yemen 295,000 4.90%
Iran 236,000 4.00%
Algeria/Tunisia 224,000 3.80%
Azerbaijan/Armenia/Georgia/Southern Russia 150,000 2.50%
Turkey 147,000 2.50%
Libya 136,000 2.30%
Egypt 112,000 1.90%
Central Asia 100,000 1.70%
Syria 100,000 1.70%
Lebanon 90,000 1.60%
India/Pakistan 76,000 1.30%
Latin America 25,000 0.04%
Other 3,000 0.05%
Ashkenazi Jews Former Soviet Union and Russia 1,113,000 20.90%
Poland 400,000 8.30%
Romania 351,000 7.60%
Other European countries 168,000 3.70%
North/South America 165,000 2.80%
Germany/Austria 160,000 2.70%
Latin America 82,000 1.40%
Bulgaria/Greece 97,000 1.90%
Hungary 63,000 1.30%
Czechoslovakia 60,000 1.20%
South Africa 20,000 0.40%
Beta Israel Ethiopia 130,000 2.20%

Ethnic group Population % of total
Mizrahi Jews, and Sephardic Jews 2,921,000 49.4%
Ashkenazi Jews 2,817,000 47.6%
Beta Israel 130,000 2.2%
All Israeli Jews 5,913,000 100%


The errors occurring due to these calculations were:
  • There was no distinction made between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. (If the Sephardim, Mountain Jews and other non-Ashkenazi groups are included in Mizrachim, then Mizrachim will outnumber Ashkenazim by a margin of 52 to 48).
  • Many Sephardim from Turkey were counted as Mizrachim.
  • Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews and Bukharan Jews who together constitute ~15% of FSU Jews counted as Ashkenazim until 1996 (until 1996, Central Asia and the Caucasian Republics were counted as part of Europe. After 1996, from 1997 onwards they were counted as part of Asia).
  • The Harbin Jews (~1,000) from China counted as Mizrachim, although they were Russian speaking Ashkenazim.
  • After 1996, Russian speaking Ashkenazim from Kazakhstan, Kyrghizia and Armenia counted as Mizrachim.
  • Close to 20,000 South African Jews were classified as Mizrachim, although almost all of them are Ashkenazim (Lithuanian, English and Afrikaans speaking).
  • A few hundred Black Hebrews from the United States were classified as Ashkenazim.
  • All Jews from Latin America were classified as Ashkenazim, although significant numbers are Sephardim (15-20% in Argentina and Mexico, 20%+ in Brazil, similar percentages in other countries). Close to three fifths of the Latin American Jews in Israel are Argentine, with one tenth each from Uruguay and Brazil.
  • 86,000 Bulgarian/Greek Jews are classified as Ashkenazim, although the majority are Sephardim/Romaniotes.
  • Jews whose Jewishness was not recognized were not counted; almost all of them were Ashkenazim (~275,000 in 2007).
  • In Israel there are approximately 300,000 citizens with Jewish ancestry who are not Jewish according to the Jewish law (mostly immigrants from the former USSR). Of this number approximately 10% are Christian and 89% are either Jewish or non-religious. Only a small number of them (c.2,000) convert every year to Judaism, while immigration from FSU adds thousands to their number every year. The total number of conversions under the Nativ program of IDF was 640 in 2005 and 450 in 2006. From 2002 to 2007 October 1, a total of 2,213 soldiers have converted under Nativ. In 2003, 437 Christians converted to Judaism, in 2004 – 884, and in 2005 – 733. It should be noted that recently several thousand conversions conducted by the Chief Rabbinate under the leadership of Rabbi Chaim Drukman have been annulled, and the official Jewish status over several thousand people who converted through the conversion court of the Chief Rabbinate since 1999 hangs in limbo as the proceedings continue regarding these individuals Jewish status. The vast majority of these individuals are former FSU immigrants.

Israeli Jewish diaspora

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 the term "Yerida" has been used to mark the emigration of Jews from Israel, whether in groups (small or large) or individually.

Through the years, the majority of Israeli Jews who emigrated from Israel went to the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker.

For many years definitive data on Israeli emigration was unavailable. In The Israeli Diaspora sociologist Stephen J. Gold maintains that calculation of Jewish emigration has been a contentious issue, explaining, "Since Zionism, the philosophy that underlies the existence of the Jewish state, calls for return home of the world's Jews, the opposite movement - Israelis leaving the Jewish state to reside elsewhere - clearly presents an ideological and demographic problem."

Among the most common reasons for emigration of Israeli Jews from Israel are most oftenly due to economic constraints, economic characteristics (U.S. and Canada have always been richer nations than Israel), disappointment of the Israeli government, Israel's ongoing security Issues, as well as the excessive role of religion in the lives of Israelis.

In recent decades, considerable numbers of Israeli Jews have moved abroad. Reasons for emigration vary, but generally relate to a combination of economic and political concerns. From 1990 to 2005, 230,000 Israelis left the country; a large proportion of these departures included people who initially immigrated to Israel and then reversed their course (48% of all post-1990 departures and even 60% of 2003 and 2004 departures were former immigrants to Israel). 8% of Jewish immigrants in the post-1990 period left Israel. In 2005 alone, 21,500 Israelis left the country and had not yet returned at the end of 2006; among them 73% were Jews. At the same time, 10,500 Israelis came back to Israel after over one year abroad; 84% of them were Jews.

United States of America

See article: Israeli American

Many Israeli Jews emigrated to the United Statesmarker throughout the period of the declaration of the state of Israel and until today. Today, the descendants of these people are known as Israeli-Americans. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 Jewish Israeli-Americans live in the United States nowadays.

United Kingdom

See article: Israelis in the United Kingdom

Many Israeli Jews emigrated to the United Kingdommarker throughout the period of the declaration of the state of Israel and until today. Today, the descendants of these people are known as Israeli-British. It is estimated that as many as 14,000 Israeli-British live in the United Kingdom nowadays. The majority of Israelis in the UK live in Londonmarker and in particular the heavily populated Jewish area of Golders Greenmarker.

Perceived Arab demographic threat

Population percentage for Jews, Muslims, Druze and others
In the northern part of Israel the percentage of Jewish population is declining. The increasing population of Arabs within Israel, and the majority status they hold in two major geographic regions — the Galilee and the Triangle — has become a growing point of open political contention in recent years.

The phrase demographic threat (or demographic bomb) is used within the Israeli political sphere to describe the growth of Israel's Arab citizenry as constituting a threat to its maintenance of its status as a Jewish state with a Jewish demographic majority.

Israeli historian Benny Morris states:The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act as it did then. If we are attacked by Egypt (after an Islamist revolution in Cairo) and by Syria, and chemical and biological missiles slam into our cities, and at the same time Israeli Palestinians attack us from behind, I can see an expulsion situation. It could happen. If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified[...]

The term "demographic bomb" was famously used by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2003 when he noted that if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 percent, Israel will not be able to maintain a Jewish demographic majority. Netanyahu's comments were criticized as racist by Arab Knesset members and a range of civil rights and human rights organizations, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Even earlier allusions to the "demographic threat" can be found in an internal Israeli government document drafted in 1976 known as the Koenig Memorandum, which laid out a plan for reducing the number and influence of Arab citizens of Israel in the Galilee region.

In 2003, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv published an article entitled, "Special Report: Polygamy is a Security Threat," detailing a report put forth by the Director of the Population Administration at the time, Herzl Gedj; the report described polygamy in the Bedouin sector a “security threat” and advocated means of reducing the birth rate in the Arab sector. The Population Administration is a department of the Demographic Council, whose purpose, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics is: “ increase the Jewish birthrate by encouraging women to have more children using government grants, housing benefits, and other incentives.” In 2008 the Minister of the Interior appointed Yaakov Ganot as new head of the Population Administration, which according to Haaretz is "probably the most important appointment an interior minister can make."

Jewish Israeli culture


Jewishness is widely considered by Israeli Jews both an ethnic identity as well as a religious one.

Religious beliefs
Roughly 12% of Israeli Jews defined as haredim (ultra-orthodox religious); an additional 9% are "religious"; 35% consider themselves "traditionalists" (not strictly adhering to Jewish Halakha); and 43% are "secular" (termed "hiloni"). Among the seculars, 53% believe in God. However, 78% of all Israelis (and virtually all Israeli Jews) participate in a Passover seder.

Observances and engagement
Jewish religious practice in Israel is quite varied. Among the 4.3 million American Jews described as "strongly connected" to Judaism, over 80% report some sort of active engagement with Judaism, ranging from attendance at daily prayer services on one end of the spectrum to as little as attendance Passover Seders or lighting Hanukkah candles on the other.

Unlike North American Jews, Israeli Jews tend not to align themselves with a movement of Judaism (such as Reform Judaism or Conservative Judaism) but instead tend to define their religious affiliation by degree of their religious practice.


The Israeli government regulates and finances most of the schools operating in the country, including the majority of those run by private organizations. The national school system has two major branches - a Hebrew-speaking branch and an Arabic-speaking branch. The curricula for the two systems are almost identical in mathematics, sciences, and English. It is different in humanities (history, literature, etc.). While Hebrew is taught as a second language in Arab schools since the third grade and obligatory for Arabic-speaking school's matriculation exams, only basic knowledge of Arabic is taught in Hebrew-speaking schools, usually from the 7th to the 9th grade. Arabic is not obligatory for Hebrew speaking school's matriculation exams.


The movement for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language was particularly popular among new Jewish Zionist immigrants who came to Palestine since the 1880s. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (born in the Russian Empiremarker) and his followers created the first Hebrew-speaking schools, newspapers, and other Hebrew-language institutions. After his immigration to Israel, and due to the impetus of the Second Aliyah (1905-1914), Hebrew prevailed as the single official and spoken language of the Jewish community of mandatory Palestine. When the State of Israel was formed in 1948, the government viewed Hebrew as the de facto official language and initiated a melting pot policy, where every immigrant was required to study Hebrew and often to adopt a Hebrew surname. Use of Yiddish, which was the main competitor prior to World War II, was discouraged, and the number of Yiddish speakers declined as the older generations died out, though Yiddish is still commonly used in Ashkenazi haredi communities.

Nowadays, Modern Hebrew is also the primary official language of the modern State of Israelmarker and almost all Israeli Jews nowadays are native Hebrew-speakers and speak Hebrew as their primary language. A variety of other languages are still spoken within some Israeli Jewish communities, communities which are representative of the various Jewish ethnic divisions from around the world that have come together to make up Israel's Jewish population.

Even though the majority of Israeli Jews nowdays are native Hebrew speakers, many Jewish immigrants still continue to speak their former languages - many recent Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Unionmarker continue to speak primarily Russian at home and many recent Jewish immigrants from Ethiopiamarker continue to speak primarily Amharic at home.

Many of Israel's Hasidic Jews (being exclusively of Ashkenazi descent) are raised speaking Yiddish.

Classical Hebrew is the language of most Jewish religious literature, such as the Tanakh (Bible) and Siddur (prayerbook).

Legal and political status in Israel

Israel was established as a homeland for the Jewish people and is often referred to as the Jewish state. Israel's Declaration of Independence specifically called for the establishment of a Jewish state with equality of social and political rights, irrespective of religion, race, or sex. The notion that Israel should be constituted in the name of and maintain a special relationship with a particular group of people, the Jewish people, has drawn much controversy vis-à-vis minority groups living in Israel – the large number of Muslim and Christian Palestinians residing in Israel. Nevertheless, through the years many Israeli Jewish nationalists have based the legitimacy of Israel being a Jewish state on the Balfour Declaration and ancient historical ties to the land, asserting that both play particular roles as evidence under international law, as well as a fear that a hostile Arab world might be disrespectful of a Jewish minority — alleging a variety of possible harms up to and including genocide — were Israel to become a post-national "state for all its citizens."

Through the years, as Israel's continued existence as a "Jewish State" have beeb relied upon the maintenance of a Jewish demographic majority, Israeli demographers, politicians and bureaucrats have treated Jewish population growth promotion as a central question in their research and policymaking.

Law of Return

The Law of Return is an Israelimarker legislation that grants all Jews and those of Jewish lineage the right to gain an Israeli citizenship and to settle in Israelmarker. It was enacted by the Knessetmarker, Israel's Parliament, on July 5, 1950, and the related Law of Citizenship in 1952. These two pieces of legislation contain expressions pertaining to religion, history and nationalism, as well as to democracy, in a combination unique to Israel. Together, they grant preferential treatment to Jews returning to their ancestral homeland.

The Law of Return declares that Israel constitutes a home not only for the inhabitants of the State, but also for all members of the Jewish people everywhere, be they living in poverty and fear of persecution or be they living in affluence and safety. The law declares to the Jewish people and to the world that the State of Israel welcomes the Jews of the world to return to their ancient homeland.

Israeli laws governing marriage and divorce of Jews

Currently, all the marriages and divorces in Israel (as well as within the Jewish communty) are recognized by the Israeli Interior Ministry only if performed under an official recognized religious authority and only between a man and a woman of the same religion. The Jewish marriage and divorce in Israel are under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which defines a person's Jewish status strictly according to halakha.

Civilian marriages are only officially sanctioned if performed abroad. As a result, it is not uncommon for couples who may for some reason not be able (or chose not) to get married in Israel to travel overseas to get married..

During its time of existence the legal settlement which gives the rabbinical courts the monopoly on conducting the marriages and divorces of the entire Israeli Jewish population has been a source to great criticism from the secular public in Israel, but also to the ardent support from the religious public. The main argument of the supporters of the law is that its cancellation will divide the Jewish people in Israel between the Jews who would marry and divorce each other within the Jewish religious authorities and the Jews who would marry and divorce each other within the civil marriages - which would not be registered or inspected by the religious authorities, and thus their children would be considered illegitimate to marry the children of the couples married within the religious court, from fear of them being considered Mamzer. Opposers of the law see in it as a severe offense to the human civil rights made by the state of Israel.

Military conscription

National military service is mandatory for any Israeli over the age of 18, with the exception of the Arab Muslim and Christian population (currently around 20% of the Israeli population) and many ultra-Orthodox Jews (currently around 14% of the Israeli population). Druze and Circassian men are liable, by agreement with their community leaders. Members of the exempted groups can still volunteer, but very few do, except for the Bedouin where a relatively large number of men have tended to volunteer. The Israeli Jewish population and especially the secular Israeli Jewish population, is currently the only population group in Israel which has a mandatory military conscription for both men and women – a fact which has caused much resentment from within the Jewish community towards the non-serving population, some of which demanding that all the Israeli citizens share an equal amount of responsibilities, whether in the Israeli army or as part of Sherut Leumi.

In addition, in recent decade a growing minority from within the Israeli Jewish conscripts have denounced the mandatory enrollment, and refused to serve (see also Refusal to serve in the Israeli military), many claiming that due to financial insecurities they feel that they need to be spending their time more productively pursuing their chosen studies or career paths. some Individual resentment may also be compounded by the typically low wages paid to conscripts – The current Israeli policies see National Service as a duty rendered to the country and its citizens and therefore the Israeli army does not pay any wages to conscripts, but instead grants a low monthly allowance to the full-time national service personnel, depending on the type of their duty.

Jewish National Fund

The Jewish National Fund is a private organization established in 1901 to buy and develop land in the Land of Israel for Jewish settlement; land purchases were funded by donations from world Jewry exclusively for that purpose. The JNF currently owns 13% of land in Israel, while 79.5% is owned by the government (this land is leased on a non-discriminatory basis) , 13% is privately owned by the JNF, and the rest, around 6.5%, is evenly divided between private Arab and Jewish owners. Thus, the ILA administers 93.5% of the land in Israel (Government Press Office, Israel, 22 May 1997). A significant portion of JNF lands were originally properties left behind by Palestinian "absentees" and as a result the legitimacy of some JNF land ownership has been a matter of dispute. The JNF purchased these lands from the State of Israel between 1949 and 1953, after the state took control of them according to the Absentee Properties Law. While the JNF charter specifies the land is for the use of the Jewish People, land has been leased to Bedouin herders. Nevertheless, JNF land policy has been criticized as discrimination. When the Israel Land Administration leased JNF land to Arabs, it took control of the land in question and compensated the JNF with an equivalent amount of land in areas not designated for development (generally in the Galilee and the Negevmarker), thus ensuring that the total amount of land owned by the JNF remains the same. This was a complicated and controversial mechanism, and in 2004 use of it was suspended. After Supreme Court discussions and a directive by the Attorney General instructing the ILA to lease JNF land to Arabs and Jews alike, in September 2007 the JNF suggested reinstating the land-exchange mechanism.

While the JNF and the ILA view an exchange of lands as a long-term solution, opponents say that such maneuvers privatize municipal lands and preserve a situation in which significant lands in Israel are not available for use by all of its citizens. As of 2007, the High Court delayed ruling on JNF policy regarding leasing lands to non-Jews, and changes to the ILA-JNF relationship were up in the air. Adalah and other organizations furthermore express concern that proposed severance of the relation between the ILA and JNF, as suggested by Ami Ayalon, would leave the JNF free to retain the same proportion of lands for Jewish uses as it seeks to settle hundreds of thousands of Jews in areas with a tenuous Jewish demographic majority (in particular, 100,000 Jews in existing Galilee communities and 250,000 Jews in new Negevmarker communities via the Blueprint Negev).

Hebrew language in Israel

Signs in Israel in Hebrew, Arabic and English
The main language used for communication among Israeli citizens and among the Israeli Jews is Modern Hebrew, a language that emerged in the late 19th century, based on different dialects of ancient Hebrew and influenced by Yiddish, Slavic languages, and German.

Hebrew and Arabic are currently official languages of Israel. Government ministries publish all material intended for the public in Hebrew, with selected material translated into Arabic, English, Russian, and other languages spoken in Israel.

The country's laws are published in Hebrew, and eventually English and Arabic translations are published. Publishing the law in Hebrew in the official gazette (reshumot) is enough to make it valid. Unavailability of an Arabic translation can be regarded as a legal defense only if the defendant proves he could not understand the meaning of the law in any conceivable way. Following appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court, the use of Arabic on street signs and labels increased dramatically. In response to one of the appeals presented by Arab Israeli organizations, the Supreme Court ruled that although second to Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of the State of Israel, and should be used extensively. Today most highway signage is trilingual (Hebrew, Arabic, and English).

Hebrew is the standard language of communication at places of work except inside the Arab community, and among recent immigrants, foreign workers, and with tourists. The state's schools in Arab communities teach in Arabic according to a specially adapted curriculum. This curriculum includes mandatory lessons of Hebrew as foreign language from the 3rd grade onwards. Arabic is taught in Hebrew-speaking schools, but only the basic level is mandatory.

Jewish national symbols

The Israeli national anthem and the Israeli flag have exclusively Jewish themes and symbol:

Critics of Israel as a Jewish nation state have suggested that it should adopt more inclusive and neutral symbolism for the national flag and anthem arguing that they exclude the non-Jewish citizens of Israel from their narrative of a national identity. Defenders of the flag say that many flags in Europe bear crosses (such as the flags of Swedenmarker, Finlandmarker, Norwaymarker, United Kingdommarker, Switzerlandmarker, and Greecemarker), while flags in predominantly Muslim countries bear distinctive Muslim symbols (such as Turkeymarker, Tunisiamarker, Algeriamarker, Mauritaniamarker, and Saudi Arabiamarker).

Through the years some Israeli-Arab politicians have requested a reevaluation of the Israeli flag and Israeli national anthem, arguing that they cannot represent all citizen's of Israel, including the Arab citizens of Israel. Altough the proposals to change the flag have never been discussed in the state institutions, they do occasionally get to a public discussion, as part of the discussion on whether Israel is, as defined by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty a "A Jewish and Democratic State", or , or if it must become, as demanded by certain circles, "a state of all its citizens." The demand to change the flag is seen among many Israelis as a threat to the very essence of the state. In relation to this, in 2001 the Israeli Minister of Education Limor Livnat ordered to enforce the flag amendment she initiated, and order a raising the flag in the fronts all schools in Israel, even those which serve the Arab population.

Intercommunal relations

Israeli Jewish victims of terrorism

As part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, over the years, the Palestinian terror organization have carried out thousands of terrorist attacks directed against the Israeli civilian population aimed primarily at the Israeli Jewish population. The terror attacks have lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent Israeli Jewish civilians.

Public attitudes

There are significant tensions between Arab citizens and their Jewish counterparts. As with all such surveys, polls differ considerably in their findings regarding intercommunal relations.

On April 29, 2007 Haaretz reported that an Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI) poll of 507 people showed that 75% of "Israeli Arabs would support a constitution that maintained Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic state while guaranteeing equal rights for minorities, while 23% said they would oppose such a definition."

In contrast, a 2006 poll commissioned by the Arab advocacy group, The Center Against Racism, showed unexpectedly negative attitudes towards Arabs, based on questions asked to 500 Jewish residents of Israel representing all levels of Jewish society. The poll found that: 63% of Jews believe Arabs are a security threat; 68% of Jews would refuse to live in the same building as an Arab; 34% of Jews believe that Arab culture is inferior to Israeli culture. Additionally, support for segregation between Jewish and Arab citizens was found to be higher among Jews of Middle Eastern origin than those of European origin. A more recent poll by the Center Against Racism (2008) found a worsening of Jewish citizens' perceptions of their Arab counterparts:
  • 75% would not agree to live in a building with Arab residents.
  • More than 60% wouldn't accept any Arab visitors at their homes.
  • About 40% believed that Arabs should be stripped of the right to vote.
  • More than 50% agree that the State should encourage immigration of Arab citizens to other countries
  • More than 59% think that the culture of Arabs is a primitive culture.
  • When asked "What do you feel when you hear people speaking Arabic?" 31% said they feel hate and 50% said they feel fear, with only 19% stating positive or neutral feelings.

A 2007 poll conducted by Sami Smooha, a sociologist at Haifa University, found that:
  • 63.3% of Jewish citizens of Israel said they avoid entering Arab towns and cities
  • 68.4% of Jewish citizens of Israel fear the possibility of widespread civil unrest among Arab citizens of Israel
  • 49.7% of Arab citizens of Israel said Hezbollah's capture of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in a cross-border raid was justified
  • 18.7% of Arab citizens of Israel thought Israel was justified in going to war following the kidnapping
  • 48.2% of Arab citizens of Israel said they believed that Hezbollah's rocket attacks on northern Israel during that war were justified
  • 89.1% of Arab citizens of Israel said they viewed the IDF's bombing of Lebanon as a war crime
  • 44% of Arab citizens of Israel said they viewed Hezbollah's bombing of Israel as a war crime
  • 62% of Arab citizens of Israel worry that Israel could transfer their communities to the jurisdiction of a future Palestinian state
  • 60% of Arab citizens of Israel said they are concerned about a possible mass expulsion
  • 76% of Arab citizens of Israel described Zionism as racist
  • 67.5% of Arab citizens of Israel said they would be content to live in the Jewish state, if it existed alongside a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
  • 40.5% of Arab citizens of Israel deny the Holocaust; among high school and college graduates the figure was 33%

A range of politicians, rabbis, journalists, and historians commonly refer to the 20-25% minority of Arabs in Israel as being a "fifth column" inside the state of Israel.

See also


  1. Central Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Abstract of Israel, 2008, Table 2.2.[1]
  2. US Census Bureau Statistical Abstract 2009, Table 74. For persons 18 years or older, based on the Religious Landscape Survey, a survey conducted in the summer of 2007. (The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Washington, DC, ‘‘U.S. Religious Landscape Survey’’; released February 2008.)[2]
  3. US Census Bureau, USA Statistics in Brief--Population by Sex and Age, 2007. [3]
  4. US Census Bureau Statistical Abstract 2009, Table 76, Christian Church Adherents, 2000, and Jewish Population, 2007— States. The Jewish population includes Jews who define themselves as Jewish by religion as well as those who define themselves as Jewish in cultural terms. Data on Jewish population are based primarily on a compilation of individual estimates made by local Jewish federations (as reported in the American Jewish Yearbook). [4]
  6. [5]
  7. Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents. Bedford/St. Martin’s: Boston. (2004). Pg. 198
  8. GENERAL PROGRESS REPORT AND SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONCILIATION COMMISSION FOR PALESTINE, Covering the period from 11 December 1949 to 23 October 1950, GA A/1367/Rev.1 23 October 1950
  11. Gartner (2001), pp. 400–401.
  12. "Arab-Israel Conflict." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 58-121.
  13. Y. Gorny, 1987, 'Zionism and the Arabs, 1882-1948', p. 5 (italics from original)
  14. Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics " Statistical Abstract of Israel, No. 55, 2004", and " Statistical Abstract of Israel 2007: Population by district, sub-district and religion" ICBS website
  15. CBS data
  16. [6]
  17. Jewish Agency: Nativ conversions
  18. Ynet: Christian converts to Judaism
  20. Henry Kamm. "Israeli emigration inspires anger and fear;" New York Times January 4, 1981
  21. Stephen J. Gold. The Israeli Diaspora; Routledge 2002, p.8
  22. Andrew I. Killgore. "Facts on the Ground: A Jewish Exodus from Israel" Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2004, pp.18-20
  23. ICBS 2005 departures and returns
  24. Manski, Rebecca. "A Desert ‘Mirage:’ Privatizing Development Plans in the Negev/Naqab;" Bustan, 2005
  25. HRA: Weekly Review of the Arab Press, Issue No. 92
  26. Haaretz on new head of Population Administration
  27. Religion in Israel: A Consensus for Jewish Tradition by Daniel J. Elazar (JCPA)
  28. As described by the Yiddish-speaking actor Nathan Wolfowicz in the Israeli Yiddish newspaper Letzte Naies on 20 July 1951. A Hebrew translation of his article by Rachel Rozhenski appeared in Haaretz on 31 March 2004.
  29. Kenneth W. Stein. "The Jewish National Fund: Land Purchase Methods and Priorities, 1924 - 1939"; Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 20 Number 2, pp. 190-205, April 1984
  30. Bustan backgrounder on the JNF bill: List of related articles
  31. Government Press Office, Israel, 22 May 1997
  32. A. Golan. The Transfer of Abandoned Rural Arab Lands to Jews During Israel's War of Independence, Cathedra, 63, pp. 122-154, 1992 . English translation: “The Transfer to Jewish Control of Abandoned Arab Land during the War of Independence,” in S.I. Troen and N. Lucas (eds), Israel, The First Decade of Independence (Albany, NY, 1995)
  33. Adalah report on JNF lands
  34. Aref Abu-Rabia. The Negev Bedouin and Livestock Rearing: Social, Economic, and Political Aspects, Oxford, 1994, pp. 28, 36, 38 (in a rare move, the ILA has leased on a yearly-basis JNF-owned land in Besor Valley (Wadi Shallala) to Bedouins)
  35. Amiram Barkat. "State offers JNF NIS 1.3b in biggest land deal ever"; Haaretz, June 17, 2008
  36. Tal Rosner. "Historic Land Decision Made: Attorney General allows land to be purchased by Jews and Arabs alike" YNet, January 27, 2005
  37. A Message from Ronald Lauder
  38. [7]
  39. Poll: 75% of Israeli Arabs support Jewish, democratic constitution
  40. Ashkenazi, Eli and Khoury, Jack. Poll: 68% of Jews would refuse to live in same building as an Arab. Haaretz. March 22, 2006. Accessed March 30, 2006.
  41. [8]
  42. "... a fifth column, a league of traitors" (Evelyn Gordon, " No longer the political fringe", The Jerusalem Post September 14, 2006)
  43. "[Avigdor Lieberman] compared Arab MKs to collaborators with Nazis and expressed the hope that they would be executed." (Uzi Benziman, " For want of stability", Ha'aretz undated)
  44. "We were shocked to hear of the intentions of enemies from the inside..." (Ronny Sofer, " Yesha rabbis: Majadele is like a fifth column", Ynetnews October 19, 2007)
  45. "[George Galloway] looks like a moderate next to Israeli fifth columnists like Bishara." (David Bedein, " Israel's Unrepentant Fifth Columnist", Israel Insider April 13, 2007)
  46. "The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb." (Ari Shavit, " Survival of the fittest", Ha'aretz September 1, 2004)
  47. "... many Israeli Jews view Israeli Arabs as a security and demographic threat." (Evelyn Gordon, " 'Kassaming' coexistence", The Jerusalem Post May 23, 2007)
  48. "Why is Arab criticism always labeled as conspiracy to destroy Israel?" (Abir Kopty, " Fifth column forever?", Ynetnews April 7, 2007)
  49. "... they hurl accusations against us, like that we are a 'fifth column.'" (Roee Nahmias, " Arab MK: Israel committing 'genocide' of Shiites", Ynetnews August 2, 2006)

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