Multicultural Coexistence in Israel

The citizens of Israel constitute a wide range of ethnicities, nationalities and religions. The ability to live side by side in harmony and productivity is a significant challenge. KKL-JNF initatiates and implements innovative projects that encourage interaction and engagement in environmental education and shared public spaces, laying a bridge for dialogue between Israel's different ethnicities.

KKL-JNF Photo Archive 

Israel's Cultural Mosaic

Black Hebrew Israeli teens from the city of Dimona. Photo: Tania SusskindThe citizens of Israel include a wide range of ethnicities, nationalities and religions.

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (2014), the country's total population of 8.180 million is comprised of Jews - 6.135 million (75%); Arabs - 1.694 million (20.7%); and others - family members of Jewish immigrants who are not registered at the Ministry of Interior as Jews, non-Arab Christians, and residents who do not have an ethnic or religious classification: 351,000 (4.3%).

The Arabs of Israel

L-R: Adnan Shweiki and Daoud Abu-Seriya working in the Peace Garden at Sataf, near Jerusalem. Photo: Yoav DevirArab Muslims, who form the largest minority group in Israel, are geographically concentrated in the Galilee, the Triangle (between the Meditarranean coast and the Samarian foothills/West Bank), and East Jerusalem, inhabiting Arab villages, towns and cities as well as mixed cities.

In recent years Israeli Arab society has been undergoing considerable change, demographically and in terms of family status and the status of women. These changes have been influenced by trends of modernization- including those of Israeli society- and are expressed in an increase in living standards and life expectancy, a reduction in births per family, and a decrease in infant mortality. Today, the centrality of the hamula (the kinship group) and the extended family are arguably less prominent than that of the nuclear family, coinciding with the rise of education levels and more Arab women in the labor market. Concomitantly, Arab populations are undergoing urbanization.

The Christians of Israel

Brother Anton of the Emmaus Nicopolis Monastery at the KKL-JNF center at Givat Yeshayahu. Photo: Yoav DevirSome 80 percent of Israel's Christians are Arab, mostly Arab Orthodox, living mainly in the urban communities of Haifa and Nazareth. Possibly every denomination and church of world Christianity is represented to some extent by Israel's Christians. For Israel's Christian citizens, as well the millions of Christian tourist who visit every year, the landscapes of the Holy Land have captivated the hearts and minds of believers and have strengthened their faith since ancient times. The holy sites commemorate the events described in the Old and New Testaments and breathe the spirit of fellowship, hope, and peace.

The Bedouin of Israel

Hanin al-Asabi from Hura at a chess tournament for Jewish and Bedouin children in the Negev. Photo: Yoav DevirThe Bedouin, Muslim by religion, comprise nomadic tribes mainly of Arabian origin, who reached Israel around the 7th century. Today they predominantly inhabit the Negev (some 220,000 people as per 2013). They are semi-nomadic and reside in unrecognized villages and towns.

A much smaller population of Bedouin live in villages and towns in the Galilee (about 60,000 people), in addition to a small percentage who reside in the mixed cities of Lod, Ramle and Haifa. With the transition to government supported, permanent communities most of the Galilee Bedouin have acclimated into the majority society and many serve in the IDF.

Since the 1960s the Bedouin population of the Negev has been going through a sedentarization process, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Through sequential negotiations with the Bedouins over the last two generations, Israeli Governments have managed to settle about 60 percent of the Bedouin in recognized, semi-urban townships, with the intention to put a stop to their dispersal over state lands and illegal building and in order to equalize their health, educational, and employment status with those of Israel's other citizens by supplying them with conventional public services and facilities.

Israeli governments have been re-enacting and ratifying a multi-year plan for the Bedouin. The objective for 2012-2016 is to keep promoting the economical development and growth of the Bedouin populations in the Negev, while improving the integration of Bedouin citizens into the Israeli economy and society, and simultaneously improving women’s status and employment.

The Druze of Israel

Druze Sons’ Trail on Mount Carmel in memory of the 398 fallen IDF soldiers who belong to Israel’s Druze community. Photo: Yoav DevirThe Druze, a monotheistic religious sect that broke away from Islam in Egypt in the 11th century, emigrated during different periods of time from Lebanon, Syria and Lebanon to Israel, settling in the Galilee and the Golan Heights. Upon their request, the Druze were officially recognized as a religious community by Israel in 1957. Since then, and out of an allegiance to Israel, Druze men have been enlisted to serve in the IDF, with a high proportion of officers and excelling soldiers. Today, some 86 percent of Druze men serve in the IDF.

The Druze religion is shrouded in secrecy; privy to the few men and women who have proved themselves worthy as initiates or ʿuqqāl (the wise). It is widely known that the Druze adhere to the non-Islam belief in the transmigration of souls, which is why headstones on their graves bear no name. The warm Druze hospitality is an expression of generosity and respect for guests. Some of the villages, such as Isfiya and Daliyat Al-Karmel have developed ethnic tourism, combining a Druze dining experience with overnight stays in guest houses and visits to colorful open markets.

The Circassians of Israel

L-R: Kamel Makhoul of Jish, Tsaay Alaa-ad-Din of Rehaniya and Ali Halihal of Jish walk together on the Dalton-Gush Halav Coexistence Trail in the Galilee. Photo: Yoav DevirCircassians are a small minority of some 7,000 people, who populate the two villages of Kfar and Rehaniya in the Galilee. With the Russian conquest of the northwestern Caucasus in the 19th century, the Circassians, or Adyghe people, were exiled to countries of the Ottoman Empire. Historically, they were adherents of the monistic Habzist theology; today they are Sunni Muslims. With that, they transmit the Circassia/Adyghe culture, stories and folk dances to their children. Although modernized, the Circassians of Israel have succeeded in preserving their culture more than any other Circassian community in the diaspora. Like the Druze, the ethos of hospitality is deeply embedded in their culture and they also serve in the IDF.