Israel Population, Society and Rights

By | December 22, 2021

The demographic factor was decisive for Israel from the very beginning. The incentives introduced at the end of the nineteenth century (and in part still maintained) to stimulate the arrival in the Palestinian territories of Jews from all over the world (especially Russia and the United States) were aimed at legitimizing the existence of a Jewish state and set aside territorial claims by Palestinian Arabs. Israel has therefore always been concerned with ensuring a Jewish majority within its borders, by launching measures that would maintain a high enough rate of population growth, such as to be able to cope with the Palestinian fertility rate, which is among the highest in the world. Israel now has eight million residents, of which 75% are Jews and 20% are Arabs. For Israel society, please check homosociety.com.

The largest cities in the country are Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, the latter the only one with over a million residents. According to the basic law of 1980, Jerusalem is the capital of the state but almost all countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv or in the immediate vicinity of the city on the Mediterranean coast.

The Israeli population is divided by multiple fault lines. The main fault opens between the Jewish and Arab populations. In turn, the population of Jewish origin is separated both by the origin they belong to and by the attitude towards the relationship between politics and religion. The first difference is between Jews of European origin (mostly Eastern Europe) who arrived before or immediately after the foundation of the state (called Ashkenazi Jews) and those of North African and Middle Eastern origin (called Sephardic Jews). This rift was only partially healed by the practice of ‘mixed’ marriages, which are in sharp decline also due to tensions with the Palestinians in recent years. To these two groups are added the falashas, Jews of Ethiopian origin (also known as Beta Israel) and Jews from Central and Eastern Europe (Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Moldovans and Romanians) who immigrated to Israel from the 1980s and 1990s, especially following the fall of the Soviet Union, and became the largest community in much of the country.

The second division concerns the distance between the secular and ultra-Orthodox (the haredim) which is getting deeper and deeper. The haredim, who support Zionism faith-based and militant traits, enjoy numerous benefits and state deductions – are exempt from military service, receive education and family benefits by virtue of the large number of children, and most of them will refrain from work to devote their time to the study of the sacred texts – since demographically in great ascent compared to the rest of the population they represent an important share of the Israeli electorate.

Christian Israeli Arabs, on the other hand, are divided into Greek Orthodox, Melkites, members of the Syriac Church, Latin Catholics and members of the Protestant churches. A large Armenian community lives in Jerusalem, which has its own neighborhood in the old city. Many Eastern churches are divided into an Orthodox and a Catholic church, which maintains the original rites but has sworn obedience to the Pope of Rome and adhered to the Latin doctrine. The Druze community, concentrated in the Mount Carmel area, is more integrated into Israeli institutional life: compulsory conscription is foreseen for the Druze and many are enlisted, in particular in the border police. The closure of Gaza and the difficulty of entering Israel for Palestinians, even those residing in the West Bank, they have resulted in a shortage of labor which has in turn caused increasing immigration, especially from East Asia. Officially Israeli citizens have equal rights regardless of their religion and language, but Arab communities receive lower quality services and education than Jewish ones. Furthermore, Bedouin communities often do not receive essential services and are subject, according to complaints from Israeli and international human rights associations, to discrimination in land ownership and the right to build, particularly in the Negev, where the majority of the local Bedouin communities (about 90,000 people). Officially Israeli citizens have equal rights regardless of their religion and language, but Arab communities receive lower quality services and education than Jewish ones. Furthermore, Bedouin communities often do not receive essential services and are subject, according to complaints from Israeli and international human rights associations, to discrimination in land ownership and the right to build, particularly in the Negev, where the majority of the local Bedouin communities (about 90,000 people). Officially Israeli citizens have equal rights regardless of their religion and language, but Arab communities receive lower quality services and education than Jewish ones. Furthermore, Bedouin communities often do not receive essential services and are subject, according to complaints from Israeli and international human rights associations, to discrimination in land ownership and the right to build, particularly in the Negev, where the majority of the local Bedouin communities (about 90,000 people).

The press is free and the right of association is respected, also thanks to the independence of the Supreme Court which refused to outlaw Arab parties. There is no civil marriage in the country. Since the summer of 2011, in the wake of protests in neighboring Arab states, large demonstrations have also taken place in Israeli squares, an expression of widespread popular discontent due to growing socio-economic differences.

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