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Profile of Religion Pluralism In Israel Summer Institute, Department of Religion University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB)


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Title: Profile of Religion Pluralism In Israel Summer Institute, Department of Religion University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Profile of Religion Pluralism In Israel Summer
Institute, Department of Religion University of
California Santa Barbara (UCSB)
  • Khalid Sindawi
  • Academic College of Emek Yezreel, Israel
  • July 17, 2009

(No Transcript)
  • The State of Israel was established on May
    14,1948, Israel is a country in Western Asia
    located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean
    Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in
    the northeast, Jordan in the east, and Egypt on
    the southwest, and contains geographically
    diverse features within its relatively small
    area. Israel is the world's only predominantly
    Jewish state with a population of about 7.4
    million people, of which approximately 5.62
    million are Jewish. The largest ethnic minority
    group is the segment denominated as Arab citizens
    of Israel, while minority religious groups
    include Muslims, Christians, Druze, and others,
    most of which are found within the Arab segment.

  • Religion in Israel
  • According to the Israel Central Bureau of
    Statistics, the population in 2007 was 76.1
    Jewish, 16.2 Muslim, 2.1 Christian, and 1.6
    Druze, with the remaining 4.0 not classified by

  • Religious self-definition
  • As of 2007, 10 of Israeli Jews defined
    themselves as Haredim an additional 10 as
    "religious" 14 as "religious-traditionalists" 
    22 as "non-religious-traditionalists" (not
    strictly adhering to Jewish law or halakha) and
    44 as "secular" (Hebrew ??????????, Hiloni).
    Among all Israeli Jews, 65 believe in God and
    85 participate in a Passover seder. However,
    other sources indicate that between 15 and 37
    of Israelis identify themselves as either
    agnostics or atheists.
  • Israelis 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.
  • As of 2007, 82.7 of the Arab Israeli were
    Muslims, 8.4 were Druze, and 8.3 were
    Christians. Just over 80 of Christians are
    Arabs, and the majority of the remaining
    immigrants are from the former Soviet Union who
    immigrated with a Jewish relative. About 81 of
    Christian births are to Arab women.

  • Judaism in Israel
  • Most citizens in the State of Israel are Jewish,
    and most Israeli Jews practice Judaism in some
    form. In the last two centuries the largest
    Jewish community in the world, in the United
    States, has divided into a number of Jewish
    denominations. The largest and most influential
    of these denominations are Orthodox Judaism,
    Reform Judaism, and Conservative Judaism. All of
    the above denominations exist, to varying
    degrees, in the State of Israel. Nevertheless,
    Israelis tend to classify Jewish identity in ways
    that are strikingly different from American Jewry.

  • The secular-traditional spectrum
  • Most Jewish Israelis classify themselves as
    "secular" (hiloni) or as "traditional" (masorti).
    The former term is more popular among Israeli
    families of European origin, and the latter term
    among Israeli families of Oriental origin (i.e.
    Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa). The
    latter term, as commonly used, has nothing to do
    with the official "Masorti" (Conservative
    Judaism) movement in the State of Israel. There
    is ambiguity in the ways these two terms are
    used. They often overlap, and they cover an
    extremely wide range of ideologies and levels of

  • Many Jewish Israelis feel that being Israeli
    (living among Jews, speaking Hebrew, in the Land
    of Israel), is in itself a sufficient expression
    of Judaism without any religious observances.
    This conforms to some classical secular-Zionist
    ideologies of Israeli-style civil religion. While
    many in the Jewish diaspora who otherwise
    consider themselves as secular will attend a
    synagogue or at least fast on Yom Kippur (the
    holiest Jewish holiday), this is not as common
    among secular Israelis. In 2007, a poll by the
    Israeli Democracy Institute found that only 27
    of Israeli Jews say that they keep the Sabbath,
    while 53 said they do not keep it at all. The
    poll also found that 50 of the respondents would
    give up shopping on the Sabbath as long as public
    transportation were kept running and leisure
    activities continued to be permitted however
    only 38 believed that such a compromise would
    reduce the tensions between the secular and
    religious communities.

  • Because the terms "secular" and "traditional" not
    are strictly defined, published estimates of the
    percentage of Israeli Jews who are considered
    "traditional" range from 32 to 55. Estimates of
    the percentage of "secular" Jews vary even more
    widely from 20 to 80 of the Israeli

Chief Rabbinate Great Synagogue in Jerusalem,
seat of the Chief Rabbinate
  • The Community Structure of the Arabs of Structure
  • The community structure of the Arabs of Israel is
    the result of a prolonged historical development
    that has impressed its mark upon the countries of
    the entire Middle East through two basic factors
    that can still be discerned today
  • The communal split, resulting from the sectarian
    factions in Islam and Christianity, over a long
    period of time and due to various causes that
    lessened in their inherent importance over the
    generations, but the outcome of which has been
    preserved in the mosaic pattern of religious
    sects created in the region.
  • The communal organization with special
    independent formations that were given expression
    within the framework of the Ottoman Empire in the
    millet system according to which the Muslim
    regime granted certain communities judicial
    autonomy in matters of personal status, the
    management of the waqf (sacred trust funds) and
    in the organization of religious institutions and
    the justice system.

  • The Numerical Ratio
  • During the Mandate period the Muslims were
    already a recognizable majority. In the first
    census that was conducted under British rule in
    1922, there were 668,258 Arabs in the
    Palestain/Land of Israel, of which 88 were
    Muslim, 11 were Christians and only 1 were
    Druze and other denominations. This ratio
    remained constant until the Arab-Israeli war
    1948, by which time owing to Jewish immigration,
    the ratio of the Arab population decreased from
    89 in 1922 to 68 in 1947.
  • The communal-religious cross-section of the
    minorities in Israel is expressed in the
    following lines
  • Muslims about 1,189,600
  • Christians about 150,300
  • Druze about 118,600.

  • Islam in Israel
  • Muslims about 1,189,600
  • Mainly in the Galilee, in the small triangle,
    in Jerusalem and among the Bedouin tribes in the
    Negev. Most Muslims in Israel are Sunni Arabs.
    Israeli Muslims are free to teach Islam to their
    children in their own schools, and there are a
    number of Islamic universities and colleges in

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
  • Christianity in Israel
  • Christians about 150,300
  • The Greek-Catholic community about 24.6
  • The Greek-Orthodox community about 33
  • The Roman Catholic community about 8.4
  • The Maronite community about
  • Others (Protestant sects, Armenians,
    Coptic-Ethiopian etc.) about 20. The data also
    covers the Christian communities in Jerusalem.

  • The Christians
  • The Christian population in Israel do not
    constitute a uniform pattern. It is split up into
    various communities that keep to their
    independent framework and even within themselves
    contain a varied spectrum of communities,
    religious orders and sects.
  • In the first years after the establishment of the
    State, they managed to acquire significant power
    far beyond their demographic value. They
    constituted a majority in three large urban
    centers of the Arab population Nazareth, Shfaram
    and Haifa that were almost entirely emptied of
    their Muslim elite that had been uprooted during
    the fighting.
  • Christians are presently the smallest religious
    group in Israel. Most Christians living
    permanently in Israel are Arabs or have come from
    other countries to live and work mainly in
    churches or monasteries, which have long
    histories in the land.

  • A great paradox about the areas of Israel and its
    surroundings is that even though according to
    Christian teachings it is where Jesus was born,
    lived, and died (according to Roman Catholic and
    Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Church of the
    Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is the place where
    Jesus died and was eventually buried -- making
    Jerusalem one of Christianity's holiest sites).
  • Most Christians in Israel belong primarily to
    branches of the Eastern Orthodox Churches that
    oversee a variety of churches, monasteries,
    seminaries, and religious institutions all over
    the land, particularly in Jerusalem. In the
    nineteenth century the Russian Empire constituted
    itself the guardian of the interests of
    Christians living in the Holy Land, and even
    today large amounts of Jerusalem real estate
    (including the site of the Knesset building) are
    owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of

  • In modern times, one of the most vocal and active
    sectors of Christianity in support of Israel has
    come from the Protestant churches that support
    Evangelicalism. Each year hundreds of thousands
    of Christian Evangelicals come as tourists on
    private and organized trips to see Israel for
    themselves, to be inspired by "the land of the
    Bible", and in the process benefiting the local
    economy as well.
  • Nine churches are officially recognised under
    Israel's confessional system, for the
    self-regulation of status issues, such as
    marriage and divorce. These are the Eastern
    Orthodox, Roman Catholic (Latin rite),
    Gregorian-Armenian, Armenian Catholic, Syriac
    Catholic, Chaldean (Uniate), Melkite (Greek
    Catholic), Ethiopian Orthodox, Maronite and
    Syriac Orthodox churches. There are more informal
    arrangements with other churches such as the
    Anglican Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of
    Latter-day Saints.
  • In recent years, the Christian population in
    Israel has increased significantly by the
    immigration of foreign workers from a number of
    countries. Numerous churches have opened in Tel
    Aviv, in particular.

Nazareth, Church of the Annunciation
  • Other religious minorities
  • Druze
  • Druze who follow their own gnostic religion.
    During the population register after the
    establishment of the State, 14,500 Druze were
    listed, constituting 9 of the minority
    population. They live mainly in the Western
    Galilee and on Mount Carmel and today they number
    nearly 118,600 about 9.5 of the minority
    population, and 1.8 of the entire population in
  • The Druze live in 18 settlements in Israel
    mainly in the Haifa area, Acre and Peki'in and
    only five villages are unmixed with the entire
    population belonging to the Druze community.

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  • The Ahmads
  • Ahmadiyya is a new sect in Islam, founded at the
    end of the 19th century in the Punjab in India.
    Ahmadiyya sees itself as a world religion. On
    March 17, 1928 the Center of the Ahmadi
    Delegation to the Countries of the Middle East
    transferred from the city of Damascus in Syria to
  • The adherents of this community in Israel are
    1000 in number, and are concentrated in Kafr
    Kababir, on one of the western slopes of the
    Carmel. Two minaret towers rise up on the
    mountain opposite the seafront.

Ahmadi Mosque Kababir- Haifa
  • Bahá'í
  • The Bahá'í Faith has its administrative centre in
    Haifa on land it has owned since Bahá'u'lláh's
    imprisonment in Acre in the early 1870s by the
    Ottoman Empire. Pilgrims from all over the world
    visit for short periods of time. Apart from the
    circa six hundred volunteer staff, Bahá'ís do not
    live or preach in Israel.

Seat of the Universal House of Justice
Bahá'í Gardens-Haifa
  • Buddhism
  • Israel has 32,000 Buddhists, most of whom
    practice Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Hinduism
  • The small Hindu community in Israel is mostly
    made up of representatives of the International
    Society for Krishna Consciousness.
  • Ethnic Minority
  • The Circassians
  • The Circassians are Sunni Muslims, but are not
    Arab in nationality. They came originally from
    the Caucasian Mountains in the 19th century.
    Thousands of Circassian refugees fled after the
    defeat of the rebellion of the Caucasian peoples
    in the 1860s. Two villages were founded in this
    period in the Land of Israel
  • Rihaniya in the Upper Galilee, north of Safed.
  • Kafr Kama in the Lower Galilee, near the Kfar
    Tavor-Kinneret Highway.

  • Thousands
  • Average population Population at end of year
  • Druze Christians Moslems Jews Grand total
  • 92.8 159.9 797.2 4,495.1 5,544.9
  • 93.4 122.0 825.5 4,569.2 5,685.1
  • 95.6 124.7 853.9 4,658.8 5,828.9
  • 97.8 127.4 883.9 4,743.4 5,970.7
  • 100.1 130.3 916.9 4,829.0 6,125.3
  • 102.5 133.4 952.0 4,914.1 6,289.2
  • 105.0 136.8 987.3 4,990.2 6,439.0
  • 107.4 139.4 1,021.4 5,059.6 6,570.0
  • 109.6 141.4 1,055.4 5,129.8 6,689.7
  • 111.9 143.4 1,090.0 5,201.5 6,809.0
  • 114.1 145.4 1,124.0 5,275.7 6,930.1
  • 116.4 147.8 1,156.9 5,353.6 7,053.7
  • 118.6 150.3 1,189.6 5,435.8 7,180.1

  • Bibliography
  • Leibman, Charles S. Religious and Secular
    Conflict and Accommodation Between Jews in
    Israel. AVICHAI, 1990.
  • Leibman, Charles S. and Elihu Katz, eds. The
    Jewishness of Israelis Responses to the Guttman
    Report. SUNY Press, 1997.
  • Mazie, Steven V. Israel's Higher Law Religion
    and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State.
    Lexington Books, 2006.