Israelis (Hebrew: ישראלים Yiśraʾelim, Arabic:
الإسرائيليين al-ʾIsrāʾīliyyin) are citizens or
permanent residents of the State of Israel, a multiethnic state
populated by people of different ethnic backgrounds. The largest
ethnic groups in
Jews (75%), followed by Arabs (20%) and
other minorities (5%). Among the
Jewish population, hundreds of
Jews born in
Israel are descended from both Ashkenazi and
Mizrahi Jews. More than 50% of the
Jewish population is of at least
partial Mizrahi descent.
Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th
Jewish diaspora communities in Europe and the Middle
East and more recent large-scale immigration from North Africa,
Western Asia, North America, South America, the former Soviet Union
Ethiopia introduced many new cultural elements and have had
profound impact on the Israeli culture.
Israelis and people of Israeli descent live across the world: in the
Moscow housing the single largest
community outside Israel), India, Canada, the United Kingdom,
throughout Europe, and elsewhere. Almost 10% of the general population
Israel is estimated to be living abroad.
2 Ethnic and religious groups
2.2 Arabic-speaking minorities
2.3 Other citizens
2.3.2 African Hebrew Israelites
2.3.4 East Europeans
2.3.7 Naturalized foreign workers
2.4.1 African refugees
2.4.2 Foreign workers
2.4.3 Other refugees
2.5 Israeli diaspora
2.5.1 United States
2.5.4 United Kingdom
2.6 2013 Supreme Court ruling on nationality
6 See also
8 External links
Main article: Demographics of Israel
As of 2013, Israel's population is 8 million, of which the
Israeli civil government records 75.3% as Jews, 20.7% as non-Jewish
Arabs, and 4.0% other. Israel's official census includes Israeli
settlers in the occupied territories (referred to as "disputed" by
Israel). 280,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements in the Judea and
Samaria Area, 190,000 in East Jerusalem, and 20,000 in the
Among Jews, 70.3% were born in
Israel (sabras), mostly from the second
or third generation of their family in the country, and the rest are
Jewish immigrants. Of the
Jewish immigrants, 20.5% were from Europe
and the Americas, and 9.2% were from Asia, Africa, and Middle Eastern
countries. Nearly half of all
Israeli Jews are descended from
immigrants from the European
Jewish diaspora. Approximately the same
number are descended from immigrants from Arab countries, Iran, Turkey
and Central Asia. Over 200,000 are of Ethiopian and Indian-Jewish
Israel Central Bureau of Statistics estimate of the
Jewish population does not include those Israeli citizens,
mostly descended from immigrants from the Soviet Union, who are
registered as "others", or their immediate family members. Defined as
Jews and non-Arabs, they make up about 3.5% of Israelis
(350,000), and were eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law
Israel's two official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the
primary language of government and is spoken by the majority of the
Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority and by some members
of the Mizrahi
Jewish community. English is studied in school and is
spoken by the majority of the population as a second language. Other
languages spoken in
Israel include Russian, Yiddish, Spanish, Ladino,
Amharic, Armenian, Romanian, and French.
In recent decades, between 650,000 and 1,300,000
emigrated, a phenomenon known in Hebrew as yerida ("descent", in
contrast to aliyah, which means "ascent"). Emigrants have various
reasons for leaving, but there is generally a combination of economic
and political concerns.
Los Angeles is home to the largest community
Israelis outside Israel.
Ethnic and religious groups
The main Israeli ethnic and religious groups are as follows:
Israeli Jews and
Jewish ethnic divisions
This article contains Hebrew text. Without proper rendering support,
you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Hebrew
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Jews and Judaism
Israeli girls in the 1960s, eating matzot—unleavened bread
traditionally eaten by
Jews during Passover
The CBS traces the paternal country of origin of
Israeli Jews as of
2010 is as follows.
Country of origin
Latin America, other
Main article: Arab citizens of Israel
Arabic speaking localities in Israel
A fraction of Palestinians remained within Israel's borders following
1948 Palestinian exodus
1948 Palestinian exodus and are the largest group of
Arabic-speaking and culturally Arab citizens of Israel. The vast
majority of the Arab citizens of
Israel are Sunni Muslim, while 9% of
them are Christian.
As of 2013, the Arab population of
Israel amounts to 1,658,000, about
20.7% of the population. This figure include 209,000 Arabs (14% of
the Israeli Arab population) in East Jerusalem, also counted in the
Palestinian statistics, although 98 percent of East Jerusalem
Palestinians have either Israeli residency or Israeli citizenship.
The Arab citizens of
Israel also include the Bedouin. Israeli Bedouin
include those who live in the north of the country, for the most part
in villages and towns, and the
Bedouin in the Negev, who are
semi-nomadic or live in towns or unrecognized
Bedouin villages. In
Bedouin lived in the Negev, 50,000 in the
10,000 in the central region of Israel. As of 2013, the Negev
Bedouin number 200,000-210,000.
Main article: Israeli Druze
Sheikh Amin Tarif, spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze, c. 1950
There is also a significant population of Israeli Druze, estimated at
about 117,500 at the end of 2006. All
Druze in British Mandate
Palestine became Israeli citizens upon the foundation of the State of
Main article: Maronites in Israel
There are about 7,000 Maronite
Christian Israelis, living mostly in
Galilee but also in Haifa, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. They are
mostly pro-Israeli Lebanese former militia members and their families
Lebanon after the 2000 withdrawal of IDF from South Lebanon.
Some, however, are from local Galilean communities such as
There are about 1,000 Coptic Israeli citizens.
Main article: Arameans in Israel
In September 2014,
Israel recognized the "Aramean" ethnic identity of
hundreds of the
Christian citizens of Israel. This recognition comes
after about seven years of activity by the Aramean Christian
Israel – Aram, led by IDF Major Shadi Khalloul Risho
and the Israeli
Christian Recruitment Forum, headed by Father Gabriel
Naddaf of the Greek-Orthodox Church and Major Ihab Shlayan. The
Aramean ethnic identity will now encompass all the
Syriac churches in Israel, including the Maronite Church, Greek
Greek Catholic Church,
Syriac Catholic Church
Syriac Catholic Church and
Syriac Orthodox Church.
Armenians in Israel
There are about 4,000 Armenian citizens of Israel. They live mostly in
Jerusalem, including the Armenian Quarter), but also in Tel Aviv,
Haifa and Jaffa. Their religious activities center around the Armenian
Jerusalem as well as churches in Jerusalem,
Armenians of Old
Jerusalem have Israeli identity
cards, they are officially holders of Jordanian passports.
Main article: Assyrians in Israel
There are around 1,000 Assyrians living in Israel, mostly in Jerusalem
and Nazareth. Assyrians are an
Aramaic speaking, Eastern Rite
Christian minority who are descended from the ancient Mesopotamians.
Syriac Orthodox monastery of Saint Mark lies in Jerusalem.
Other than followers of the
Syriac Orthodox Church, there are also
followers of the
Assyrian Church of the East
Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic
Church living in Israel.
Circassians in Israel
Circassians in Kfar Kama
In Israel, there are also a few thousand Circassians, living mostly in
Kfar Kama (2,000) and Reyhaniye (1,000). These two
villages were a part of a greater group of Circassian villages around
the Golan Heights. The
Israel enjoy, like Druzes, a
status aparte. Male
Circassians (at their leader's request) are
mandated for military service, while females are not.
Main article: Samaritans
Sofi Tsedaka from the Samaritan community
Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Ancestrally,
they are descended from a group of Israelite inhabitants who have
connections to ancient Samaria from the beginning of the Babylonian
captivity up to the beginning of the Common Era.
Population estimates made in 2007 show that of the 712 Samaritans,
half live in
Israel and half at
Mount Gerizim in the West
Holon community holds Israeli citizenship, while the Gerizim
community resides at an Israeli-controlled enclave (Kiryat Luza),
holding dual Israeli-Palestinian citizenship.
African Hebrew Israelites
Main article: African Hebrew
Israelites of Jerusalem
The African Hebrew Israelite Nation of
Jerusalem is a small religious
community whose members believe they are descended from the Ten Lost
Tribes of Israel. Most of the over 5,000 members live in Dimona,
Israel although there are additional, smaller, groups in Arad, Mitzpe
Ramon, and the
Tiberias area. At least some of them consider
themselves to be Jewish, but Israeli authorities do not accept them as
such, nor are their religious practices consistent with "mainstream
Jewish tradition." The group, which consists of African Americans
and their descendants, originated in
Chicago in the early 1960s, moved
Liberia for a few years, and then immigrated to Israel.[citation
A number of immigrants also belong to various non-Slavic ethnic groups
Former Soviet Union
Former Soviet Union such as Tatars, Armenians, and Georgians.
Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union most of whom are
Zera Yisrael (descendants of Jews) who are Russians, Ukrainians,
Moldovans and Belarusians, who were eligible to immigrate due to
having, or being married to somebody who has, at least one Jewish
grandparent. In addition, a certain number of former Soviet citizens,
primarily women of Russian and Ukrainian ethnicity, immigrated to
Israel after marrying Arab citizens of
Israel who went to study in the
former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. The total number of those
primarily of Slavic ancestry among Israeli citizens is around
Although most Finns in
Israel are either Finnish
Jews or their
descendents, a small number of Finnish Christians moved to
the 1940s before the independence of the state and have since gained
citizenship. For the most part the original Finnish settlers
intermarried with other Israeli communities, and therefore remain very
small in number. A moshav near
Jerusalem named "Yad HaShmona", meaning
the Memorial for the eight, was established in 1971 by a group of
Christian Israelis, though today most members are Israeli, and
The number of Vietnamese people in
Israel is estimated at
200–400. Most of them came to
Israel between 1976
and 1979, after the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin granted them
political asylum. The Vietnamese people living in
Israel are Israeli citizens who also serve in the
Forces. Today, the majority of the community lives in
Gush Dan area in the center of
Israel but also a few dozen
Israelis of Vietnamese origin live in Haifa,
Jerusalem and Ofakim.
Naturalized foreign workers
Israel's residents include some naturalized foreign workers and their
children born in Israel, predominantly from the Philippines, Nepal,
Nigeria, Senegal, Romania, China, Cyprus, Turkey,
Thailand and Latin
Further information: Sudanese refugees in Israel
Meeting between Sudanese refugees and Israeli students, 2007
The number and status of African refugees in
Israel is disputed and
controversial, but it is estimated that at least 16,000 refugees,
mainly from Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan,
Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast,
reside and work in Israel. A check in late 2011, published in Ynet
reported that the number just in
Tel Aviv is 40,000, which represents
10 percent of the city's population. The vast majority lives in the
southern parts of the city. There is also a significant African
population in the southern Israeli cities of Eilat, Arad and Beer
There are around 300,000 foreign workers, residing in
temporary work visas. Most of these foreign workers engage in
agriculture and construction—they are mostly from China, Thailand,
the Philippines, Nigeria,
Romania and Latin America.
Approximately 100–200 refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo,
North Korea live in
Israel as refugees, most of them with Israeli
See also: Yerida
Through the years, the majority of
Israelis who emigrated from Israel
went to the United States,
Canada and the United Kingdom.
It is currently estimated that there are 330,000 native-born Israelis,
including 230,000 Jews, living abroad, or even more. The number of
Israel who later returned to their home countries or
moved elsewhere is more difficult to calculate.
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
Among the most common reasons for emigration of
Israelis from Israel
are most often due to Israel's ongoing security issues, economic
constraints, economic characteristics, disappointment in the Israeli
government, as well as the excessive role of religion in the lives of
See also: Israeli American
Israelis immigrated to the
United States 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.[citation
needed] According to the 2000
United States Census, 106,839 Americans
also hold Israeli citizenship, but the number of Americans of Israeli
descent is around half a million.
Moscow has the largest single Israeli expatriate community in the
world, with 80,000 Israeli citizens living in the city as of 2014,
almost all of them native Russian-speakers. Many Israeli
cultural events are hosted for the community, and many live part of
the year in Israel. (To cater to the Israeli community, Israeli
cultural centres are located in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk
See also: Israeli Canadian
Israelis immigrated to
Canada throughout the period of the
declaration of the state of
Israel and until today. Today, the
descendants of these people are known as Israeli-Canadians.[citation
needed] According to the
Canada 2006 Census as many as 21,320 Israelis
Canada in 2006.
Israelis in the United Kingdom
Israelis immigrated to the
United Kingdom throughout and since
the period of the declaration of the state of Israel. Today, the
descendants of these people are known as Israeli-British.[citation
needed] According to the
United Kingdom 2001 Census, as many as 11,892
Israelis lived in the
United Kingdom in 2001. The majority live in
2013 Supreme Court ruling on nationality
In 2013 a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court of Israel's headed by
Asher Grunis rejected an appeal requesting that
state-issued identification cards state the nationality of citizens as
"Israeli" rather than their religion of origin. In his opinion, Grunis
stated that it was not within the court’s purview to determine new
categories of ethnicity or nationhood. The court's decision responded
to a petition by Uzzi Ornan, who refused to be identified as
1948 at the foundation of the state of Israel, claiming instead that
he was "Hebrew." This was permitted by Israeli authorities at the
time. However, by 2000, Ornan wanted to register his nationality as
"Israeli". The Interior Ministry refused to allow this, prompting
Ornan to file a suit. In 2007, Ornan's suit was joined by former
Shulamit Aloni and other activists. In the ruling,
Justice Hanan Melcer noted
Israel currently considers "citizenship and
nationality [to be] separate."
Main article: History of Israeli nationality
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October
David Ben-Gurion proclaiming the Israeli Declaration of Independence
The term "Israelite" refers to members of the
Jewish tribes and
polities of the Iron Age known from the
Hebrew Bible and
extra-biblical historical and archaeological sources. The term
"Israeli", by contrast, refers to the citizens of the modern State of
Israel, regardless of them being Jewish, Arabs, or of any other
The modern State of
Israel revived an old name known from the Hebrew
Bible and from historical sources, that of the Iron Age Kingdom of
Israel. The Bible differentiates between a period of tribal rule among
the "children of Israel"; a Kingdom of
Israel uniting all twelve
biblical Israelite tribes, with the common capital known as the City
of David (Jerusalem); and a period in which the northern tribes split
away to form an independent Kingdom of Israel, while the southern
tribes became part of the Kingdom of Judah. Archaeological research
only partially agrees with the biblical narrative.
According to the biblical account, the United Monarchy was formed when
there was a large popular expression in favour of introducing a
monarchy to rule over the previously decentralised Israelite tribal
confederacy. Increasing pressure from the
Philistines and other neighboring tribes is said by
the Bible to have forced the
Israelites to unite as a more singular
The northern Kingdom of
Israel was destroyed in ca. 720 BCE by the
Neo-Assyrian Empire and its population was forcibly restructured
through imperial policy. The southern
Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah was conquered
by the Neo-Babylonian Empire (586 BCE), inherited by the Achaemenid
Empire, conquered by
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great (332 BCE), ruled by the
resulting Hellenistic empires, from which it regained authonomy and
eventually independence under the Hasmoneans, conquered by the Roman
Republic in 63 BCE, ruled by the client kings of the Herodian dynasty,
and finally transformed into a Roman province during the first century
Jewish revolts, the second one ending in 135 CE, led to the
large-scale decimation of the
Jewish population in Judea and the end
of any type of
Jewish territorial self-rule in the Land of
Palestine, as it then came to be known, for many centuries to come.
Palestine was part of the
Ottoman Empire from 1516 until it was taken
by British forces in 1918. The British establishment of colonial
political boundaries allowed the
Jews to develop autonomous
institutions such as the
Histadrut and the Knesset. Since the late
nineteenth century, the
Zionist movement encouraged
Jews to immigrate
to Palestine and refurbish its land area, considerable but partially
uninhabitable due to an abundance of swamps and desert. The resulting
Jewish immigrants, as well as the creation of many new
settlements, was crucial for the functioning of these new institutions
in what would, on 14 May 1948, become the State of Israel.
Main articles: Culture of
Israel and List of Israelis
See also: Archaeology of Israel, Music of Israel, and Science and
technology in Israel
Benjamin Netanyahu and
Shimon Peres at the Israeli Independence Day
The largest cities in the country Haifa, Tel Aviv, and
also the major cultural centers, known for art museums, and many towns
and kibbutzim have smaller high-quality museums. Israeli music is very
versatile and combines elements of both western and eastern, religious
and secular music. It tends to be very eclectic and contains a wide
variety of influences from the
Diaspora and more modern cultural
Hassidic songs, Asian and Arab pop, especially by
Yemenite singers, and Israeli hip hop or heavy metal. Folk dancing,
which draws upon the cultural heritage of many immigrant groups, is
popular. There is also flourishing modern dance.
Main article: Religion in Israel
See also: Holidays and events in Israel
Western Wall and Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
According to the
Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of
2014, 75% of
Jewish by religion (adherents of Judaism),
17.5% were Muslims, 2% Christian, 1.6%
Druze and the remaining 3.9%
(including immigrants) were not classified by religion.
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 religious law); 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
Unlike North American Jews,
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. Israeli religious life, unlike much of North
Jewish life, does not solely revolve around synagogues or
religious community centers.
Among Arab Israelis, 82.6% were
Muslim (including Ahmadis), 8.8%
Christian and 8.4% were Druze.
The Bahá'í World Centre, which includes the Universal House of
Haifa attracts Baha'i pilgrims from all over the
Main article: Languages of Israel
Trilingual road sign in Israel
Due to its immigrant nature,
Israel is one of the most multicultural
and multilingual societies in the world. Hebrew and
Arabic are the
official languages in the country, while English and Russian are the
two most widely spoken non-official languages.
Yiddish (2%) and French
(2%) are also spoken. A certain degree of English is spoken
widely, and is the language of choice for many Israeli
businesses. Courses of Hebrew and English are
mandatory in the Israeli matriculation exams (bagrut), and most
schools also offer one or more out of Arabic, Spanish, German or
French. The Israeli government also offers free
intensive Hebrew-language courses, known as ulpanim (singular ulpan),
Jewish immigrants, to try to help them integrate into Israeli
Demographics of Israel
Culture of Israel
Modern Hebrew (Israeli Hebrew)
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Israelis Find A Lively
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Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1 July 1999
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Judaism according to mainstream Jewish
tradition and have not been accepted as
Jews by the Israeli
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Israelis Find A Lively
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Israelis chase capitalist dreams to
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Druze have a status aparte from Arabs in Israel, being designated as
a separate ethno-religious community.
2 Arameans are officially recognized by
Israel since October 2014.
Israelis abroad and their descendants