Israel is one of the most diverse melting pots in the world. With people from every continent seeking asylum, and a better life, Israel stands out as a beacon of hope for millions.
Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.
Despite difficulties Israel remains one of the most diverse countries and staunch protectors of their diverse population.
Israel general facts
- Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon. Israel borders Egypt, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and West Bank.
- Size: Israel’s territory is 20,770 square kilometres. Israel can fit into Australia 369 times.
- Population: 7,821,850.
- Government: Parliamentary democracy, the only functioning liberal democracy in the Middle East.
- Leadership: chief of state: President Shimon PERES (since 15 July 2007); head of government: Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU (since 31 March 2009)
- Parliament: The Knesset (120 seats; political parties are elected by popular vote and assigned seats for members on a proportional basis; members serve 4-year terms).
Diversity in Israeli society
- Israel is one of the most multicultural and multilingual societies in the world, this is helped by Israel’s immigrant nature.
- Israel’s religious breakdown is: Jewish 75.1%, Muslim 17.4%, Christian 2%, Druze 1.6%, other 3.9%
- Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages in the country, while English and Russian are the two most widely spoken non-official languages.
- Georgian, Yiddish, Romanian, Ukrainian, Azerbaijani, Amharic, Armenian, Bulgarian, Ladino, French, Persian, Hungarian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tagalog, Fur, Tigrinya, Bilen, Turkish, Portuguese, Greek, Hindi, Malayalam, Mizo, Kukish and Polish are the most commonly used other foreign languages. A certain degree of English is spoken widely, and is the language of choice for many Israeli businesses. Courses of Hebrew and English language are mandatory in the Israeli school system, and most schools offer either Arabic, Spanish, German or French.
- As of 2008, Arab citizens of Israel comprise just over 20 percent of the country’s total population. About 82.6 percent of the Arab population in Israel is Sunni Muslim (with a very small minority of Shia), another 9 percent is Druze, and around 9 percent is Christian (mostly Eastern Orthodox and Catholic denominations).
- In 2012, Israel was named the second most educated country in the world according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Education at a Glance report, released in 2012.
Women in Israel:
- Women in Israel have been officially guaranteed gender equality since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. This has enabled women to actively participate in all spheres of Israeli life.
- The Israeli Declaration of Independence states: “The State of Israel … will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
- Israel was the third country in the world to be led by a female prime minister, Golda Meir (in office 1969-1974).
- As of 2013, women comprise 23% of Israel’s 120-member Knesset. For comparison, the female ratio in the Arab world is 6.4%, in European Union average is 17.6%.
- Women have a high success rate in terms of education in Israel. The passing rate of high school matriculation exams stood at 62% for females and 51% for males. The rate of women studying in universities and colleges is also higher; in 2011-2012, 56.7% of students at academic institutions were female. In 2012, women were also 59.3% of candidates for Master’s degree programs and 52.4% for doctorate programs.
Gay and lesbian rights:
- Israel is one of the world’s most accepting and protecting of gay and lesbian rights, far surpassing any other country in its region and the vast majority of countries in the world.
- Israel recognises same-sex relationships, allows same-sex adoption, allows openly gay individuals to serve in the military, bans anti-gay discrimination and has positive laws concerning gender identity and expression.
- Tel Aviv Pride Parade attracts hundreds of thousands participants each other. In 2012 more than 150,000 people marched in the Parade, making it the largest Gay Pride Parade in Asia.
- Over one million Arab Israelis are afforded equal citizenship rights, work rights, political rights, and social welfare rights as Jews or anyone else in Israel.
- Most Arab citizens of Israel are Muslim, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam, and there is a significant Arab Christian minority from various denominations, numbering 122,000—a majority group of Christians in Israel.
- Moreover, these individuals live at the highest standard of living for any Arabs in the Middle East due to the educational, social, and economic opportunities of Israel.
- Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote.
- There have been Israeli Arab members of the Knesset since the first Knesset elections in 1949. Arabs in 2011 held 14 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
- Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts, including one who served as Israel’s ambassador to Finland and the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv. Oscar Abu Razaq was appointed Director General of the Ministry of Interior, the first Arab citizen to become chief executive of a key government ministry.
- Ariel Sharon’s original cabinet included the first Arab minister, Salah Tarif, a Druze who served as a minister without portfolio.
- An Arab is also a Supreme Court justice.
- In October 2005, an Arab professor was named Vice President of Haifa University.