Israel: People

1 minute read

Israel is much more diverse than the casual observer might expect. Around 73% of the population is Jewish, mostly of Mizrachi and Ashkenazi descent. Of these, around:

  • 42% identify as secular.
  • 38% are traditional.
  • 20% Orthodox, made up of:
    • 12% are “religious Zionist”
    • 8% are “ultra-Orthodox”.

Keeping up? Another 20% is Arab, mostly Muslim, Christian and Druze.

The rest is divided between other Semitic and non-Semitic groups, such as the Samaritans, Black Hebrews, and foreign workers, many of whom come from China, the Philippines, and Sudan.

This macro diversity is also reflected locally. Let’s take the two largest cities as an example. It’s easy to characterize:

  • Jerusalem, a religious time-warp, walls dripping with legendary stories of war and peace.
  • Tel Aviv, thinks it’s NYC and Berlin, unaware of its real location, 200km from Damascus and Beirut.

In fact, songs have been written about the contrast between the two, which reflect different sides of our psyche. Yet, Jerusalem boasts a buzzing, intimate nightlife, and if you know where to look in Tel Aviv, there are many reminders that you’re in the Middle East.

So, it’s pointless to try and stereotype the “typical” Israeli, but be prepared for a:

  • Dry sense of humour, equally fuelled by hopefulness and helplessness.
  • Straightforward, robust, non-politically-correct attitude.
  • “Seize the day”, live-for-the-moment approach.
  • Curiosity and interest in outsiders.

Even the climate varies, from the green, hilly north to the desert in the south. This is a place of contrast.