Israel is a Jewish state and just over three quarters of its residents are Jews. About a fifth are Arabs, mainly descendants of Palestinians, who remained in Israel when Israel was proclaimed in 1948. The dominant languages are Hebrew and Arabic.
The term sabra is often used. That means being native to Israel or the area before the state of Israel was formed. By and large, Jewish residents can be divided into main groups based on geographical family background. The immigration waves have succeeded:
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Israel, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Ashkenazer has moved in from Central or Eastern Europe, especially before the state was proclaimed in 1948.
Mizrahim are Oriental Jews whose families have lived in North Africa, the Middle East or Turkey. Back in time, many of them also have backgrounds in Spain. They are also called s efards, by the Hebrew name of Spain, Sepharad. From Spain, the Jews were expelled by Christian regents in 1492. To Israel came Oriental Jews, especially during the first decades of the modern state.
Falasher are Ethiopian Jews, who arrived in the 1980s.
Russian Jews are the largest group of immigrants from former Soviet states during the first half of the 1990s. Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, few Jews were allowed to emigrate.
With a focus on faith or lifestyle one can make a completely different classification of the Jewish population. In Israel, there is a very wide range between people who are believers and those who live completely secularized (see Religion).
The Arabs in Israel, over a million people, make up a slightly larger proportion of the population than immigrants from Russia. Israeli Arabs are an official term, some of them use themselves, while others also want to identify themselves as Palestinians. But above all, it is the residents of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank who are called Palestinians. In the three areas, the Arabs have the goal of forming an independent state and they have international support for their claims.
There are three worldviews among the Arabic speakers: Sunni Islam, Christianity and the religion of the Drusians.
The drusts, about 140,000 people in Israel, make up less than a few percent of the country’s population. They are often included among the Arabs, but have partly different conditions. Unlike the Arabs, they do military service, which, among other things, gives greater access to the labor market. There are also druses in Syria and Lebanon.
Bedouins are originally nomads and shepherds. Today, they live as a marginalized group in modern society. They differ more socially than ethnically from the Arabs at large.
Cherries are a small group. They are Sunni Muslims but not Arabs.
In Israel, there are a total of about 160,000 Christian citizens. Eighty percent of Christians are Arabs, almost all of the rest come from Russia and have either Jewish outlaws or Jewish spouses. About 50,000 Christians live on the West Bank (land occupied by Israel).
Catholics who are migrant workers from other countries also live in Israel. The number may vary from year to year, but in recent years their number has been estimated to at least 50,000. Many come from the Philippines.
Since 2005, at least 35,000 Eritreans and Sudanese are estimated to have traveled to Israel via Egypt, driven from their home countries by dictatorship and fighting, but at the same time attracted by the hope that jobs could be found in Israel. The flow was halted in 2012 when an Israeli border barrier was completed, but the presence of Africans led to tensions, including in southern Tel Aviv, where many of them live.
A large group claiming domicile law in Israel is Palestinian refugees. In connection with the formation of Israel and the war between 1948 and 1949, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled. A total of more than five million Palestinians (those who fled and their descendants) are currently registered by the UN as refugees. More than two million live in areas outside Israel but under Israeli direct or indirect control: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Large refugee groups are also located in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Organizations representing the Palestinians are adhering to the requirement that they be allowed to return to their home areas, but Israel says no. In the most far-reaching negotiations that took place (linked to the Oslo process in the 1990s), there were proposals that the refugees should receive compensation for lost property but offered to relocate to a number of other countries,
Hebrew is the official language. The Arabic language has a special status under Israeli law, but lost its status as an official language with the new Nationality Act 2018 (see Calendar).
Both Hebrew and Arabic are Semitic languages with their own alphabets developed from Aramaic writing. For more than a thousand years, Hebrew remained alive only as a religious language. In medieval Europe, the Ashkenazis developed a new language, Yiddish, based on high German with Hebrew and Slavic loanwords. Eleven million people or two-thirds of the world’s Jews spoke Yiddish before World War II, but after the war the number of Yiddish speakers had more than halved. The language is spoken everyday by ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel, and both magazines and literature are published in Yiddish. Fewer than the Yiddish-speaking Israelis are those who speak the old Sephardic language ladino (“Jewish Spanish”) or the Arabic mixed language of the Moghrabi of the Moroccan Jews.
Hebrew began to be revived as a spoken language in the late 1800s, mainly thanks to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who ran a campaign for the Jews of Palestine to speak Hebrew. Hebrew has played a central role in creating an Israeli identity. In science and technology, modern Hebrew has many borrowing words from German or Yiddish.
Nearly one-third of Israel’s Jews also understand Arabic, while most Israeli Arabs also understand Hebrew.
English is understood by many, and Russian is widely used.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Jews 76%, Arabs and other 24% (2008)
Number of residents
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
92.3 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
21.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
5.1 per 1000 residents (2016)
1.9 percent (2017)
3.1 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.3 percent (2017)
82 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
84 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
81 years (2016)
Hebrew and Arabic are the main language 1
- Yiddish, Ladino, Moghrabi, Russian are minority