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Israeli society
Israeli society


... Look how well and how pleasant is for the brothers to live together and close.
(Psalms, 133:1)

Israel is the hearth of a very diverse population who comes from many ethnic, community, religious, cultural and social backgrounds. She is a new society with ancient roots that nowadays keeps on crystallizing and developing. Of his 6,4 million inhabitants, 77,8 % is Jewish, 17,3 % is Arabs (most of Moslem them), and 4,9 % remainder is formed by Druzes, Circassian and others, not classified by religion. The society is relatively young and he is characterized by a social and religious commitment, a political ideology, an economic ingenuity and a cultural creativity, which grant impulse to his continuous development.

The women of Israel
The feminine chapters are nowadays more influential than never, contributing to the advance of the position of the woman in Israel, across appeals to the Supreme Court and blockades of discriminatory legislations.

Minority communities

It understands about 1,5 million person, that they represent almost 23 per cent of the population, and are not Jewish women. Although they are defined collectively as Arab citizens of Israel, there include a series of different groups, mostly of Arab speech, each of which with his distinctive characteristics.

Moslem Arabs, almost a million persons, most of which are sunitas, live principally in villages and small peoples, more than half of them in the north of the country.

The Bedouin Arabs, also Moslem (it is believed that there are approximately 170.000), they belong to approximately thirty tribes, most of which are dispersed in a wide region in the south of the country. In the past they were shepherds nómades and at present they are spending a process of transition of a tribal traditional social frame to a sedentary society and gradually they are joining by force labor of Israel.

Christian Arabs, are about 113.000 persons, they live mostly in urban areas, which include Nazareth, Shefaram and Haifa. Although there are many denominations represented nominally, most of the members of the community are affiliated to the Greek Catholic Church, Roman Orthodox and Catholic Greek. 

The Druzes, about Arab 106.000 speakers, live in 22 villages in the north of Israel, constitute a separated cultural, social and religious community. Although the religion drusa is inaccessible for the strangers, one of the aspects known about his philosophy is the concept of taqiyya, which calls to an entire allegiance of his faithful to the government of the country in which they reside. 

The Circassian ones, which add up about 3.000 persons concentrated on two villages of the Galilee, are Muslims sunitas, although they share neither the Arab origin nor the cultural background of the big Islamic community. Having supported his distinctive ethnic identity throughout the years, nowadays they take part in diverse branches of the economy and in some aspects of the national matters without resembling either the Jewish society or the Moslem community. 

The Arab migrations inside and out of the country they have fluctuated in accordance with the reigning economic conditions. At the end of the XIXth century, when the Jewish immigration stimulated the economic growth, many Arabs were attracted to the area by his possibilities of employment, high wages and better living conditions.

Most of the Arab population of Israel live in peoples and autosufficient villages in the Galilee, including the city of Nazareth, the central area between Hadera and Pétaj Tikvá, the Néguev and in mixed urban areas like Jerusalem, Acco, Haifa, Lod, Ramle and Yafo.

The Arab community of Israel constitutes predominantly a working sector in a society of middle class, a peripheral political group in the highly centralized state and a minority of Arab speech inside most of Hebrew speech. Essentially not assimilated, the existence separated from the community is seen facilitated by means of the use of the Arab, second official language of Israel, a separated school system by Arab / Druze, Arab mass media, literature and theater, and the mantención of Moslem independent courts, Druzes and Christians who treat matters of personal status. Although the culture and the customs of the past are still a part of the everyday life, the gradual weakening of the tribal and patriarchal authority, the effects of the obligatory education and the participation in the economic, municipal and political matters of the country affect quickly to the forms of life and the traditional conceptions. Concurrentemente, the status of the Israeli Arab woman has been liberalized significantly by means of a legislation that stipulates the rights equality for the woman, prohibition of the polygamy and the children's marriage.

The political participation of the Arab sector is evident in the national and municipal elections. Arab citizens handle the political and administrative matters of their own municipalities and represent the Arab interests across his elect representatives in the Knéset (Israeli parliament), who activate in the political scene to promote the status of the minority groups and his participation in the national benefits.

From the establishment of Israel (1948), the Arabs have been exempt from the obligatory military service in the Forces of Defense of Israel (FDI), taking in consideration his familiar, religious and cultural affiliations with the Arab world (with which Israel has been in a long conflict), as well as the worry for possible double allegiances. In parallel, the voluntary military service is stimulated, there being some of them that choose this option every year. From 1957, by request of his community leaders, the military service has been obligatory for the males Druzes and Circassian, and the number of Bedouins who integrate to the military career increases constantly.

Cultural life in the Arab sector

The cultural life in the Arab sector, inside the frame of the community in itself and like part of the cultural current of the country, express the affinity of this population to the Arab world in its entirety and to his minority group status in Israel. In the first years of the state the works of writers and Arab poets were characterized by his local, rural, popular topics in the conservative and semi-closed society of those days; the contemporary literature incorporates traditional Arab influences and modern western tendencies. The prose and Arab poetry are translated for the Hebrew, and Hebrew writings appear in translation to the Arabic in books or in some of the flourishing literary magazines. The music, the theater, the dance and the art center on creative activities that tend to integrate the popular folkloric traditions with diverse forms of Islamic and western art.

Some Arab authors (Anthony Shammas, Michel Haddad, Emile Habibi) and actors (Muhammad Bakri, Yusuf Abu Varda and Mauhram Khoury) have achieved protrusion between the Israeli public in general, and the dances performances and folkloric music Arab - Jewish woman attract a public enthusiast. A production realized in 1994 of "Romeo and Julieta" by a set of Jewish and Arab actors of Jerusalem, operated in both languages simultaneously: Hebrew and Arab, obtained national and international acclamation and traveled on the outside. The Arabs take active part in the electronic means of communication of the country like producers, montajistas, announcers, commentators and actors, both in the general means of radio and television and in the programming in Arab.

As in other ethnic sectors of the country, the Arab cultural activities and the preservation of his cultural legacy are promoted by diverse government and voluntary agencies that offer assistance, from scholarships to writers and artists up to support to museums and cultural centers.

Dynamics Arab - Jewish woman

The Arab citizens, who constitute more of the sixth part of the population of Israel, exist to the margin of the difficult worlds of Jews and Palestinians. Nevertheless, being supported like segment of the Arab people in culture and identity, and discussing the identification of Israel like the Jewish state, they see his future joined Israel. In the process, they have adopted the Hebrew one like the second language and the Israeli culture like one more stratum in his lives. Simultaneously, they fight to obtain a major grade of participation in the national life, a major integration to the economy and major benefits for his peoples and villages. 

The development of the intergroup relations between Israeli and Jewish Arabs has turned out to be hindered by differences deeply established in the religion, values and political conceptions. Nevertheless, in spite of coexisting like two autosegregated communities, with running of the years they have been accepted mutually, recognizing the singularity and aspirations of every community.

Pluralism and segregation

How multiethnic, multicultural society and multilíng? and, Israel has a high level of molds of segregation. Although the groups are not separated by an official politics, different sectors inside the society are a little segregated and support a strong cultural, religious, ideological and/or ethnic identity.

Nevertheless, in spite of a quite high grade of social segmentation, some economic disparities and a political life often too heated, the society is relatively balanced and stable. The moderate social conflicts level between the different groups, in spite of his inherent potential of social anxiety, can be attributed to the judicial and political systems of the country, which represent a strict legal and civic equality.

This way, Israel is not a crucible society, but rather a mosaic formed by different groups of population that coexist in the frame of the democratic state.

Freedom of religion

The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (1948) guarantees the cult freedom to the whole population. Any community is free, for law and in fact, of practising his faith, observing his festivities and his weekly day of rest, and of administering his internal matters. Every community has its own advices and religious courts, with jurisdiction on all the religious matters and of personal status, like marriage and divorce. Each one has her own cult places, having developed throughout the traditional ritual centuries and special architectural characteristics.

Synagog: The traditional orthodox Jewish rite needs a minyán (quorum of ten adult males). The prayers take place three times per day. Men and women feel separated, and the head is covered. The services can be led by a rabbi, a singer or a member of the gathering. The rabbi is not a priest or an intermediary with God, but a teacher. The central point of the synagog is the Sacred Ark directed to the Mount of the Temple in Jerusalem and it contains the rolls of the Torá. A prescribed weekly portion is read cyclically, throughout the whole year. The services are particularly solemn in Shabat (Saturday, the day of Jewish rest) and in festivities.

Mosque: The Moslem prayers take place five times per day. Men and women pray separately. The shoes must come out, and it is possible to realize a ritual ablution, they pray going towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia, direction that is indicated by a mihrab (niche) in the wall of the mosque. The services are realized by a magnet, entrusted of directing the prayers. Every Friday, the traditional day of Moslem rest, pronounces generally a sermon.

Church: The form and frequency of the services changes according to the respective denomination, but they observe all on Sunday, day of Christian rest, with special rituals. The services are led by a priest or by the minister. Men and women pray together. The men in general discover the head, the women can cover it. The services are accompanied by music and choral singing. Traditionally, the churches are cruciform.

Holy places:

Every place and sanctum is administered by his excellent religious authority and the freedom of access and cult they are guaranteed by the law.

The principal Holy Places are:

Jews: The Kotel, the Western Wall ("Lamentations), last remnant of the wall of containment of the Second Temple and the Mount of the Temple, in Jerusalem; Raquel's Grave, close to Bethlehem (Beit Lejem); the Grave of the Patriarchs in the Cave of the Macpelá in Hebrón; the graves of Maimónides (Rambam) in Tiberíades and of Rabbi Shimón Bar Yojái in Merón.

Islamic: Haram ash-Sharif, building complex in the Mount of the Temple that includes the Dome of the Rock and the mosque of The Aksa; Grave of the Patriarchs in Hebrón; Mosque Al-Jazzar in Acco.

Christians: Painful route, Cenacle, Church of the Holy Tomb and other places of the passion and Jesus's crucifixion in Jerusalem; Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem; Church of the Announcement in Nazareth; Monte de las Beatitudes, Tabja and Capernaum close to Mar de Galilea (Lake Kinéret).

Druzes: Nebi Shueib (Jetró grave, Cradle father-in-law), close to Horns of Hittín in the Galilee.

Bahaí (independent world religion founded on Persia in the middle of the XIXth century): World center Bahaí, in Haifa; Baha grave '-Alla, founding prophet of the movement, close to Acco.

The caraítas, a Jewish sect that goes back a VIIIth century, professes a strict adhesion to the Torá (The Pentateuco) like the only source of the religious law. Although it is considered to be a faction of the Judaism and not a separated community, the caraítas support their own religious courts and tend to marry between them. Nowadays they live in Israel through several thousands of caraítas, principally in Ramle, Ashdod and Beer Sheva.

The Samaritans think themselves as real Jews, being faithful only to the Torá and to his immediate continuation, Josué's Book. The Mount Gerizim, in Samaria, is his sacred place, affirming that there Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac and Salomón constructed the First Temple. Being considered to be progeny of 10 lost Israelite tribes, them about 00 members of the ancient people Samaritan live nowadays in two localities; almost the half in the village of Kiriat Luza close to the top of "the mount", and another half, which they are Israeli citizens, in their own mini-quarter in Wasps nest, close to Tel Aviv. They speak Arabic in his everyday life, and use an archaic form of Hebrew in his liturgy. Up to where it is known, there are no other Samaritans in the world.

Source: MFA - Foreign Office of Israel

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