ישראלים‎ Yisra'elim
الإسرائيليين‎ Isrāʼīliyyin
Regions with significant populations
Majority population
Israel Israel 7,746,000 [1]
Minority population
United States United States 500,000 [2]
India India 60,000 [3]
United Kingdom United Kingdom 11,892 [4]

Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English, Aramaic


Judaism Predominantly Judaism,
minority Islam Islam, Christianity Christianity, Druze Druze,
Judaism Samaritanism, Atheism

Related ethnic groups

Jews, Arabs, Semitic groups

Israelis (Hebrew: ישראלים Yisra'elim, Arabic: الإسرائيليين al-Isrāʼīliyyin), are citizens or nationals of the modern state of Israel. Although Israel is a Jewish state, it has a multiethnic society, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds. The largest ethnic group is that of Israeli Jews, followed by Arab citizens (who mostly consider themselves Palestinian by nationality), mostly Arab Muslims, with smaller numbers of Arab Christians in addition to Druze, Circassians, and others. As a result, some Israelis don't take their nationality as an ethnicity, but identify themselves with both their nationality and their ancestral origins.

Due to the multi-ethnic composition, Israel is a multicultural nation, home to a wide variety of traditions and values. Large-scale aliyah in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from diaspora communities in Europe and Yemen and more recent large-scale aliyah from North Africa, Western Asia, North America, Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia introduced many new cultural elements and has had broad impact. The resulting cultural mix may be described as a melting pot.

Israelis and people of Israeli descent can be found internationally such as in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. As many as 750,000 Israelis are estimated to be living abroad, primarily in the France, United States and Canada - about 10 percent of the general population of Israel.[5]


According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, as of May 2006, of Israel's 7 million people, 77% were Jews of
Man and Woman

Israelis on the street.

any background, 18.5% non-Jewish Arabs, and 4.3% "others".[6] Israel's official census includes Israeli settlers in the occupied territories,[7] 280,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements in the West Bank,[8] 190,000 in East Jerusalem,[9] and 20 000 in the Golan Heights.[10]

Among Jews, 68% were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel) — 22% from Europe and the Americas, and 10% from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries.[11] Nearly half of all Israeli Jews are descended from Jews who returned from the diaspora from Europe, while around the same number are descended from Jews who immigrated from Arab countries, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia. Over two hundred thousand are, or are descended from, Ethiopian and Indian Jews.[12]

Israel has two official languages; Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the major and primary language of the state and is spoken by the majority of the population. 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, Georgian, Romanian, Polish and French. American and European popular television shows are commonly presented. Newspapers can be found in all languages listed above as well as others, such as Persian.

In recent decades, considerable numbers of Israelis, estimated broadly from 653,000[13] to twice that figure, have moved abroad.[14] (see also Yerida). Reasons for emigration vary, but generally relate to a combination of economic and political concerns. Los Angeles is home to the largest community of Israelis out of Israel.

Ethnic and religious groups

The most prominent ethnic and religious groups, who live in Israel at present and who are Israeli citizens or nationals, are as follows:


According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2008, of Israel's 7.3 million people, 75.6 percent were Jews of any background. Among them, 70.3 percent were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel) – 20.5 percent from Europe and the Americas, and 9.2 percent from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries.[15]

Ethnic Makeup of Jewish Population of Israel
TOTAL 5,818,000 100%
Mizrahi Jews and Sephardic Jews 2,921,000 50.2%
Morocco 800,000 15.2%
Iraq 404,000 7.7%
Yemen 295,000 4.9%
Iran 236,000 4.0%
Algeria/Tunisia 224,000 3.8%
Other Asia 150,000 2.5%
Turkey 147,000 2.5%
Libya 136,000 2.3%
Egypt 112,000 1.9%
Other Asia 200,000 1.7%
India/Pakistan 76,000 1.3%
Latin America 25,000 0.04%
Other Africa (Not South Africa) 3,000 0.05%
Beta Israel (Ethiopia) 130,000 2.2%
Ashkenazi Jews 2,767,000 47.5%
Russia 1,018,000 20.9%
Poland 400,000 8.3%
Romania 351,000 7.6%
Other Europe 168,000 3.7%
North America (Including 4,000 African American Black Hebrews) 165,000 2.8%
Germany/Austria 160,000 2.7%
Bulgaria/Greece 97,000 1.9%
Latin America 82,000 1.4%
Hungary 63,000 1.3%
Czechoslovakia 60,000 1.2%
South Africa 20,000 0.4%


170px-Arab population israel 2000 en

Map of Arab population, 2000

Arab citizens of Israel are those Arabs who remained within Israel's borders following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the establishment of the state of Israel, including those born within the state borders subsequent to this time, as well as those who had left during the exodus (or their descendants) who have since re-entered by means accepted as lawful residence by the Israeli state (primarily family reunifications).

In 2006, the official number of Arab residents in Israel was 1,413,500 people, about 20 percent of Israel’s 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.[16]

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, as well as Arab Druze, among other religious communities.

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 Oriental Orthodox and Catholic denominations).

Negev Bedouin

The Arab citizens of Israel include also the Bedouins who are divided into two main groups: the Bedouin in the north of Israel, who live in villages and towns for the most part, and the Bedouin in the Negev, who include half-nomadic and inhabitants of towns and Unrecognized villages. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of 1999, 110,000 Bedouins live in the Negev, 50,000 in the Galilee and 10,000 in the central region of Israel.[17]

Other Arabic speaking ethnic groups


The Arab citizens of Israel include also the Druze who were numbered at an estimated 117,500 at the end of 2006.
Amin tarif

Spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze, Sheikh Amin Tarif, 1950.

[18] of the Druze living in what was then British Mandate Palestine became Israeli citizens after the declaration of the State of Israel. Though some individuals identify themselves as "Palestinian Druze",[19] most Druze do not consider themselves to be 'Palestinian', and consider their Israeli identity stronger than their Arab identity. Druze serve prominently in the Israel Defense Forces, and are represented in mainstream Israeli politics and business as well, unlike Muslim Arabs who are not required to and choose not to serve in the Israeli army.

Arameans and Maronites

In September 2014, Israel has recognized the "Aramean" national identity for over 130,000 Arabic-speaking Christian Israeli citizens. This recognition comes after an activity of around 7 years, headed by the Aramean Christian Foundation in Israel - Aram, lead 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 national identity will now encompass all the Christian Eastern Syriac churches, including the Maronite Church, in Israel. [20][21][22] The Maronite Christian community in Israel of around 7,000 resides mostly in the Galilee, with some presentation in Haifa, Nazareth and Jerusalem. It is largely composed of former pro-Israeli Lebanese militia members and their families, who fled Lebanon after 2000 withdrawal of IDF from South Lebanon, though some originate from local Galilee communities, like one in Jish.


Some 1,000 Israeli citizens belong to the Coptic community, originated in Egypt.

Other citizens

African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem

The African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem is a small spiritual group whose members believe they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. With a population of over 5,000, most members live in their own community in Dimona, Israel, with additional families in Arad, Mitzpe Ramon, and the Tiberias area. At least some of them consider themselves to be Jewish, but mainstream Judaism does not consider them to be Jewish. Their ancestors were African Americans who after several years in Liberia migrated to Israel in the late 1960s.


About 4,000 Armenians reside in Israel mostly in Jerusalem (including in the Armenian Quarter), but also in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jaffa. Armenians have a Patriarchate in Jerusalem and churches in Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa. Although Armenians of Old Jerusalem have Israeli identity cards, they are officially holders of Jordanian passports.[23]


There are around 1,000 ethnic 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. The old 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 and the Chaldean Catholic Church living in Israel.


In Israel, there are also a few thousand Circassians, living mostly in Kfar Kama (2,000) and Reyhaniye (1,000).[24]
Circassians in Israel

Circassians in Kfar Kama


Although most Finns in Israel are either Finnish Jews or their decedents, a small number of Finnish Christians moved to Israel in the 1940s before the independence and have since then gained citizenship following the independence, for the most part many of the original Finnish settlers intermarried with the other Israeli communities in the country, and therefore remain very small in number, A moshav near Jerusalem named "Yad Ha'Shmona"" meaning the Memorial for the eight or the hand for the eight was established in 1971 by a group of Finnish Christian-Israelis although today most members are Israeli and are predominantly Hebrew speakers.[25][26]


Some Eastern European Roma are known to have arrived in Israel in the late 1940s and early 1950s, being from Bulgaria or having intermarried with Jews in the post-WWII displaced persons camps or, in some cases, having pretended to be Jews when Zionist representatives arrived in those camps. The exact numbers of these Romanies living in Israel are unknown, since such individuals tended to assimilate into the Israeli Jewish environment. According to several recent accounts in the Israeli press, some families preserve traditional Romani lullabies and a small number of Romani expressions and curse words, and pass them on to generations born in Israel who, for the most part, are Jews and speak Hebrew.[citation needed] The Romani community in Israel has grown since the 1990s, as some Roma immigrated there from the former Soviet Union. A community related to the Romanies and living in Israel and the Palestinian territories and in neighboring countries are known as Dom people.

East Europeans

Non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union many of whom are indigenous 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. A very small number of these immigrants also belong to various non-Slavic ethnic groups from the Former Soviet Union such as Tatars. In addition, a certain number of former Soviet citizens, primarily women of Russian and Ukrainian ethnicity, immigrated to Israel, after marrying Muslim or Christian Arab citizens of Israel, who went to study in the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. The total number of those primarily Slavic ancestry people among Israeli citizens is around 300,000.


The Samaritans (Hebrew: שומרונים, Arabic: السامريون) are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Ancestrally, they claim descent from a group of Israelite inhabitants who have connections to ancient Samaria from the beginning of the Babylonian Exile up to the beginning of the Common Era. 2007 population estimates show that 712 Samaritans live half in Holon, Israel and half at Mount Gerizim in the West Bank. The Holon community holds Israeli citizenship, while the Gerizim community resides at an Israeli controlled enclave, holding dual Israeli-Palestinian citizenship.


The number of Vietnamese people in Israel is estimated at 200-400. Most of them came to Israel in between 1976–1979, after prime minister Menachem Begin authorized their admission to Israel and granted them political asylum. The Vietnamese people living in Israel are Israeli citizens who also serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Today, the majority of the community lives in the Gush Dan area in the center of Israel but also a few dozen Vietnamese-Israelis or Israelis of Vietnamese origin live in Haifa, Jerusalem and Ofakim.

Naturalized foreign workers

Some naturalized foreign workers and their Israeli born children, predominantly from the Philippines, Nepal, Nigeria, Senegal, Romania, China, Cyprus, Turkey, Thailand and Latin America.


African refugees

220px-Meeting between Sudanese refugees and Israeli students

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 recent check (late 2011) published in Ynet pointed out the Number only in Tel Aviv is 40,000 which represents 10 percent of the city's population. The vast majority is living at the southern parts of the city. There is a significant population in the southern Israeli cities of Eilat, Arad and BeerSheva.

Foreign Workers

There are around 300,000 foreign workers, residing in Israel under temporary work visas. Most of those foreign workers engage in agriculture and construction. The main groups of those foreign workers include the Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Nigerian, Romanian and Latin Americans.

Other refugees

Approximately 100-200 refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo, Kurdistan and North Korea who were absorbed in Israel as refugees, most of them were also given Israeli resident status and currently reside in Israel.[27]

Israeli diaspora

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. The number of immigrants to 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.[28] 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 problem."[29]

The term for Israelis who emigrate out of Israel is yerida (Hebrew: רידה), which is opposite of the aliyah, the immigration to Israel.

Among the most common reasons for emigration of Israelis from Israel are most often due to economic constraints, economic characteristics (U.S. and Canada have always been richer nations than Israel), disappointment of the Israeli government, Israel's ongoing security Issues, as well as the excessive role of religion in the lives of Israelis.

The vast majority of native-born Israeli Jews who emigrate abroad return after a period of time abroad.[30]

United States of America

Many Israelis emigrated 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. According to the 2000 United States Census as many as 106,839 Israelis lived in the United States in 2000.[31] Other estimates say the number of Americans of Israeli descent is around half a million.[32][33][34]


Many Israelis emigrated 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. According to the Canada 2006 Census as many as 21,320 Israelis lived in Canada in 2006.[35]

United Kingdom

Many Israelis emigrated 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. According to the United Kingdom 2001 Census as many as 11,892 Israelis lived in the United Kingdom in 2001. The majority of Israelis in the UK live in London.[36]


The first account of an Israeli nation is a state which dominated the modern land of Israel, the Kingdom of Israel (Hebrew: ממלכת ישראל); its
Kingdom of Israel 1020 map svg

The Kingdom of Israel at its greatest extension

latest capital was known as the Davidian city (Jerusalem). 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 (originally from Greece)[citation needed] and other neighboring tribes is said by the Bible to have forced the Israelites to unite as a more singular state.

The Israelite tribes were united under the monarch known by King David (Hebrew: דוד המלך), who helped Israel become the dominant force in the Middle East and conquered other kingdoms to establish the Israelite influence.

Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire 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.[37] 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 influx of Jewish immigrants, as well as the creation of many new settlements known as the Aliyahs (Hebrew: עלייה), was crucial for the functioning of these new institutions in what would, on May 14, 1948, become the State of Israel.

Arab-Israeli Military Conflict 1948-present

The upset and anger in the Arab World caused by the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 would begin the decades-long tenure of military conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Israeli Conflict with Egypt, Jordan and Syria

The Israelis defeated the Arab armies in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In 1967, the Israeli army defeated a three-nation alliance of of Arab states (Egypt, Syria and Jordan) for control of Sinai Peninsula, giving the Arab World one of its most
Ink flag

Captain Avraham "Bren" Adan raising the Ink Flag at Umm Rashrash (a site now in Eilat), marking the end of the war

humiliating defeats. Afterwards, President Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt initiated the War of Attrition, the name speaks it all; an "attrition war" is fought using a strategy of prolonged fighting to deplete the opponent of its military resources. The war included battles on all land, air and sea and served as a testing ground between the Soviet Union and the United States, the Soviets supported the Arab states while the United States and the western powers supported Israel. Israel was again, very successful and turned the war in their favor since most battles of the War of Attrition ended up in an Israeli victory although it was considered a draw since no significant border changes were made, both Israel and Egypt claimed victory. The Egyptian failure pointed towards a victory for Israel, but the large-scale losses inflicted by Soviet-backed Egyptian forces marked a mental victory for many Egyptians. The Israeli Navy also gave the Egyptian Navy humiliating defeats. Eventually, the Israeli victories and the streak of Arab failures soon gave the Israeli army a feeling of invincibility, even some Arab leaders were beginning to believe that and morale was becoming devastated for the state armies in the Arab World. It isn't until 1973, when Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat and Syrian president Hafez al-Assad initiated the Yom Kippur War (Hebrew: מלחמת יום הכיפורים) or the October War of 1973, which fell on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur and the Islamic Ramadan which were both the utmost holiest times of each religion. The Israeli army suffered

Victorious Israeli MTB crew raise the broom on the topmast as a traditional maritime sign of victory.

numerous losses at the beginning of the war, which ended Israel's feeling of military dominance, the Arab attacks were mostly surprise attacks on the night of Yom Kippur. Although Israel would later repulse the invasion and win the war, the early victories gave the Arab World a propaganda victory and inflicted a mental loss for the Israelis. It was also one of the first wars to see large pockets of Israeli soldiers surrender which caused prime minister Golda Meir (Hebrew: זהב מאיר), how had been a very instrumental Israeli politician, to retire from Israeli politics due to pressures caused by the war. In 1978, the succeeding prime minister Menachim Begin (Hebrew: מנחם בגין) signed the Camp David Accords with Anwar el-Sadat, and Israel was finally recognized by Egypt as a legitimate state. Throughout Israel's wars with the Arab armies, the Israeli army owed much of its success to military leader Moshe Dayan (Hebrew: משה דיין), who is considered the fighting symbol of the Israelis, and of Jews .

Conflicts with Palestinians and Lebanon

In 1967, Palestinians and Jordanians fought an Israeli invasion in the Jordanian city of Karameh. For the Palestinians, the Israeli army had to deal with militant leader Yasser Arafat who took leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1982 and 2006 Israel invaded Lebanon due to the presence of Palestinian militants in the southern parts of the country. In 2008, Israel invaded the Gaza Strip (located near Egypt, southwest of Israel) as a retaliation for rockets fired by the Hamas, a Sunni militant group that controls Gaza. Then, the presence of a Shia militant group known as the Hezbollah (Arabic: حزب الله) had led the Israelis to invade southern Lebanon again in 2006. The Israelis experienced large-scale losses against the Hezbollah, who posed the only real-standing threat to the Israeli army. Although many of these operations came with the aid of Druze soldiers, the Druze are an Arabic-speaking group within the Levant and in Israel are not considered to be Arab.


The largest cities in the country Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem are 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 importation: 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.

Religion in Israel

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2004, 76.2% of Israelis were Jewish by religion (Judaism), 16.1% were Muslims, 2.1% Christian, 1.6% Druze and the remaining 3.9% (including Russian
200px-Temple Mount Western Wall on Shabbat by David Shankbone

Western Wall and Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

immigrants and some ethnic Jews) were not classified by religion.[38]

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 Halakha); 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 Passover seder.[39]

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.

Among Arab Israelis, 82.6% were Muslim, 8.8% were Christian and 8.4% were Druze.[40]

The Bahá'í World Centre, which includes the Universal House of Justice, in Haifa attracts pilgrims from all over the world.[41] Apart from a few hundred volunteer staff, Bahá'ís do not live in Israel.

Religious Makeup of Israel
Religion Population % of total
Jewish 5,435,900 76.0%
Muslim 1,142,000 15.9%
Christian 120,000 1.8%
Druze 115,200 1.7%
Unclassified by choice 302,400 4.6%

Official figures do not exist as to the number of atheists or otherwise non-affiliated individuals, who may comprise up to a quarter of the population referred to as Jewish. According to a 2004 Israel Central Bureau of Statistics Study on Israelis aged over 8% of Israeli Jews define themselves as haredim (or Ultra-Orthodox); an additional 9% are "religious" (predominantly orthodox, also known in Israel as: Zionist-religious, national-religious and kippot srugot); 12% consider themselves "religious-traditionalists" (mostly adhering to Jewish Halakha); 27% are "non-religious traditionalists" (only partly respecting the Jewish Halakha), and 43% are "secular". Among the seculars, 53% say they believe in God. Due to the higher natality rate of religious and traditionalists over seculars, the share of religious and traditionalists among the overall population is even higher.


Due to its immigrant nature, Israel is one of the most multicultural and multilingual societies in the world. Hebrew and

Signs in Israel in Hebrew, Arabic and English, one of them underwent vandalization

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, Amharic, Armenian, Bulgarian, Ladino, French, Persian, Hungarian, Spanish, German, Vietnamese, Thai, Tagalog and Polish are the most other commonly used 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.


Modern Hebrew is Isael's first official state language and was the language of its foundation. During the diaspora eras of
Israeli declaration of independance

A portion of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, written in Modern Hebrew

the Jews, Hebrew was an archaic language used only inside the temple. Lithuanian Jewish linguist Eliezer ben-Yehuda (Hebrew: אליעזר בן יהודה) developed a modern-day spoken form of Hebrew, although different from Biblical Hebrew. One of the most successful language revival programs, Hebrew ended up becoming an official language of Mandatory Palestine and eventually, Israel's first official state language. The Israeli Declaration of Independence (Hebrew: הכרזת העצמאות) was written in Hebrew. Israel's national anthem, the Hatikvah (Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה) literally Hebrew for "the Hope", is also sung in Hebrew. It is the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language that hastened the Zionist movements and the Aliyahs to Israel - making it easier to unite Jews who had a will to emigrate to Israel. Following these mass migrations of Jews to Israel, almost all of them abandoned their native languages at birth and taught their kids Modern Hebrew. Despite the centralized nature of Hebrew, different pronunciations and dialects of Modern Hebrew exist, especially among the three main Jewish groupings: Ashkenazis, Mizrahis and Sephardis. Mizrahi Hebrew and Sephardi Hebrew are often very similar. Ashkenazi Hebrew contains pronounciation and a sub-stratum highly influenced by German and Russian, while Mizrahi and Sephardi Hebrew has an Arabic-like pronounciation and sub-stratum.

Today, Hebrew is not only the first official language, but also the main lingua franca of all Israeli citizens in general, no matter their ethnicity. Modern Hebrew is administered by the Academy of the Hebrew Language (Hebrew: הָאָקָדֶמְיָה לַלָּשׁוֹן הָעִבְרִית), which is the supreme institution for Hebrew-language scholarships. The academy is owned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew: האוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים), which is Israel's second oldest university and contains the world's largest Jewish studies.


Israeli Arabic

An Israeli street sign in Hebrew, Arabic and English

Arabic is spoken mostly by the Arab citizens of Israel with a few Mizrahi communities, mostly elders. Arabic is the second official state language of Israel, and the use of Arabic increased significantly following Supreme Court rulings in the 1990s. There are laws that secure the Arab population's right to receive information in Arabic. All major contexts in Israel, which are written in Hebrew must by accompanied with Arabic and English translation. Unavailability of an Arabic translation can be regarded as a legal defense only if the defendant proves he could not understand the meaning of the law in any conceivable way. Following appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court, the use of Arabic on street signs and labels increased dramatically. In response to one of the appeals presented by Arab Israeli organizations,[which?] the Supreme Court ruled that although second to Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of the State of Israel, and should be used extensively. Today most highway signage is trilingual (Hebrew, Arabic, and English).

Although Standard Arabic is Israel's second official state language, most Arab Israelis are speakers of the Palestinian dialect of Arabic, sometimes known as Israeli Arabic with Druze and Maronites on Israel. The Mizrahi elders who still speak Arabic speak the dialect known as Judeo-Arabic, which was the dialect of Jews living in the Arab World prior to the creation of Israel. Arabic spoken in Israel is administered by The Arabic Language Academy (Arabic: مجمع اللغة العربية, Hebrew: אקדמיה ללשון ערבית) located in the city of Haifa, which functions in the same way as the Hebrew Academy.

In the summer of 2008, there was an unsuccessful attempt of right-wing lawmakers to strip Arabic of its status alongside Hebrew as an official language of the state.[42]


Thanks to decades-long ties with western powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom, English is Israel's most-spoken non-official language. Almost all Israeli citizens are fluent and can understand English. Alongside Hebrew and Arabic, signs in Israel also contain English translations. Secular Israelis also have a great knowledge and possession of English.


Russian sign in Israel

A shop in Haifa with Russian and Hebrew signs

Israel is also Russophone. Unlike the other Jewish migrants, who tended to lose their native languages - many Jews (mostly Ashkenazi and a few Mizrahis) from the former Soviet Union did not. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992, a mass influx of Jews from Russia and other former Soviet territory flooded Israel taking with them, the Russian language. It is not uncommon to hear Russian being spoken in Israel, as it is the second most-spoken non-official language in Israel from English. Some Russians who migrate to Israel even deny being tought Hebrew, and do not speak Hebrew either. Israel contains the world's third-largest Russian-speaking population outside
Russian book store

A Russian bookstore in Arad

of the former Soviet Union. The cities of Ashdod and Rishon LeZion contain most of Israel's Russian-speaking communities, especially in Rishon LeZion where it is much more common language on the streets than Hebrew. With many Israeli Jews from the former Soviet Union, Russian is still tought to their children as these Jews try to preserve their Russian culture and background. Even with non-Russian speakers in Israel, the Hebrew spoken by Ashkenazi Jews contain a Russian sub-stratum and influence.


Hebrew and Arabic are not the only historical languages spoken in the areas now known as the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories, but another Semitic language known as Aramaic. Before the Arab and Muslim conquests of the region, the native Christians and Jews of Palestine spoke Aramaic. Like Hebrew and Arabic, Aramaic was also de-centralized, and divided into many branches and dialects sometimes considered a language family itself. The native Christians of pre-Islamic Palestine spoke Christian Palestinian Aramaic a western dialect. Recently, many Christians of Israel, particularily in the predominantly-Maronite Catholic city of Gush Halav (Hebrew: גוש חלב) also known as Jish (Arabic: الجش) have been trying to revive Aramaic as a spoken language. With permission from the Israeli Ministry of Education, Aramaic is taught in public schools until the 8th gade in the city of Jish. Although Arabic-speaking Christians, these Maronites of Jish do not consider themselves Arab. In 2014, the Israeli government finally recognized the Aramean ethnicity, which enabled the 117,000-some Arabic-speaking Christians in Israel to register as Arameans and not Arab.


Falafel sandwhich

Falafel sandwich in Israel

Israeli cuisine (Hebrew: המטבח הישראלי‎ ha-mitbach ha-yisra’eli, Arabic: مطبخ الإسرائيلية) comprises local dishes by people native to Israel and dishes brought to Israel by Jews from the Diaspora. Since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and particularly since the late 1970s, an Israeli Jewish fusion cuisine has developed.[43] Jewish culinary law, known as kosher (Hebrew: כשר) or "kashrut" and Islamic culinary law, known as halal (Arabic: حلال) are dominant in Israeli cuisine, both laws prohibit the consumption of pork and all swine meat or conumption of blood. However, Kosher law allows for the consumption of alcohol and not shellfish, and Halal laws prohibit alcoholic consumption but allow shellfish consumption.
Hannukah donuts

Sufganiyot - jelly or cream filled doughnuts served on Hanukkah

Israeli cuisine has adopted, and continues to adapt, elements of various styles of Jewish cuisine and regional Arab cuisine, particularly the Mizrahi, Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of cooking.[44][45]

Other influences on cuisine are the availability of foods common to the Mediterranean region, especially certain kinds of fruits and vegetables, dairy products and fish; the distinctive traditional dishes prepared at holiday times; the tradition of keeping kosher; and food customs specific to Shabbat and different Jewish holidays, such as challah, jachnun, malawach, gefilte fish, cholent (hamin) and sufganiyot.

Falafel (Arabic: فلافل, Hebrew: פלפל) is a deep-fried vegetable dish made from chicpeas, it is an Arab dish that was brought to Israel by Arabs and Mizrahi Jews from Arab nations, and has become a national dish much as it is in
Israel first meal

Israeli breakfast

Lebanon. It can also refer to the sandwhich, made of the vegetable patties wrapped with the pita bread. Hummus (Arabic: الحمص, Hebrew: חומוס), is also another Levantine Arab dish brought over, it is a paste that it usually spread on a pita bread.

New dishes based on agricultural products such as oranges, avocados, dairy products and fish, and others based on world trends have been introduced over the years, and chefs trained abroad have brought in elements of other international cuisines.[46]

Notable Israelis or People Descended from Israeli citizens

Ada Yonath
עדה יונת
Ada Yonath
An Israeli crystallographer best known for her pioneering work on the structure of the ribosome. She is the current director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly of the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2009, she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Ilan Ramon
אילן רמון
220px-Ilan Ramon, NASA photo portrait in orange suit
Born as Ilan Wolferman, an Israeli fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force and later became an astronaut, the first Israeli astronaut, he was part of the seven-man crew that was killed in the Columbia space shuttle disaster, oldest member of the crew
Robert Aumann
ישראל אומן
Also known by "Yisrael Aumman", an Israeli-American mathematician and a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. He is a professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. He also holds a visiting position at Stony Brook University and is one of the founding members of the Center for Game Theory in Economics at Stony Brook. Aumann received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2005
Daniel Kahneman
דניאל כהנמן
Daniel K

An Israeli-American psychologist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He is notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology.

Shari Arison
שרי אריסון

An American-born Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, one of Israel's wealthiest women. She is the owner of several business companies, the largest among them Bank Hapoalim, and of several philanthropic organizations that are subsidiaries of The Ted Arison Family Foundation. Shari is one of The B Team B Leaders. According to Forbes, she is the richest woman in the Middle East, and the only woman to be ranked in the region's top-20 richest people in 2007.

David Ben-Gurion
דָּוִד בֶּן-גּוּרִיּוֹן
David ben gurion
A Polish-born Israeli statesman. He was the main founder and the first Prime Minister of Israel. Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946, he eventually proclaimed the Israeli independance against the British occupation
Shai Agnon
ש"י עגנון

A Nobel Prize laureate writer and was one of the central figures of modern Hebrew fiction. His real name is Shmuel Yosef Agnon, his works deal with the conflict between the traditional Jewish life and language and the modern world. They also attempt to recapture the fading traditions of the European shtetl (village). In a wider context, he also contributed to broadening the characteristic conception of the narrator's role in literature. Agnon shared the Nobel Prize with the poet Nelly Sachs in 1966.

Menachim Begin
מְנַחֵם בֵּגִין
220px-Menachem Begin 2
Founder of the Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Begin’s most significant achievement as Prime Minister was the signing of a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, for which he and Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Prize for Peace. In the wake of the Camp David Accords, the Israel Defense Forces withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, which was captured from Egypt in the Six-Day War.
Golda Meir
גולדה מאיר
220px-Golda Meir 03265u
Teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, after serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister, Israel's first and the world's third woman to hold such an office. Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion used to call Meir "the best man in the government"; she was often portrayed as the "strong-willed, straight-talking, grey-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people".
Yitzhak Rabin
יִצְחָק רַבִּין

An Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995. He is the only native-born Israeli politician, he was known for his instrumental role in softening relations between Israel and Jordan, as well as Palestinians.

Ariel Sharon
אריאל שרון
220px-Ariel Sharon, by Jim Wallace (Smithsonian Institution)
A statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. Sharon was a commander in the Israeli Army from its inception in 1948. During his military career, he was considered the greatest field commander in Israel's history, and one of the country's greatest ever military strategists.
Moshe Dayan
משה דיין
220px-Moshe Dayan croped
An Israeli military leader and politician, who was responsible for leading the Israelis to many victories amid the Arab-Israeli conflict, and became the fighting symbol of Israel, he was born in a kibbutz during the Ottoman era in Israel and served as the Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister of Israel, his left eye was injured in battle
Majalli Wahabi
مجلي وهبه
An Israeli Druze politician who served as a member of the Likud, Kadima and Hatnuah parties in the Knesset from 2003 and 2013, he was also the acting President of Israel in 2007 due to Moshe Katsav's leave and Dalia Itzik's trip outside of the country, he was the first non-Jewish and the first Arab to to become leader of the State of Israel
Ishmael Khaldi
إسماعيل الخالدي
220px-Ishmael Khaldi
An Israeli Bedouin diplomat who is currently the first Bedouin in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he also served in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israeli Police and the Israel Defense Forces, he initiated project known as "Hike and Learn with Bedouins in the Galilee" teaching Jews about Bedouin culture and history which led him to become a diplomat
Natalie Portman
נטלי הרשלג
Born as Natalie Hershlag, an Israeli-American actress. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 action film Léon: The Professional, but mainstream success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005). In 1999, she enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology while still working as an actress. She completed her bachelor's degree in 2003, she is a devout Jew
Odeya Rush
אודיה רש
Odeya Rush

Born as Odeya Rushinek, an Israeli-American television and film actress, perhaps best known for her lead role in the 2014 film The Giver, as well as the 2012 Disney film The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which earned her a Young Artist Award nomination as Best Young Supporting Actress in a Feature Film as well as her role in the. She is also starring in the 2015 film The Hunter's Prayer and Jack Black's Goosebumps

Dana International
דנה אינטרנשיונל
150px-Dana International 2008 Eurovision
An Israeli pop singer of Yemenite Jewish ancestry. She has released eight albums and three additional compilation albums, positioning herself as one of Israel's most successful musical acts ever. She is most famous for having won the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song "Diva".
Eyal Golan
אייל גולן
A popular Israeli singer of Yemenite and Moroccan Jewish origins who sings in the Mizrahi style and considered one of the most successful singers of the genre in Israel and has sung duets with Dana International.
Gene Simmons
ג'ין סימונס
Gene Simmons
Born Chaim Witz in Israel, an American rock bass guitarist, singer-songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and actor. Known by his stage persona The Demon, he is the bass guitarist/co-lead vocalist of Kiss, selling more than 100 million copies worldwide, he is very proud of his Israeli heritage and still considers his nationality to be Israeli, and is fluent in both Hebrew and English and is a supporter of Israel
Mira Awad
ميرا عوض
An Israeli singer of Arab and Bulgarian descent, actress, and songwriter. In 2009, she represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest along with Jewish-Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, singing There Must Be Another Way. She was the first Arab Israeli to represent Israel at Eurovision, singing the first Israeli Eurovision song with Arabic lyrics. 
Aviv Geffen
אביב גפן

An Israeli rock musician, singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist and guitarist. He is the son of writer and poet Yehonatan Geffen and Nurit Makover, brother of actress Shira Geffen, and an alumnus of Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. He is extremely popular among Israeli youth, who were known during the 1990s as the "Moonlight Children". Politically, he associates with the Israeli left. His music deals with subjects such as love, peace, death, suicide, politics and the army.

Amos Oz
עמוס עוז
An Israeli writer, novelist, and journalist. He is also a professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. Since 1967, he has been a prominent advocate and major cultural voice of a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Oz's work has been published in some 41 languages, including Arabic, in 35 countries. He has received many honours and awards, among them the Legion of Honour of France, the Goethe Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award in Literature, the Heinrich Heine Prize and the Israel Prize.
Israel Shahak
ישראל שחק

Born as Himmelstaub, an Israeli professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, known especially as a liberal, secular political thinker, author, and civil rights activist. Between 1970–1990, he was president of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights and was an outspoken critic of the Israeli government. Shahak's writings on Judaism have been a source of widespread controversy. He was born in Poland and was a Holocaust survivor.

Emile Habibi
إميل حبيبي‎
Emile Habibi
An Israeli-Palestinean communist author and politician of Arabic expression, considered the 143rd greatest Israeli out of 200 great Israelis also an Al-Nahda  (Arab cultural awakening) member, he is one of two Arab Israelis to have recieved the Israel Prize, Israel's highest award of honor.
Linor Abargil
לינור אברג'יל
An Israeli beauty pageant who won the Miss World competition in 1998, she was the first and currently the only Israeli to win the title and became a global advocate in the fight against sexual violence
Yossi Benayoun
יוסף שי בניון
An Israeli international footballer of Moroccan Sephardic origin. He has previously played for Hapoel Be'er Sheva, Maccabi Haifa, Racing de Santander in Spain, two spells with West Ham United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Benayoun plays as an attacking midfielder, often occupying the space just behind the striker. In Israel, he is sometimes nicknamed "The Diamond from Dimona". He is also the captain of the Israeli national team.
Shahar Pe'er
שחר פאר
An Israeli professional tennis player. Her career-high singles ranking is world no. 11, which she achieved on January 31, 2011 (it is the highest ranking ever for an Israeli singles tennis player, male or female). Her career-high doubles ranking is world no. 14, on May 12, 2008.
Omri Casspi
עומרי כספי‎

An Israeli professional basketball player who currently plays as a small foreword for the Sacramento Kings of the (American) National Basketball Association (NBA). He was also played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers of th NBa, with his debut with the Kings in 2009, Casspi became the first Israeli to play in an NBA game.

Amin Tarif
أمين طريف
Amin tarif
The qadi (spiritual leader) and sheikh of the Israeli Druze from 1928 to 1993, he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1990 for his special contribution to Israeli society and is one of the few non-Jews that held this award, his tomb is now a pilgrimage site among Druze people
Ovadia Yosef
עובדיה יוסף
Ovadia Yosef, 2007
Born as Abdullah Yousef, a recognized Iraqi-born Talmudic scholar and an authority on halakha. He was the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1973 to 1983. His responsa were highly regarded within Haredi circles, particularly among Mizrahi communities, among whom he was regarded as "the most important living halakhic authority." 
Amnon Yitzchak
אמנון יצחק‎
Amnon Yitchak
A Haredi Israeli rabbi who is best known for his involvement in activities which are centered on helping Jews to become more religious or observant. In public speaking in Israel and around the world and his 'Shofar' organization distributes his lectures in various media and on the internet. He is a Mizrahi Jew, born to a secular family of Yemenite Jewish background in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv
Raed Saleh
رائد صلاح

Palestinian-Israeli imam, former politician and former poet who is the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He was born in Umm al-Fahm, an Israeli-Arab city bordering the Green Line - and was elected as the mayor of that city three times: in 1989, 1993 and 1997. He has eight children.


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