• Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

    Japan
    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

    Bahrain
    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

  • Laos!

    Laos: Karst peak. Go Now!

    Laos
    The simplicity and natural beauty of the countryside make Laos a hidden gem in Southeast Asia overlooked by most travelers. Begin Your Journey!

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Israel

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in Israel, please read this travel warning before going!

Ethnicity

Nearly three quarters of the people living in Israel today are ethnic Jews. The Jewish people are a fairly distinct group ethnically as they have remained fairly independent with few foreign genetic introductions over the past 2,000 years. Reaching back 2,000 years, their closest relatives today would likely be the people of the Middle East. The relationship to current ethnic groups is quite distant though since most of the Jews' closest ethnic relatives have either died out of were taken over by the Arabs, meaning there are significant traces of these people in modern day Arabs, but only in minor percentages. Among the rest of the people living in Israel today, consisting of about a quarter of the population, most are Arab.

Language

Hebrew and Arabic are official languages in Israel, although generally speaking the Jews only tend to speak Hebrew, while the Arabs tend to only speak Arabic.

Hebrew is a Semitic language most closely related to the Aramaic languages and more distantly related to Arabic, which is also a Semitic language. Arabic's most closely related Semitic languages include Amharic (Ethiopia) and Hebrew. Both are also distantly related are languages like Berber (North Africa) as well as historic languages including Phoenician and ancient Egyptian.

English is the most commonly taught second language in the country and many young people take at least a little English in school, but few people continue studying to the point of fluency.

Religion

Over three quarters of the people in Israel are religiously and ethnically Jewish. Another 17% are Muslim, most of whom are ethnic Arabs; the rest of the population falls into various groups, including adherents to Christianity and Druze.

Judaism is one of, if not the first monotheistic religion. The Jews worship one God, who they believe is the creator of all things, including the world and all life on earth. This relationship with God is the foundation of the religion as the people believe they must follow God's laws, as dictated in the Torah, although what books specifically constitute the Torah is debatable. Jews also believe that it is their responsibility to treat all of God's creation with respect.

Judaism includes a large number of rules and obligations, many of which are found in various books of the Torah. This helps define how a person should live, how they should worship, and even how they should eat as Judaism has a large number of dietary restrictions.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

This page was last updated: March, 2016