Because Israel is the only Jewish state in the world, there is often a misconception that Israel’s population is homogenous. In truth, Israel is one of the most diverse countries in the Middle East. The 8.5 million people living in Israel represent a myriad of different races, ethnicities, religions, orientations, and backgrounds.
People from over 70 countries have made Israel their home since its founding in 1948. 75% of Israelis are Jews from a wide spectrum of ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Most of them returned to their ancestral home from across the Middle East and Africa, fleeing rising persecution and violence. Many also came from Europe, the US, South America, and Asia. Israeli culture has absorbed all of these influences in unique and inspiring ways.
Israel is also home to a diverse array of non-Jewish communities. Arab citizens of Israel make up about 21% of Israel’s population. The majority are Muslim, along with a small but growing Arab Christian population. There are also smaller groups like the Druze, who speak Arabic but have their own unique religion and culture. Israel officially recognizes 15 distinct religious groups, including Jews, Muslims, a variety of Christian denominations, Druze, and more. All of these communities have equal rights under law in Israel, and are active in all facets of Israeli life.
As the only proven democracy in the Middle East, Israel is the regional leader in LGBTQ and women’s rights. Israel’s LGBTQ community have been fighting for their rights for decades, with remarkable success. Israel made workplace discrimination illegal in 1992, allowed LGBTQ soldiers to serve openly in 1993, granted benefits to same-sex couples in 1994 and adoption rights in 2005, and began recognizing same-sex marriages performed abroad in 2006. The Tel Aviv Pride parade, which celebrates Israel’s LGBTQ community, brought in over 200,000 people from around the world in 2017.
Likewise, women are empowered and involved in all aspects of Israeli life. Israeli law states that women have a right to equality in work, education, health, and social welfare. Women serve in top positions in the Israeli government, army, and judicial systems. Over a quarter of Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is comprised of female elected officials. Half of the high school students who complete their matriculation in the highest levels of maths are women. 53% of Israeli women earn higher degrees. Many women hold jobs in high tech and engineering, although the percentage of women as opposed to men is much lower. 20 percent of tech startups in Tel Aviv have women founders as opposed to seventeen percent in Europe.