Israel Social / Cultural Briefing Paper

Population: 7,353,985 (1)
Percentage of population under 14: 27.9% (1)
Between 15-64: 62.3%  (1)
Over 65: 9.9% (1)

Ethnic Make Up: (1)
    Jewish 76.4% (Israel-born 67.1%, European/American-born 22.6%, Africa-born
            5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%)
    non-Jewish (mostly Arab) 23.6%

Religious Make Up: (1)
            Jewish 75.5%
            Muslim 16.8%
    Christian 2.1%
    Druze 1.7%
            Other 3.9%

Literacy Rate: (meaning age 15 and over can read and write): 97.1% (1)

Maternal Mortality Rate: 5 per 100,000 (5)

Infant Mortality Rate: 4.17 deaths / 1,000 live births (1)

Life Expectancy men: 78.7 years (1)
Women: 83.12 years (1)

Years of expected schooling for boys: 15 (1)
Girls: 16 (1)

Status of women: Women have been guaranteed equality of gender since the establishment of the state. However, many parts of Israeli life are governed by religious laws rather than secular, and so legally allow for the discrimination of women in matters such as marriage, divorce, and religious services. (4)

Drugs: Increasingly concerned about ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin abuse; drugs arrive in country from Lebanon and, increasingly, from Jordan. (1)
Problems with HIV/AIDS or other major infectious diseases:
    People living with HIV/AIDS: 5,100 estimate
    HIV/AIDS deaths: fewer than 200

Relationship between religion and the public sector: Israel is governed by a secular government that protects the religious rights of all citizens. However, the majority of the population is Jewish, which influences much of the culture and practices of daily life in Israel. (4)

Refugees: About 4.7 million Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and areas in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan who claim the right to return to their land in Israel. (4)

Freedom of religion, press, and speech: The State of Israel will protect religious freedom (2) and provides for freedom of speech and the press. (3)
Trafficking in persons: The US State Department report on trafficked persons in June 2009 saw Israel as continuing to be a destination for men and women trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. The report was particularly concerned with the Israeli government’s lack of protection services and shelter for forced labor victims. It notes, however, that significant efforts were made to provide assistance and shelter for victims of sex trafficking, including a $1.25 million grant for this purpose. (7)

Three current social / cultural issues:
    -Continued conflict with Palestinians over land and borders, with particular concern for Jerusalem. Proposals for joint control over Jerusalem a concern, Israelis worried they will lose access to their holy sites, as when Jerusalem was in Jordanian control. (4)
    -Palestinian refugees claiming right of return to lands in Israel, Israel fears an influx of Palestinian refugees would lead to the destruction of the state of Israel (4)
    -Decline in the education system. Israel has four separate government-sponsored school systems: secular schools, religious government schools, independent religious schools (Ultra-Orthodox, haredi), and Arab schools. Studies are finding that due to poor teaching in Arab schools and lack of core studies in haredi schools, only 30-40% of children are familiar with the sciences, English, and reading in Hebrew, which many fear will negatively affect the country’s society and economy. (6)

(1) CIA World Fact Book
(2) U.S. Department of State report
(3) U.S. Department of State report
(4) MidEast Web
(5) NationMaster
(6) Article on education,7340,L-3958211,00.html
(7) Article on trafficking