Religion has played an important role in the shaping of Israel’s history, lifestyle, and culture. Israel is the only country in which the majority of citizens are Jewish. As of 2011, 75.4% of Israel’s population identified as Jewish, 16.9% as Muslim, 2.1% as Christians and 1.7% as Druze. The remaining 4% include other faiths, such as Samaritans, Hindus, Baha’i’s, Buddhists, Neopagans, and African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.
The majority of the population in Israel are followers of Orthodox Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Conservative Judaism. According to Orthodox Judaism, the Jewish Law and Torah are divine. Therefore, followers believe these laws are unalterable and should be adhered to fully. Unlike Orthodox Judaism, Reform and Conservative Judaism are more liberal. Reform and Conservative Judaism consider Jewish laws as guidelines instead of restrictions that all Jews should follow.
Among the Muslims residing in Israel, Sunni Arabs constitute a majority, while the Ahmadiyyas sect is the second largest. The Ahmadiyya Islamic movement operates from Haifa, Israel, where the Middle Eastern headquarters are located. The Alawite and Shia Muslims are other minority Islam sects within the country. The population of Alawites is about 4,000. Druze is another Islamic sect.
The majority of Christians living in Israel are Arabs, or have come from other countries to work and live in monasteries or churches. There are ten churches which have been officially recognized to provide guidance on issues such as divorce and marriage. These churches include the Armenian, Syriac, Roman, Melkite, Maronite, Eastern Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and Anglicanism churches.
Religious Tolerance in Israel
There are several cases of tensions between the different religious groups in Israel. For instance, there have been strained relationships within the Jewish community, and between the Jews and Christians. Politically, Christians and Muslims both agree that Israel cannot be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time. Though Judaism is a religion of the majority, the State of Israel does respect all other religions or allow the freedom for its people to practice the religion of their choice.