Of the approximately 5.9 million Israelis in 1997, about 4.7 million were Jewish. While the non-Jewish minority grows at an average rate of 4.9% per year, the Jewish population has increased by more than 27% since 1989 as a result of massive immigration to Israel, primarily from the republics of the former Soviet Union. Since 1989, nearly 841,000 such immigrants have arrived in Israel, making this the largest wave of immigration since independence. In addition, almost 20,000 members of the Ethiopian Jewish community have immigrated to Israel, 14,000 of them during the dramatic May 1991 Operation Solomon airlift.
The three broad Jewish groupings are: the Ashkenazim, or Jews who came to Israel mainly from Europe, North and South America, South Africa, and Australia; the Sephardim, who trace their origin to Spain, Portugal, and North Africa; and Eastern or Oriental Jews, who descend from ancient communities in Islamic lands. Of the non-Jewish population, about 75% are Muslims, 16% are Christian, and about 9% are Druze and others.
Education between ages 5 and 16 is free and compulsory. The school system is organized into kindergartens, 6-year primary schools, 3-year junior secondary schools, and 3-year senior secondary schools, after which a comprehensive examination is offered for university admissions. There are seven university-level institutions in Israel.
With a population drawn from more than 100 countries on 5 continents, Israeli society is rich in cultural diversity and artistic creativity. The arts are actively encouraged and supported by the government. The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra performs throughout the country and frequently tours abroad. The Jerusalem Symphony, the orchestra of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, also tours frequently as do other musical ensembles. Almost every municipality has a chamber orchestra or ensemble, many boasting the talents of gifted performers recently arrived from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Folk dancing, which draws upon the cultural heritage of many immigrant groups, is very popular. Israel also has several professional ballet and modern dance companies. There is great public interest in the theater; the repertoire covers the entire range of classical and contemporary drama in translation, as well as plays by Israeli authors. Of the three major repertory companies, the most famous, Habimah, was founded in 1917.
Active artist colonies thrive in Safed, Jaffa, and Ein Hod, and Israeli painters and sculptors exhibit and sell their works worldwide. Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem have excellent art museums, and many towns and kibbutzim have smaller high-quality museums. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem houses the Dead Sea Scrolls along with an extensive collection of Jewish religious and folk art. The Museum of the Diaspora is located on the campus of Tel Aviv University. Israelis are avid newspaper readers. Israeli papers have an average daily circulation of 600,000 copies. Major daily papers are in Hebrew; others are in Arabic, English, French, Polish, Yiddish, Russian, Hungarian, and German.
note: includes about 171,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, about 6,500 in the Gaza Strip, and about 172,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2000 est.)
0-14 years: 28% (male 825,443; female 787,159)
15-64 years: 63% (male 1,831,142; female 1,820,424)
65 years and over: 9% (male 248,695; female 329,591) (2000 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.67% (2000 est.)
Birth rate: 19.32 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Death rate: 6.22 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Net migration rate: 3.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 7.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.57 years
male: 76.57 years
female: 80.67 years (2000 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.6 children born/woman (2000 est.)
Ethnic groups: Jewish 80.1% (Europe/America-born 32.1%, Israel-born 20.8%, Africa-born 14.6%, Asia-born 12.6%), non-Jewish 19.9% (mostly Arab) (1996 est.)
Religions: Jewish 80.1%, Muslim 14.6% (mostly Sunni Muslim), Christian 2.1%, other 3.2% (1996 est.)
Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95%
female: 93% (1992 est.) See also: Palestine