Ethnic Groups in Israeli Society
Israel's society is diverse, comprising many different ethnic groups and communities. The differences between these communities are expressed in a range of aspects, including nationality, religion, degree of religiosity, language, culture, personal identity, political outlook and even views concerning the desired identity of the state. Israel’s diversity offers enormous potential for a productive, creative, and rich multicultural society. And yet its heterogeneity also brings with it challenges and tensions, which affect its resilience and solidarity.
The largest groups in Israeli society are the Jewish sector, to which the majority of Israel’s citizens belong, and the Arab sector, the second largest group. Each of these is divided into diverse subgroups. In the Jewish sector, the main subgroups are the secular, ultra-Orthodox, religious, and traditional communities, though these can also be split into even smaller subgroups on the basis of ethnic origin, period of arrival in Israel or stream of Jewish faith, for example.
In the Arab sector, the main subgroups are Muslims, Druze, and Arab-Christians. Groups branching off from these communities include Bedouins and Ahmadis. Israeli society also contains other groups, including Circassians, Armenians and other non-Arab Christians, as well as members of other religions and people without any religious affiliation.
Relationships between the many diverse groups that make up the Israeli social mosaic are dynamic and ever-changing. Boundaries between the groups are sometimes clear and sometimes blurred. Changes also occur internally - within the various groups - in relation to the fabric of daily life, culture, the degree of integration into larger society, social status, political representation as well as relative proportion to the country's population as a whole.
Some of the groups are assimilated into the general Israeli population, while others choose to live apart from society, maintaining cultural and religious segregation. They therefore lead separate communal lives, sometimes residing in designated localities or neighborhoods. In order to maintain a distinct community framework, there are groups that operate independent educational, cultural, and welfare systems.
The diversity of Israeli society is also reflected in the National Library’s range of content and activities. As the National Library of the State of Israel, it collects materials that pertain to every segment of Israeli society while providing access to all, with the goal of promoting pluralism, tolerance, and awareness of the culture, history, and unique values of each group in the Israeli mosaic.
In this spirit, the National Library preserves a wealth of historical items that tell the stories of the many communities that comprise Israeli society as well as the stories of their integration into it. Among other things, the Library collects ancient and rare manuscripts, secular and religious books, research papers, postcards and photographs, posters and press clippings, personal and communal archives, maps and letters as well as video and audio recordings of community members, events, and cultural artifacts. Many of these materials are also digitally accessible to the public.