POPULATION OF ISRAEL
More than five million people live in Israel today. The majority are native-born, while the rest come from almost every country in the world, comprising a mosaic of people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. The Jewish population stands at over four million, while Israel's non-Jewish citizens, the majority of whom are Arabs, number some 950,000. Lifestyles range from modern to traditional, from urban to rural, and from collective to individual.
Israeli people either live in cities or in villages and other rural settlements.
More than 90 percent of Israelis are city dwellers. Many modern urban centers, blending the old and the new, are built on sites known since antiquity, among them Jerusalem, Safad, Be'er Sheva, Tiberias, Nazareth and Akko. Others such as Rehovot, Hadera, Petah Tikva and Rishon Lezion began as agricultural villages in the pre-state era and gradually evolved into towns and cities. In the early years of the state, development towns were built to accommodate the accelerated population growth generated by mass immigration, to help disperse the population throughout the country and to promote a closely interlocked rural and urban economy by drawing industry and services to previously unpopulated areas. Towns founded on this basis include Arad, Carmiel, Kiryat Gat and Beit Shemesh.
Some Urban Centers: Population
About 10 percent of the population lives in rural areas, the majority in two unique cooperative frameworks, the kibbutz and moshav, which were developed in the country in the early part of the 20th century.
The kibbutz is a self-contained social and economic unit in which decisions are taken by the general assembly of its members, and property and means of production are communally owned. Today 2.5 percent of the population live in some 270 kibbutzim. Members are assigned work in different branches of the kibbutz economy; dining hall, kitchen and other routine duties are filled on a rotation basis. The kibbutz provides its members with all their needs, while demanding from them responsibility and commitment to the community. Children spend their waking hours with their age group, from infancy through high school. Traditionally the backbone of Israel's agriculture, kibbutzim are now also involved in industry, tourism and services. Having come a long way from their pioneer beginnings, kibbutzim today, while striving to maintain their original framework, seek viable ways to meet the challenges of modern life in the technological age.
In the moshav each family maintains its own farm and household. Originally cooperation extended to purchasing and marketing; today moshav farmers have chosen to be more economically independent. Some 450 moshavim, averaging about 60 families each and comprising 3.3 percent of the population, supply much of Israel's farm produce.
Villages of various sizes are inhabited by Arabs and Druze, who comprise one fourth of the rural population. Land and houses are privately owned, and farmers cultivate and market their crops on an individual basis.
Most Bedouin Arabs (about 110,000) are no longer nomads, although some 40 percent still follow their traditional way of life, tending flocks of sheep and goats.