Meeting ethnic Israel

From an ethnic perspective, you are bound to be surprised by the diversity of people you meet from a wide array of backgrounds.

The majority (75%) of the population in Israel may be Jewish, but it is far from homogenous. Ultra-orthodox Jews make up around 10% of Israel’s population. They maintain ancient traditions and have limited interaction with modern society. As part of a trip to Jerusalem, perhaps you would like to join one of these families for a traditional Shabbat Friday night dinner? Beyond the religious – secular divide, it is important to remember that Jews have come to Israel from the four corners of the earth, bringing with them traditions from across the globe.

As such, Jews you meet from e.g. Ethiopia, Yemen, Argentina and Russia will all look very different, and carry their own stories and rituals. Our food tours, which are led by local chefs and historical experts, also offer the opportunity to enjoy cuisine from different Jewish ethnic backgrounds. Many of the market stall holders have traded products from their home countries since arriving in Israel, and their stories are often fascinating- for example spice traders bringing products from India, borekas makers who serve the traditional Turkish recipes, Iranian Jews still bringing dried fruits from Persia.

Arabs comprise the second largest group in Israel, making up 20% of the population. Within this section of the population, Israel is home to around 170,000 Bedouin, 130,000 Druze people and 122,000 Arab Christians. Each of these groups has its own fascinating story and way of life, and we highly recommend getting an insiders view by visiting the homes of various Israelis. For example, visiting our Druze family in the Galilee is fascinating and somewhat sobering as your host recounts how she communicates with her sister who lives over the border in Syria and how the civil war has meant two completely different life stories for herself and her sister. If you’re interested in Bedouin life and culture, be sure to ask for an intro to our carefully selected Bedouin host. He has a wonderful ‘Crocodile Dundee’ story about how as a young man he decided to throw in the towel on desert life, and to move to Tel Aviv in order to experience its 24 hour action.

Needless to say, after three months he returned home to the desert, having concluded that life there was better! For those looking to explore Christian heritage, we can arrange hospitality with ancient Christian families who will tell you about their traditions and discuss how living in the Holy Land impacts their faith.

Jack and I will forever have the amazing memories of Israel, it’s people, history, religions, sites, food, wines, scenery, the list goes on! What A beautiful and amazing country!

KerryAnn A, New York

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