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Israel: Jewish Ethnic Groups
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Social Structure > Jewish Ethnic Groups

JEWISH ETHNIC GROUPS


The division of Jewish Israelis into ethnic groups is primarily a legacy of the cultural diversity and far-flung nature of the Jewish Diaspora: it is said that Jews have come to modern Israel from 103 countries and speak more than 70 different languages. As in the United States, the immigrants of yesterday became the ethnic groups of today. But Jewish ethnicity troubles many Israelis, and since the late 1950s it has sometimes been viewed as Israel's major social problem.

There are two principal sources of concern. First, in a rather utopian way, Zionism was supposed to bring about the dissolution of the Diaspora and the reconstitution of world Jewry into a single, unified Jewish people. The persistence of cultural diversity -- Jewish ethnicity in a Jewish state -- was simply inconceivable. Second, the socialist Labor Zionists assumed that the Jewish society of Israel would be egalitarian, free of the class divisions that plagued Europe. Instead, along with the growing, industrializing economy came the usual divisions of class, stratification, and socioeconomic inequality. These class divisions seemed to coincide with ethnic divisions: certain kinds of ethnic groups were overrepresented in the lowest classes. For utopian thinkers, the persistence of Jewish ethnic groups was troubling enough; their stratification into a class structure was unthinkable.

Data as of December 1988




Last Updated: December 1988


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Israel was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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