The large non-Jewish minority in Israel is Arab, representing about one fifth of the country’s population. Most of Israel’s Arabs live in Arab settlements in the Galilee, on the eastern coastal plane and in the northern Negev. There are also large concentrations of Arabs in mixed cities such as Haifa, Jerusalem, Acre and Ramle.
The vast majority of Israel’s Arabs are Sunnite Moslems, with only about one tenth being Christian (mostly members of the Greek-Orthodox Church). Among Israel’s Arabs are the Bedouins, Moslem Arabs whose forefathers lived as nomads. Israel’s Bedouins have moved into permanent settlements mainly in the northern Negev, but also in the Galilee. The Druze (see below), although a separate religious community, are also Arabs.
Israel has more ethnic and religious groups. Here are the main ones:
Druze: Members of a religion that developed from Shiite Islam in the 11th century, and whose adherents are concentrated in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Some 134,000 Druze currently live in Israel, in 17 settlements on Mount Carmel, in the Galilee and on the Golan Heights.
Circassians: Members of a Moslem, non-Arab people whose came from the Caucasus. When their country was captured by the Russians in the 19th century, many Circassians immigrated to the Ottoman Empire, and some arrived in the Land of Israel, where they established the villages of Rikhaniya and Kafr Kama.
Samaritans: Members of a national-religious community whose religion is very close to Judaism. The Samaritan community developed following the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Israel, when members of the Kingdom of Israel who remained in the land combined with members of peoples exiled by the Assyrian kings to the region. In ancient times, the community was large and strong. However, unsuccessful rebellions during the Byzantine Period along with pressure exerted by the Moslems on the Samaritans to convert to Islam gradually reduced their numbers. There now remain some 700 Samaritans, half of whom live in Nablus (Shkhem) and half in Holon (Kholon.)