There are around four thousand religions in the world today. Religion permeates every facet of culture, influencing politics, language, the arts, education, and even fashion. This is especially so in a nation as richly steeped in religion like Israel. To Israel, religion is intrinsic to its people and its very statehood.
Israel and Religion
When you think of Israel and religion what commonly comes to mind first is the religion of Judaism, but there are many religions that influence the ancient city. Judaism is the most common religion in Israel with 74% of the population identifying as Jewish, 17.7% of the population identifies as Muslim, 2% as Christians, and 1.6% as Druze. Let’s dive deeper into what beliefs make each unique and what beliefs, if any, overlap.
The most common Israel religion known as Judaism involves not just a religion but also a race and a culture within. This is why it may be a little tricky to fully wrap your brain around this religion. Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. Judaism followers believe in one God who reveals himself through the ancient prophets. They believe God is one, whole being, and that He created the universe and controls it. Their doctrine comes from the Torah (the first book of the old testament) and also known as the Hebrew Bible. Judaism’s form of worship consists of lots of prayer and three times a day to be exact. The most traditional way they go about praying is attending synagogue where there are hymns played and prayers recited by church leaders such as rabbis.
The second largest Israel religion is known as Islam, with Islam followers known as Muslims. This religion is also the second most followed religion in the entire world. Muslims believe that there is only one God, which they believe is Allah. Islam is a monotheistic religion. Their beliefs come from the book they call the Qur’an with the text of revelations given to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. They believe their God, Allah, is all knowing, all powerful, who has no physical body, gender, offspring, and is the creator of all things. Muslims have five pillars of worship that include specific Islamic prayers and declarations as forms of worship.
Christianity has a smaller percentage in the Israel religion statistics with only 2%, however this religion is the fastest growing religion of our day with one-third of the world’s population represented world-wide. The core belief of most Christian denominations (at least 33,000 denominations) is that there is only one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians believe that by faith through their belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and by His death and His resurrection, you can be forgiven and saved. They believe in worship through song, taking communion, and prayer to God.
The Israel religion represented by 1.6% of the population is Druze, with roots from Egypt. This unique religion dates back all the way to the 11th century with similarities to some beliefs of Islam, Hinduism, and Greek philosophy. Most of the members of the Druze religion live in Syria and Lebanon with a total of 1 million population worldwide. One of the main beliefs of the Druze religion is that they descended from Jethro, priest of Midian (Moses’ father). They believe Jethro is their prophet and founder of their religion. They believe in one God, in reincarnation, and bring in a mix of different theologies from Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and more. The Druze faith consists of a doctrine they call the Epistles of Wisdom. This book includes pastoral letters of the Druze faith. The full canon of the Druze the old testament, new testament, the Quran, Philosophical works by Plato, and other works from varying religions.
Israel Religion and Our Part
Israel is a hub for many different religions and people groups that continue to grow and expand. Religion has been both uniting and divisive within Israel. Wars and and longstanding cultural prejudices have influenced the people and culture almost as much as the religions themselves. We must pray for peace for Israel and continue to encourage amicable communication from leaders of state and religion. Learning the different beliefs and ways of life for each religious group is important to understanding how best to pray for and reach each person with the Good News. The desire for religion is the search for a sense of truth, purpose, and identity. As Christians we must see this as what makes us similar rather than what makes us different if we are going to make disciples of Jesus.
“How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)
Written by Monique Santiago