Israel, West Bank and Gaza
Read A Section: Israel
The country’s laws and Supreme Court rulings protect the freedoms of conscience, faith, religion, and worship, regardless of an individual’s religious affiliation. The 1992 Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty describes the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.” The 2018 Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People determines, according to the government, that “the Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people; the State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish People, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination; and exercising the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People.” In September, the Lod District Court sentenced Zion Cohen to three years in prison for carrying out a series of 2020 arson bombings of religious courts. On June 9, according to press reports, police arrested 12 protesters who threw heavy objects towards them in a protest by a small ultra-Orthodox sect near Bar-Ilan Street in Jerusalem against the construction of part of the city’s light rail through an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. Clashes broke out in April and May with “Day of Rage” demonstrations throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem against Israeli actions in Sheikh Jarrah, the Damascus Gate, and the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem. On April 13, on the evening of the first day of Ramadan, media and officials from the Jordanian Waqf in Jerusalem, which administers the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, reported that the Israeli National Police entered the site and disconnected loudspeakers used for the call to prayer after the Waqf’s call to prayer disrupted an official Memorial Day service for fallen soldiers attended by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in the adjacent Western Wall Plaza. During the last Friday of Ramadan on May 7 and again on May 10, Israeli police entered the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount using teargas, stun grenades, and rubber tipped bullets to disperse Palestinians they said were throwing rocks. While the government stated it was rare for any individual to be barred entry to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, human rights and civil society organizations said Israeli authorities periodically banned individual Palestinian residents of the occupied territories, and Arab/Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel from the site. The government reiterated that non-Islamic prayer was not allowed on the grounds of the site, but non-Muslim visitors were allowed. Some religious minority groups said the police were not interested in investigating attacks on members of their communities. The Chief Rabbinate continued not to recognize as Jewish some citizens who self-identified as Jewish, including Reform and Conservative converts to Judaism and others who could not prove Jewish matrilineage to the satisfaction of the Chief Rabbinate. As a result, the government prohibited those individuals from accessing official Jewish marriage, divorce, and burial services in the country. Some Jewish individuals and groups performed religious acts such as prayers and prostration on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount despite the longstanding historical norms against overt non-Islamic prayer there. On July 8, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 10-to-one, rejected 15 petitions challenging the Basic Law of Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People (Nation State law). The government maintained its policy of not accepting new applications for official recognition from religious groups but stated that members of unrecognized religious groups remained free to practice their religion. Members of some religious minorities said that the government did not provide the same service and benefits to them as to the country’s majority Jewish population.
During a one-week period in May, amid tensions in Jerusalem and violence in Gaza, ethnic-based violence and civil unrest broke out in a number of mixed Jewish-Arab cities in the country, leading to multiple deaths and injuries. The violence during the unrest included gunfire, stone throwing by protesters (both Jewish and Arab/Palestinian citizens), arson attacks on synagogues, desecration of Muslim gravestones, and vandalism of automobiles. The Israel National Police (INP) made approximately 1,550 arrests during and after the unrest with the overwhelming majority of the arrestees being Arab/Palestinian citizens. On May 12 in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Lod, Jews shot and killed Moussa Hassouna in clashes between residents. Later on May 12, Arab/Palestinian citizens in Lod stoned the car of Jewish resident Yigal Yehoshua who died on May 17 after being hit in the head with a thrown brick. In the northern city of Acre on May 11, Arab/Palestinian citizens set fire to a hotel leading to the death of 84 year-old retiree Aby Har-Even on June 6. On May 19, teenager Mohammed Mahamid Kiwan died after he was shot on May 18 at the Mei Ami junction on Route 65. His family said police were responsible. In April, during the period leading up to the unrest, Palestinian youths in Jerusalem physically attacked ultra-Orthodox individuals and posted videos of the attacks on the social media app TikTok. On July 1, police arrested Palestinian Jerusalemites for defiling graves in the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery while filming themselves on TikTok. Jewish individuals and groups continued to engage in nationalist violent hate crimes against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank and Arab/Palestinians in the country, (which the attackers called “price tag” attacks to exact a “price” for actions taken by the government against the attackers’ interests). Tension continued between the ultra-Orthodox community and other citizens, including concerns related to service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), housing, public transportation, participation in the workforce, and adherence to COVID-19 regulations. In its annual Israel Religion and State Index poll of 800 adult Jews published in September, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Hiddush reported that 65 percent of respondents identified as either secular (48 percent) or traditional not religious (17 percent), the same result as in the 2020 poll.
In meetings with Israeli government officials, the Ambassador, Charge d’Affaires, and other U.S. embassy officials stressed the importance of religious pluralism and respect for all religious groups. Numerous high-level U.S. officials made formal stops at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance site, to keep a public spotlight on antisemitism and highlight religious tolerance. Senior U.S. officials spoke publicly about the importance of maintaining the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and conveyed this message in meetings with government officials. Throughout the year, embassy officials used social media platforms to express U.S. support for tolerance and the importance of openness to members of other religious groups. Embassy-supported initiatives focused on interreligious dialogue and community development and advocated a shared society for Arab and Jewish populations. The embassy also promoted the reduction of tensions between religious communities and an increase in interreligious communication and partnerships by bringing together representatives of many faith communities to advance shared goals and exchange knowledge and experience, and through engagements aimed at greater integration of the Arab minority into the broader national economy, especially the high-tech sector.
This section of the report covers Israel within the 1949 Armistice Agreement line as well as Golan Heights and East Jerusalem territories that Israel occupied during the June 1967 war and where it later extended its domestic law, jurisdiction, and administration. The United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017 and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 2019. Language in this report is not meant to convey a position on any final status issues to be negotiated between the parties to the conflict, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the borders between Israel and any future Palestinian state.