Determining the “most westernized” country in the Middle East requires considering various social, cultural, economic, and political factors. One way to answer this complex question is by analyzing the data from the Country Similarity Index. The index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries, using a variety of statistics from five broad categories: demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The analysis of the data clearly shows that among Middle Eastern countries, Israel is the most similar to Western nations. The data also shows that Sudan is the least similar.
(Western countries defined as Europe, USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Middle Eastern countries are defined as Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen – note that Turkey is included in the Central Asia region instead)
Let’s analyze Israel with respect to these five categories: demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography to show why it is easily the “most westernized” in the Middle East / North Africa region.
A significant portion of Israel’s population is composed of immigrants who came from Europe. In fact many of its people still speak Indo-European languages like English, Yiddish, and Russian. Furthermore, it has the highest percentage of elderly people in the Middle East, making it more similar to Western nations.
Moreover, Israel’s average education levels are the highest in the region, on par with the majority of European countries. Middle Eastern countries have a wide range of economic situations. Some are extremely poor, like Yemen, while others like Qatar, are extremely rich. Israel has a GDP per capita of about $55,000 per year, in line with many Western countries.
Israel’s culture is a blend of Western and Middle Eastern influences. Israeli art, music, and cuisine are prime examples of this fusion. Many Israeli television programs are actually broadcast in English. Although most people in Israel follow Judaism, the country has the highest percentage of atheists in the region.
Furthermore, Israel’s multicultural population has brought European culinary traditions to the Middle East. Immigrants have introduced their own flavors and cooking techniques, resulting in a diverse range of dishes that reflect a fusion of cultures. In addition, Judaism does not prohibit alcohol, unlike Islam, so its people tend to drink more than the rest of region.
Israel’s political system is based on democratic principles and guarantees religious freedom and individual rights. This governance structure aligns with Western political norms and has contributed to similarities in certain aspects of society. In contrast, many Middle Eastern countries have forms of government that range from authoritarian regimes to monarchies.
Furthermore, Israel’s laws tend to be less conservative than other Middle Eastern countries. It does not criminalize same sex relationships. In addition, its abortion laws are not as strict as other countries in the region. The country has more protections against the discrimination of women and religious groups.
Israel is renowned for its technological innovation and startup culture. The country’s infrastructure, including communication networks and technological facilities, reflects its focus on research and development. Like Europe, Israel’s passenger train network is quite advanced. It has high speed rail between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Israel’s healthcare system has gained recognition for its commitment to providing comprehensive coverage to its citizens. It is known for its wide range of medical facilities and services, which are often on par with Western healthcare standards. The country boasts a large number of hospitals, clinics, and specialist institutions.
Israel has a Mediterranean climate, like many Southern European countries. It gets more rainfall than other countries in the region. As a result, in contrast to many countries in the Middle East, most of its land is not just barren desert. This combination of factors contributes to the unique identity of the region.
The Most Similar Western Country to Israel
The Country Similarity Index suggests that Greece, Italy, and Cyprus are the most similar western countries to Israel. These three countries also border the Mediterranean Sea. They were all once part of the Roman Empire.