Israel is special, if not sacred, to more faiths than any other country in the world. Today for at least 15 different Jewish sects, several Christian sects, Muslims, Druze, Baha'is, Samaritans, Circassians, Karaites, Bedouins, and still others, Israel is holy, and although many of the groups claim the land as "their own," the differing faiths are practiced side by side. This calls for daily tolerance. For instance, many Jews from English-speaking countries find Israel isn't "Jewish" in the way they personally practice or understand Judaism. Christians traveling in Israel are often perplexed by certain Israeli Christian customs -- entrance fees at holy shrines, or famous churches subdivided (with actual lines of demarcation on walls and floors) among different sects of Christianity. Protestants are often amazed to find most holy places tended by Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian, and Catholic clergy. Catholics are surprised to find their Israeli counterparts functioning as Catholics did hundreds of years ago rather than following the modern practices of most of the Catholic world.

To Islam, the biblical patriarchs and Jesus were prophets, though not the final one. Islam, in some ways, is closer to Judaism and the nomadic-type culture of the patriarchs than to the Greek-influenced culture of Christianity. Islam is dedicatedly monotheistic: The profession of faith declares, "There is but one God, Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet." Muslims pray five times a day, fast in daylight hours during the month of Ramadan, make a pilgrimage to Mecca, and give alms. The Muslim Sabbath is from Thursday's sunset to sunset on Friday. However, the prohibition against work is less severe than in Judaism. Like Jews, Muslims are enjoined from eating pork. Gambling and drinking alcohol are also prohibited to Muslims, and they may not make paintings or sculptures of human beings or animals. Men may marry up to four wives, although this tradition is rarely practiced.

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