Alcohol consumption among Arabs in Israel: A qualitative study

Orna Baron-Epel, Shiran Bord, Wafa Elias, Chen Zarecki, Yoram Shiftan, Anat Gesser-Edelsburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Israeli society is a unique setting in which the Arabs are exposed to western alcohol consumption norms while living in Arab communities where alcohol consumption is not accepted. Objectives: To characterize Arab Muslim, Druze and Christian alcohol consumption behaviors and contingencies while being exposed to western style alcohol consumption. Methods: This study was a phenomenological qualitative study interviewing six focus groups and 13 individual Arab Muslims, Christians and Druze. Themes and categories were identified using qualitative methodology analysis. Results: Two concurrent contingencies exist for Arab Muslim men: on the one hand they describe pressure to drink because of social norms, and on the other hand they are reprehended for drinking, because of the religious interdiction. Therefore, they hide their drinking in secluded places. In addition, participants reported more heavy drinking among Muslim Men. Arab Christians reported drinking openly especially among men. Women do not drink and are looked down upon if they drink. Drinking may be viewed as a stage in life that a Muslim boy or young man goes through, he is expected to grow out of this stage and stop drinking while becoming religious. Conclusions/importance: Due to Muslim laws prohibiting alcohol consumption, alcohol consumption is not high, however it does exist especially among young men and when they drink they tend to drink heavily, more than the Arab Christians. Therefore, there is a need for interventions targeting younger Muslim men, to establish moderate drinking behaviors, if they chose to drink.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-273
Number of pages6
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - 28 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Israel National Road Safety Authority. Address correspondence to Dr Orna Baron-Epel, School of Public Health, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Studies, University of Haifa, 199 Abba Khoushy, Mount Carmel 3498838 Israel; E-mail:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Informa Healthcare USA, Inc.


  • Alcohol
  • Arab
  • Gender
  • Israel
  • Muslim
  • Social pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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