Background: In Israel lives a heterogeneous population; most of the inhabitants are Jews, and about a fifth of the population is made up of other religions, mainly Muslim Arabs including Bedouins, Christian Arabs and Druze.
Primary objective: A national survey was performed on consanguineous marriages in Israeli Arabs and Druze in order to identify population groups that are at highest risk for autosomal recessive and for multifactorial disorders.
Research design: During 1990-1992, women were interviewed after delivery in maternity wards all over Israel. Data on consanguinity between the couples, their parents, and other demographic information were received from 1303 Muslim Arabs including 278 Bedouins, from 107 Christian Arabs and 115 Druze.
Main results: The results showed high consanguinity rates in Muslim Arabs (42%), Christian Arabs (22%) and in Druze (47%). Rates of first cousin and closer matings in Muslim Arabs and Druze were stable over time in contrast with a significant decrease in the rates of distant consanguineous matings. Muslim Arab husbands (not Bedouins) who were sons of first cousins were more frequently (31%) married to a cousin than were other husbands (22%), and in Bedouins these rates were 53% and 33%, respectively. The rate of first cousin matings was predominantly associated with the level of education. The rate was highest in those Bedouins (37%) and Druze (37%) with low educational level, and lowest in highly educated Christian Arabs (14%) and non-Bedouin Muslim Arabs (10%). The association with education has implications for developing strategies for reducing consanguinity rates.