One of the funnier sort of moments I enjoyed in Palestine was when I met Arab Christians who would tell me about when many Western tourists would come and ask them when they converted to Christianity to which they would smartly reply "Oh about 2000 years ago when Jesus did mission work in the area."
See, sometimes our worldview shapes how we see events happening in other parts of the world.
I had the opportunity to meet with different religious leaders while I was in Israel/West Bank, and one of the paradigm shifting concepts I heard repeatedly was that there were no non-religious people in the Middle East. Everyone had some religious approach to life, often that was handed down to them by previous generations. You were either Jew, Christian, or Muslim.
From a secular society perspective where I come from in Canada, that was a stunning sort of thing. That everyone had a mark on their papers telling what religious flavour they were. This was why religious leaders were able to tell me exactly how many muslims there were in their town, or how many christians there were in this or that location.
There were no atheists or agnostics, at least officially anyway. Though within their own characterizations there must be those who are more or less faithful. So this religiosity was tied into their culture and history and family name.
When I asked what would happen to a convert to Christianity from a Muslim family the answer was quick and clear. "They would be killed." Usually by the family. When we asked about converts from christianity the answer was much less violent. Admittedly that question was asked of an Anglican priest.
There were those who had made conversion choices who would continue to live as cultural Muslims as long as it wouldn't mean they would have to renounce their following Jesus Christ. They were known as secret believers and they exist, quietly. But for many today, being a Muslim or Jew or Christian for that matter is not a matter of the heart or faith but a matter of the culture and family they were born into. You don't just turn away from that and head in another direction after your family has been known differently for thousands of years.
This difference was interesting to note.
It comes into play when the Jews want to be recognized as a State and the Arab nations surrounding don't want to give in to that requirement to peace. Partly in that mix is the question asking does Israel wish to be recognized as a full, secular nation state, or are they asking to be recognized as a religious, Jewish state? The subtleties of these arguments can easily be lost on us Westerners as the Arab neighbours react strongly to the idea.
In the mean time local neighbours, Muslims and Christians, and in parts of Israel, Jews, live with each other as they have for thousands of years. They get along for the most part and care for one another. Their kids play together in the streets and they both hide when the tensions turn violent. Then they check up on each other and watch out for one another. In that way they create amazingly warm communities where good neighbours make good neighbourhoods.
Now if only the politicians and the extremists on all sides, could figure that out.