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Israeli Culture and its Diversity

History of the Israeli culture

The history of the Israeli culture dates back to the period between 1750 and 1280 B.C.E when the Israelites were held captives in Egypt. After the end of this period they were driven out of the land of Egypt by Moses who died within the forty years they wandered in the Desert. After the death of Moses, Joshua took over leading them to the land of Canaan where they entered into the period of judges in which the Israelis were ruled by priests and Judges. In 1020 B.C.E Saul became the first king of the Israelites and was later succeeded by David in 1004. Jerusalem was made the capital city during the reign of David and was later succeeded by his son Solomon in 965 B.C.E, who ruled for forty years within which the first sacred temple was built. After Solomon’s rule, the nation split into Judah and Israel which was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 whose reign was taken over by the Babylonians in 586. During this time of conquest the Israelis were expelled to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem. Within the time period between 538 and 160, the Israelites went through the rule of many empires including the Assyrians and the Persians. In 160 the Jews held a rebellion led by Judas Maccabee reclaiming Jerusalem; that saw Judah become an independent state in 141 B.C.E (Glenda, David, & Nicholas, 1992).

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Judah was conquered in 37 by Herod who saw the building of the temple again. In 70 C.E the Romans attacked the city destroying the temple and dispersing the Jews all around the World. At this time the land of Israel was referred to as Palestine and during the period between 313 and 1870; Israel went through the rule of numerous empires and kingdoms. In 1870 the rebuilding of the Jewish nation began and in 1897 the efforts of returning the expelled Jews to their home region began. Afterward the Jewish state was developed in Palestine housing the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews. Due to the animosity bred by the British era; anti-Jewish riots started taking place not after long. In 1947 attempts to divide the Palestine territory into two were rejected by the Palestinians after which the Israeli nation acquired its independence; further fueling the invasion by Arabic armies on behalf of the Palestinians. After the Arabs were defeated, they retreated to the Arabic West bank and the Gaza strip. This therefore gives the basis to the antagonistic cultural existence between the Jewish Israelis and the Palestinians (Glenda, David, & Nicholas, 1992).

The geography of Israel

The nation of Israel is located in the Middle East bordering Egypt; Lebanon; Syria; West Bank; Jordan and the Gaza strip. Israel covers a total land area of 20,770 square kilometers constituting the Negev Desert on the Southern part. The country is constituted mainly of mountains rising from the Mediterranean coast. (Sharon, 1992).

The demographics of Israel

The Israeli population is approximately six million people of which 80 percent are Jewish and the remaining 20 percent are mainly Arabs among other minor nationalities. (Sharon, 1992).

Characteristics of the Israeli culture

The Israeli culture is very diverse due to the diversity of the Israeli population that is dominated by the Jews followed by the Arabs than the other minor races. The Jews who are the majority population have pooled into the complex culture of religious and cultural traditions; that have resulted in the adoption of Jewish customs and beliefs like the centering of life around the Jewish calendar. In the Israeli nation; work and school timetables are decided based on the Jewish schedule of activities that constitutes ceremonies like the sacred day of rest. The Arab Israeli population culture on the other side has influenced the spheres of cuisine, architecture and music within the development of the Israeli culture. The Israeli literature is composed mainly of poetry and literal writings written in Hebrew; due to the adoption of Hebrew language as the major language since the 19th century. In the Israeli national culture according to the law, any literature published; non-print media; video and audio recordings in Israel have to be represented by two copies to be kept in the Jewish University library at the Jerusalem Hebrew University. In Israel there is a Hebrew book week held which features book fairs; recognition of Israel authors; and public readings in June every year. During this function the top national literary award is presented to the best literature author or performer. (Rebecca, 2004).

Israeli music is characteristic with the influence of different world languages like Greek; world music like the belly dancing music and world music genres like pop, rock and jazz. The national Israeli music commonly referred to as the “songs of the Land of Israel”, commonly addresses the knowledge and encounters of the founders of the Jewish nation. Other aspects of the Jewish culture are evident from the Israeli museums that house the Dead Sea scrolls; holocaust memorials; European and Judaica art. (Rebecca, 2004).

Israeli language and communication

Modern Hebrew as fashioned by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda; is the national official language that was put into place to allow the differently placed Jews to communicate with each other especially during the period of the Zionist movement. The Arabic minorities speak Arabic as their official language while English is the main spoken foreign language because it is taught in schools as a linguistic subject. Due to the immigration of different racial populations; other languages like Italian, Spanish and Russian are spoken. However of the minor dialects Russian is the most spoken due to the high number of Russians within the Israeli Nation (Sharon, 1992).

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Social groupings and stratification

The Israeli community is not greatly divided economically; because majority of the citizens have comparable standards of living. However majority of the Palestinians, the immigrant from Africa and the Eastern parts of Europe tend to be economically disadvantaged (Michael, 1995)

The symbols of social stratification

Among the Jewish Israelis, clothing is the major identification of political and religious inclination; in which the Yarmulkes and the skullcaps are the men’s wear for prayers. Black hats are characteristic of the conservative men among the Jews; while the Liberal Jews are characteristic with crocheted caps. In the highly Orthodox communities; men wear eyes, dress all in black and in long sidelocks. The women on the other hand cover their heads at all times; while the married women traditionally shave their hair and wear wigs. The secularized Jews who form the larger population embrace a Western-style dress code. Majority of the Arabs wear the customary Muslim clothes that comprise of a Turban and a long robe. For the women the dressing code comprises of a long robe covering the head and the whole body (Sharon, 1992).

Kinship and Descent in the Israeli Culture

The extended kin-groups founded on descent are not of major significance within the Israeli culture. Within the Israeli culture kin relations are two-sided and the nuclear family which is the most important unit forms the center of the bilateral relations. However other patterns like the patronymic kin groups are characteristic to the minor communities like the Moshav; among other minor ethnicities and intermixed groups (Glenda, David, & Nicholas, 1992).

Sex, Marriage and Family in the Israeli culture

Marriage in both traditional Arab and Jewish groups was most of the time arranged but it’s not the case today. It is prohibited for a Jew to marry a non-Jew as it amounts to an intermarriage taboo in the Israeli culture. Within the Jewish community it is also prohibited for an observant Jew to marry to marry a secular one, and if the two want to push on with the marriage they have to do it outside the Jewish borders. In this culture divorce is illegal and men can prohibit their ex-wives from remarrying using the Orthodox Jewish law. However if the woman enters into a relationship; the marriage is not recognized and the children born out of the family cannot marry within the Israeli borders (Michael, 1995).

The nuclear family is the main type of kin relations and at times extends to cover the grandparents. In the Kibbutzim system parents live apart from their children who are housed together with other young individuals. However, in the modern times parents can live with their children despite the fact that they are supposed to spend their days separately (Michael, 1995).

Sex under Judaism is not viewed as being dirty but the cultural values do not encourage sex outside committed relationships. Certain characteristic sexual relationships are prohibited while others are considered controversial. (Michael, 1995)

Patterns of Subsistence and Economic systems

The economic system of Israeli was originally socialist-based but was voted out to adopt the capitalistic model that is operating today. However within the transformation period trade unions took the dominantly powerful economic role controlling healthcare, agriculture and the industrial sector. (Michael, 1995)

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The current subsistence patterns rely more on advanced technology contributing a great deal to the world economy. The country also produces sufficient foodstuffs except for grains where the agricultural sector employs 2% of the labor force and contributing 2% of the countries GDP. The service industry accounts for 81% while the Industrial sector accounts for 17% (Glenda, David, & Nicholas, 1992).

Politics, Power and Violence

The Israeli government is split into six executive districts; a declaration of establishments; fundamental laws referred to as Knesset; and the citizenship law. The leader of government is the prime minister running for a four-year term; 120 Knesset members running for four years; and the Knesset votes the president who is the chief of state. The country has twelve political parties ranging from the far left to the far right-wing. The dominant party is the Likud and Yassar Arafat is the leader of the party fighting for the formation of a separate Palestine state (Michael, 1990).

The Palestinian authorities have their own security and police forces which have been identified with human rights abuse. Palestinian nationals have also been recognized to create violence and trouble towards Israeli forces and law enforcement officials (Michael, 1995)

Israeli Religion

Judaism is the nationally recognized religion that accounts for 80% of the population; Islam 15%; Christian and Druze 4%. Hebrews adhere to the readings within the Hebrew bible. Islam has five pillars of faith that are held sacred including; five prayers each day; pronouncement of faith in Allah; offering alms to the disadvantaged; fasting during the month of Ramadan; and paying pilgrimage to Mecca. The Muslims abide by the readings of the Holy Quran (Rebecca, 2004).

Processes of Change (Interviews)

The interview was carried out on three different people from different ethnic backgrounds, age groups, and geographical locations. From the three parties who were interviewed, either of the following solutions to the present problems facing Israel and its culture was proposed. The formation of two independent states; leveling the religious significance of Jerusalem to the Jews and Muslims; offering a right of return to the Palestinian refugees; legalizing the West Bank Israel settlements; addressing the Israeli wall issue; cutting down on terrorism; and addressing the needs of the refugee populations (Sharon, 1992).


Glenda, A., David, K & Nicholas, L. (1992). The Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present. Blackwell Publishers.

Michael, O. (1990). Murder in Jerusalem: A Mystery.Harper paperbacks.

Michael, O. (1995). A Murder on a Kibbutz: Communal Case. Batas Gur Harper Paperbacks.

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Rebecca, L. (2004). Culture and Customs of Israel (Culture and Customs of the Middle East).Greenwood Press.

Sharon, R. (1992).The Jews: A Treasury of Art and Literature. Hugh Lauter Levin Associates.

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