The Culture of Israel

Whether or not you plan to travel there any time soon, you will probably find the culture of Israel quite interesting. In this page I will talk a bit about the culture in the country in the social sense of the word. If you want to get information on the Israeli culture in regards to the arts click here.

Israel is a country based mainly on Jewish immigrants from around the world, and as a result there are many cultural influences from those countries and areas the Jewish people came from. Add to that the Arab residents and more recent immigration waves like the ones from the former Soviet Union and the Ethiopian Jews and you get the perfect melting pot. Or maybe an Israeli salad of cultures…

Before the State of Israel was announced in 1948, the Jewish people were largely living in many different countries, mainly in Eastern Europe and elsewhere in Europe, but also to a large degree in Northern Africa and in the Middle East.

Besides those two areas, Jewish people lived in other countries and continents pretty much throughout the world. Zionism as a political movement is the main force that pushed towards a land for the Jewish people. This finally became a reality after the horrors of the Holocaust.

In the early 20th century, before the state was established, the main cultural influences were from the first waves of secular Jewish immigrants from Russia and Germany. During the British mandate in the 30’s-40’s the culture of the Brits was adopted to a lesser degree (although they weren’t popular to say the least). In those days the Jewish immigrants and those already born in the land started to form their own unique culture that was heavily Mediterranean/Arabic influenced as far as the dress code, the language and the general behavior.

After the state of Israel was established, the melting pot was starting to create a new identity for those Jewish people coming from various countries to the newborn state. However, like any other melting pot, this is a long process that is still ongoing. Each sector (called Eda in Hebrew) brought its own traditions, food, language etc. from the old country, creating many sub groups/cultures within the Israeli society.

The main groups were the Ashkenazi Jews (Jews from Europe) and the Sephardic Jews (Jews from North Africa and the Middle East).

But within those groups there were further subdivisions such as Jews from Germany, Poland and Russia (all Ashkenazi) and on the Sephardic side you would find Jews from Yemen, Iraq and Morocco, for example.

To further complicate matters you had the various degrees of religious practice within the above groups – very religious, “traditional Jews” and secular Israelis. As you can realize it was a lot of fun…

During the 1980’s and until the present the barriers between the different ethnic groups were largely reduced, but they have definitely not disappeared altogether.

The Culture of Israel: Unique Characteristics

The Culture of Israel is not easy to define but some things are definitely unique, such as the need to stay connected to the news. The Israeli radio, for example, gives you a news update every hour and in some stations you get a “news flash” every half hour.

Israelis are v-e-r-y communicative people! Almost everyone in the country has a cellphone (at least one) and Israel was one of the first countries to be considered saturated as far as a market for cellphones. The people in the country also use their phones up to 3 times more than in some other countries.

Israelis love to travel. A lot. Judging from the number of Israelis traveling around the globe you would think there are over 200 million Israelis (in reality there are only 7.5 million). Probably about half of all young Israelis that finish their army service are going on a long trip - usually 6 months or even more – the destination is usually the Far East and India and sometimes also to South America.

Creativity is one of the main characteristics of Israelis and you will find that many patents were invented and registered by Israeli individuals or companies. Those patents and other advanced technologies are being developed in “start up” companies and bigger technology-oriented companies in fields such as telecommunications, internet and medical equipment and research.

There are many other unique characteristics to the culture of Israel and the above examples were presented to give you some idea of what kind of culture to expect.

Having the latest technology - part of the culture of IsraelHaving the latest technology is part of the culture of Israel. Picture by Slavin.

Modern Cultural Influences

The Israeli society - starting particularly in the early 1990’s - has gotten quite Americanized. That is both good and bad. On the plus side the productivity increased and the standard of living was raised significantly. On the minus side there are a lot more American corporations (such as MacDonald’s) in every Israeli city.

Other influences include the Mediterranean and Arab countries in the area such as Greece, Turkey and others. You can find that cultural influence mainly in fields such as the popular music Israelis listen to.

There is a lot more to say about the subject but since this is a travel website I was just giving you a glimpse of the culture of Israel and Israelis. I Hope you found it interesting…

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