Article

Israeli Culture

Eran Kaplan

in Jewish Studies

ISBN: 9780199840731
Published online August 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0071
Israeli Culture

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Modern Israeli culture, while related linguistically and religiously to an ancient tradition, is a recent phenomenon. The State of Israel has existed only since 1948, but the origins of Israeli culture can be traced to the late 19th-century rise of Zionism, a movement that sought to revolutionize and modernize Jewish life in all its forms, including the cultural realm. Zionism was, among other things, a revolt against the Diasporic Jewish tradition, which from a Zionist perspective emphasized passivity in the face of political, social, and economic challenges as well as a detachment from mainstream European society. Zionist culture sought to upend those tendencies: Zionists wanted to create a modern Western culture that embraced science, technology, and other hallmarks of the modern experience, while promoting an ethos of pioneering and strength—the signs of an active and virile society ready to embrace national challenges. At the core of this cultural revolution stood the revival of Hebrew not as a language of religious study but as the vibrant national tongue Modern Hebrew, as well as cultural products that championed the new pioneering ideals. While the culture of secular Ashkenazi Jews dominated the Yishuv (the Jewish community of Palestine up to 1948) and the Israeli state during its first decades, over time Israeli culture came to reflect the country’s many other sub-ethnicities, including Jews from Arab and Muslim countries who came to Israel mainly in the 1950s, as well as local Arabs who remained in Israel after the 1948 war and became Israeli citizens. One of the main characteristics of Israeli culture is thus the tension between the Ashkenazi cultural canon and the other cultures that are part of the Israeli experience. Also, as Israel has shifted over the years from a collectivist, melting-pot ideology to a more market-driven society, more and more cultural products have entered the Israeli public marketplace. So while Israeli culture is young, it is highly dynamic and fertile. It has also been the object of a considerable amount of scholarly inquiry. In this bibliography culture is treated in a rather comprehensive manner to include both cultural products (various works of literature, visual art, and cinema) but also as a system that provides meaning to people’s collective experience through language, space, and shared myths and traditions.

Article.  7800 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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