Israel’s varied culture is a result of its diversified population: Jews from across the globe have returned to Israel, bringing their cultural and religious traditions with them, resulting in a melting pot of Jewish practices and beliefs. Israel is the only nation in the world where the Hebrew calendar is followed. The Jewish holidays define work and school vacations, and Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, is the official day of rest. The Arab minority in Israel has left its mark on Israeli culture in areas such as architecture, music, and food.
Although a minor corpus of writing is produced in other languages, such as English, Israeli literature is mainly poetry and prose written in Hebrew, as part of the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language from the mid-19th century. All printed materials published in Israel is required by law to be deposited in the National Library of Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in two copies. The legislation was changed in 2001 to cover audio and video recordings as well as other non-print media. In 2013, the library received 7,863 volumes, 91 percent of which were in Hebrew. Every June, the Hebrew Book Week takes place throughout the nation, with book fairs, public readings, and appearances by Israeli writers. The Sapir Prize, Israel’s highest literary prize, is given throughout the week.
Shmuel Yosef Agnon and German Jewish novelist Nelly Sachs won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.
Yehuda Amichai, Nathan Alterman, and Rachel Bluwstein have all been prominent Israeli poets. Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, and David Grossman are among the most well-known modern Israeli writers. Sayed Kashua, an Israeli-Arab humorist who writes in Hebrew, is also well-known worldwide. Emile Habibi, whose book The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist and other works earned him the Israel Prize for Arabic Literature, and Mahmoud Darwish, who is widely regarded as “the Palestinian national poet,” have both lived and worked in Israel. Darwish was born and reared in northern Israel, but after joining the Palestine Liberation Organization, he spent his adult life overseas.
Music and dance
Israeli music incorporates musical influences from across the globe, including Sephardic music, Hasidic melodies, belly dance music, Greek music, jazz, and mainstream rock. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been performing for almost seventy years and currently plays over two hundred performances each year, is one of Israel’s most famous orchestras. Israel has also produced a number of notable musicians, some of whom have achieved worldwide acclaim. Internationally renowned artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Ofra Haza were all born in Israel. Since 1973, Israel has competed in the Eurovision Song Contest almost every year, winning three times and hosting it twice. Since 1987, Eilat has hosted the Red Sea Jazz Event, an annual international jazz festival.
The canonical folk songs of Israel, known as “Songs of the Land of Israel,” are about the pioneers’ experiences in establishing the Jewish state. Early Jewish immigrants brought the Hora circle dance, which became popular in Kibbutzim and surrounding villages. It became a symbol of Zionist rebuilding and the capacity to find pleasure in the face of adversity. It is now an important part of contemporary Israeli folk dancing, and it is often seen at weddings and other festivities, as well as in group dances throughout the country. Modern dance is a thriving industry in Israel, and a number of Israeli choreographers, like Ohad Naharin, Rami Beer, Barak Marshall, and others, are regarded as among the most varied and creative worldwide artists working today. The Batsheva Dance Company and the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company are two well-known Israeli dance organizations.
Many Palestinian artists live in Israel, including Taiseer Elias, an internationally renowned oud and violin player, vocalist Amal Murkus, and brothers Samir and Wissam Joubran. Israeli Arab artists have gained international acclaim: Elias and Murkus perform regularly in Europe and America, and oud musician Darwish Darwish (Prof. Elias’s pupil) won first place in an all-Arab oud competition in Egypt in 2003. Taiseer Elias, the director of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance’s advanced degree program in Arabic music.
Cinema and theatre
Since Israel’s founding, ten Israeli films have been final candidates for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Ajami, a film from Israel, was nominated for the third time in a row. Palestinian Israeli filmmakers have produced a number of films dealing with the Arab-Israel conflict and the situation of Palestinians in Israel, including Mohammed Bakri’s Jenin, Jenin and The Syrian Bride, which was released in 2002.
Israel has a thriving theatre culture, carrying on the rich theatrical traditions of Yiddish theatre in Eastern Europe. Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv, founded in 1918, is Israel’s oldest repertory theatrical company and national theater.
According to Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, Israel was rated 96th out of 180 countries in 2014, second only to Kuwait (at 91) in the Middle East and North Africa area. Israel was rated as the Middle East and North Africa’s sole free country in the 2013 Freedom in the World annual survey and report, which tries to assess the degree of democracy and political freedom in every nation.
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem contains the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as a large collection of Judaica and European art. It is one of Israel’s most significant cultural institutions. Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum, is the world’s primary repository of Holocaust-related data. On the Tel Aviv University campus, Beth Hatefutsoth (the Diaspora Museum) is an interactive museum dedicated to the history of Jewish communities throughout the globe. Many villages and kibbutzim have high-quality artspaces in addition to the main museums in big cities. The Mishkan Le’Omanut on Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuhad is the country’s biggest art museum.
Several Israeli museums, notably the Rockefeller Museum and the L. A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art, both in Jerusalem, are dedicated to Islamic culture. The Rockefeller focuses on archaeology from the Ottoman Empire and other Middle Eastern eras. Galilee Man, the earliest hominid fossil skull discovered in Western Asia, was discovered there. The Israel Museum has a cast of the skull on exhibit.
Israeli cuisine comprises both native foods and those introduced to the nation by Jewish diaspora immigration. Israeli fusion cuisine has evolved since the state’s founding in 1948, especially since the late 1970s. Approximately half of Israel’s Jewish population claims to maintain kosher at home. Though kosher restaurants were uncommon in the 1960s, they now account for around a quarter of all eateries, possibly reflecting the mainly secular attitudes of people who dine out. Kosher cuisine is considerably more likely to be served in hotel restaurants. The non-kosher retail sector was formerly limited, but it expanded quickly and significantly in the 1990s as a result of the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia. Pork, often known as “white meat” in Israel, is produced and eaten alongside non-kosher fish, rabbits, and ostriches, despite the fact that it is prohibited by both Judaism and Islam.
Israeli cuisine has adapted aspects of different Jewish culinary types, especially Mizrahi, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi cooking methods, as well as Moroccan Jewish, Iraqi Jewish, Ethiopian Jewish, Indian Jewish, Iranian Jewish, and Yemeni Jewish influences. Many classic Arab, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean dishes, such as falafel, hummus, shakshouka, couscous, and za’atar, have become staples in Israeli cuisine. In Israel, schnitzel, pizza, hamburgers, French fries, rice, and salad are all popular.
Since their first victory in 1992, Israel has won nine Olympic medals, including a gold medal in windsurfing in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Israel has won over 100 gold medals in the Paralympic Games and is now placed 15th all-time in terms of medals. Israel hosted the Summer Paralympics in 1968. The Maccabiah Games, an Olympic-style competition for Jewish and Israeli athletes, began in the 1930s and have taken place every four years since then.
Basketball and association football are the most popular spectator sports in Israel. The Israeli Premier League and the Israeli Basketball Super League are the country’s top football and basketball leagues, respectively. The biggest sporting clubs are Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Beitar Jerusalem. Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, and Hapoel Tel Aviv have all played in the UEFA Champions League, with Hapoel Tel Aviv reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup. Six times, Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. has won the European basketball title. The nation was selected to host the official 2017 EuroBasket in 2016.
Israel hosted and won the Asian Nations Cup in 1964, and the Israeli national football team qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first and only time in 1970. The 1974 Asian Games in Tehran were the last Asian Games in which Israel competed, and they were marred by Arab nations’ refusal to compete alongside Israel. Israel was barred from competing in Asian sporting competitions after being banned from the 1978 Asian Games. Israel was admitted to UEFA in 1994, and Israeli soccer teams now play in Europe.
Chess is a popular sport in Israel, with players of all ages participating. Many Israeli grandmasters exist, and Israeli chess players have won many world championships at the young level. Israel hosts an international chess tournament every year and hosted the World Team Chess Championship in 2005. The Ministry of Education and the World Chess Federation collaborated on an initiative to teach chess in Israeli schools, and some schools have already implemented it. Beersheba has become a national chess hub, with the game being taught in kindergartens across the city. It has the most chess grandmasters of any city in the planet, thanks in part to Soviet immigration. The Israeli chess team won silver in the 2008 Chess Olympiad and bronze in the 2010 Olympiad, finishing third out of 148 teams. Boris Gelfand, an Israeli grandmaster, won the Chess World Cup in 2009 and the Candidates Tournament in 2011 to earn the opportunity to challenge the world champion. Only a speed-chess tie breaker separated him from defending world champion Anand in the 2012 World Chess Championship.
On January 31, 2011, Israeli tennis champion Shahar Pe’er was ranked 11th in the world. The Israeli security forces and police utilize Krav Maga, a combat technique created by Jewish ghetto defenders during the fight against Nazism in Europe. It has gained worldwide acclaim and devotion because to its efficacy and practical approach to self-defense.