Israeli Culture

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Israeli Culture

“A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” -Mahatma Gandhi
To try and come up with only one inclusive definition of culture can prove to be a tiring task as many scholars have created an assortment of definitions over the past century. (Matsumoto & Juang, 2008) Human culture as defined by Matsumoto and Juang (2008) is, “…a unique meaning and information system, shared by a group and transmitted across generations, that allows the group to meet basic needs of survival, pursue happiness and well-being, and derive meaning from life.” (p. 15) Religion is perhaps the most influential piece of the culture in Israel: it plays a part in almost all areas. This is a look at the culture of the people of Israel including the areas of religion, politics, gender, marriage and family, as well as art and cuisine.

Religion
Religion plays an enormous role in the land of Israel and it’s rich culture. The three most popular religions of the entire world are Judaism, Christianity and Islam and they’re also the three most common religions found in Israel. (Torstrick, 2004) As of 2004, approximately 4.7 Jews, 901,000 Muslims and 113,000 Arab Christians lived in Israel. (Torstrick, 2004) As a result of these varying religions and their presence, the city of Jerusalem has been titled a “city of contrasts”, filled with both ancient neighborhoods as well as new, and houses of prayer for all the many communities and religions. (Lowenstein, 2012)

Not all Jews share the same beliefs and there are many different Jewish denominations in Israel including Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist. (Blech, 1999) The strictest followers of Judaism are the ultra-orthodox but they only account for about eight percent of the population. (Geri, 2007) Some people don’t consider themselves to be any of these specific types but rather just Jewish, and this is how they choose to identify themselves whether or not it is agreed upon between the sects. “The choice of personal identification is probably the most powerful determinant for someone being a Jew.” (Blech, 1999, p. 11) The founder of Islam was a man named Mohammed who, according to author Rabbi Benjamin Blech (1999), “obtained all of his knowledge of religion from the Torah.”(p. 138) The main branch of Islam is called Sunni and these are the type of Muslims that live in Israel. Other sects of Muslim like the Shiites, have separated from the Sunni as a result of disagreements within the religion. (Torstrick, 2004) Despite current issues between the Jews and Muslims in Israel, their original relationship was a peaceful one and had lasted that way for hundreds of years. (Blech, 1999) As far as Christianity goes, the two main sects are the Greek Catholic and the Greek Orthodox and they are located primarily in the city of Jerusalem. The Greek Orthodox Church was granted its authority by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 making it the oldest Christian denomination in Israel. (Torstrick, 2004) There was much cruelty directed towards the Jewish people from the time that Christianity was named the religion of the state for the Byzantine Empire during the fourth century. The cruelty rendered this prayer that was written by Pope John XXIII right before he died in 1963: “We realize that our brows are branded with the mark of Cain. Centuries long has Abel lain in blood and tears because we have forgotten Thy love. Forgive us the curse which we unjustly laid on the name of the Jews. Forgive us, that with our curse, we crucified Thee a second time. “ (Blech, 1999, p. 147) Politics

Israel is a democratic republic based on a universal right to vote. (Geri, 2007) The main components of the Israeli government consist of the presidency, a unicameral government otherwise known as the Knesset, the judiciary and the State Comptroller. (Geri, 2007) The Knesset is a 120-member elected parliament, the office of the president and the offices of the prime...
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