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Culture & People
 
 
 
 
 

General

Israeli culture was in development long before the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 and is a combination of secular-life and religious heritage. Much of the diversity of Israel's culture can be said to come down to the diversity of the Jews who make up Israel. Originating from around the world, they all brought individual cultural rituals from their country, as well as having open horizons which mean that Israeli culture still develops as Israelis see changes in the international world. The culture is also very much based on the history and culture of the Jewish people which developed in different ways over the hundreds of years in which the Jews were in exodus which came together in the ideology of the Zionist movement of the late nineteenth century and which is certainly crucial to understanding modern Israeli culture. Israel's large Arab minority has also left its imprint in many spheres of life, from architecture to local cuisine.

Israeli culture is heterogeneous, dynamic, and very hard to define. Considerable parts of the secular cultural creations is situated in the Tel Aviv area, although many of the official cultural institutions are situated in Jerusalem. But without a doubt, most of the Israeli culture occurs in these areas, with emphasis on Tel Aviv.

Literature

Israeli literature, generally referred to as Hebrew literature, is poetry and prose written in modern Hebrew, as part of the renaissance of the Hebrew language in modern times. Having said that, a small body of Israeli literature is also published in other languages, such as Arabic and English.

By law, two copies of all printed matter published in Israel must be deposited at the Jewish National and University Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2001, the law was revised to include audio and video recordings, and other non-print media. In 2006, eighty-five percent of the eight thousand books transferred to the library were in Hebrew. Hebrew Book Week is an event held each June that features book fairs, public readings, and appearances by Israeli authors around the country. During the week, Israel's top literary award, the Sapir Prize, is presented. In 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, shared the Nobel Prize in Literature with Swedish author Nelly Sachs.

The first modern Hebrew poetry and prose was the work of 19th century Jewish writers from countries in Europe whose mother tongue was not Hebrew. Scholom Aleichem wrote in Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish; I.L. Peretz and Mendele Mocher Sforim wrote in Hebrew and Yiddish; Chaim Nachman Bialik grew up in Russia, but wrote in Hebrew. Some of these authors first published their work in Hebrew language newspapers published in Europe. Many of the pioneers of Hebrew literature were Zionists, and eventually made their way to Palestine. Some wrote in Hebrew before their arrival, while others adopted Hebrew as the vehicle for their literary endeavours only after settling in Palestine.

Arts

Israeli art had its beginnings in the early part of the 20th century when the idea of a Jewish State in Israel was beginning to take shape.

Israel’s school of the arts - the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design - was established in 1906 by sculptor Boris Schatz, and was originally called the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. The establishment of Bezalel is considered to be the first major milestone in the history of Israeli art. The school bears the symbolic name of Bezalel Ben Uri - the first artist mentioned in the Bible.

The first works of art to emerge from Bezalel were of a traditional Jewish and Biblical nature, and were created with the deep belief that art has a well-defined role in all matters connected with the spiritual existence of the Jewish nation. This belief predominated at the time despite the fact that no actual Jewish state had been established yet.

Twenty years following its establishment the institution faced various difficulties and began to confront modern secular ideologies. A separate art movement emerged out of Bezalel, a movement that disassociated itself from the religious, Diaspora-oriented, tradition which was dictated by the Bezalel Academy. This movement, known as the “Rebels of Bezalel”, sought to pay homage to the Middle East and the “New Jew” by depicting the landscape and local people of the country, and its members sought to express their newfound identity as “Hebrew” rather than “Jewish” artists. This movement was established by Avraham Melnikov, Yosef Zaritzky and Reuven Rubin, and is considered to have made a major influence upon many aspects of Israeli life to this day.

Bezalel underwent numerous changes until it became the leading academy for art and design and moved to its present Jerusalem location on the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University. Throughout the school’s existence, Bezalel graduates have taught young artists, who have pursued many new directions and broadened the landscape of local creativity to encompass other institutions, museums and galleries both in Israel and abroad.

Israeli art is displayed in museums and galleries in the three major cities in Israel and in other locations. Art lovers can enjoy numerous permanent and temporary exhibits.



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