Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The term "Israelis" refers to the inhabitants of the State of Israel. However, this collection concentrates on the cultures of the Jewish inhabitants; cultural data on Israeli Arabs will be found in the Palestinians (M013) collection. The State of Israel, established in 1948, is located on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Neighboring states include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. Languages spoken by the Israelis include Hebrew (the official language), Arabic (used mostly by Arab minorities), and English. The economy is based on high-tech design and manufactures. Agricultural production focuses on growing crops, for example, fruits, mostly for sale and export.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle East --Middle East



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Israelis collection consists of 19 documents, all in English, focusing on the majority culture and Jewish inhabitants of the State of Israel. Cultural data on Israeli Arabs will be found in the Palestinians collection.

The major time span for the Israelis collection ranges from about 1870 to approximately the year 2000, with an emphasis on the post independence period of 1948 to 1999.

Several of the documents in the collection deal with the State of Israel as a whole, these being: Aronoff, 1993, no. 1 (Israeli political history and political parties), Katriel, 1991, no. 8 (symbols and meaning in Israeli ethnography), Patai, 1953, no. 10 (ethnic relations between Sephardic and Askenasi Jews), Willner, 1969, no. 16 (nation building and development in Israel), and Kahn, 2000, no. 7 (assisted conception in Israel). Two of the works in the collection deal with a socio-cultural analysis of the Israeli commune or cooperative farm communities, known in the literature as the MOSHAV (Baldwin, 1972, no. 2) and the KIBBUTZ (Spiro, 1956, no. 14). The distinction between these units lies principally in terms of property. The MOSHAV (pl. MOSHARVIM) is a cooperative settlement of individually owned farms, while the KIBBUTZ is a cooperative farm or community in which all property is owned in common. A number of other studies in this collection deal with immigrant population settlements in Israel and their assimilation into and impact on the host Israeli society. These documents are: Salamon, 2000, no. 11 (Ethiopian Jews), Shokeid, 1985, no. 12, and Willner, 1969, no. 16 (the Jews of the High Atlas mountains of Morocco), and Zenner, 2000, nos. 18 and 19 (Syrian Jews).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is a revision (revised in 2003 by Kevin Avruch) of the article "Jews of Israel", by Kevin Avruch, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, vol. 9, 1995. Edited by John Middleton and Amal Rassam. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The Synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in April 2004. The Human Relations Area Files acknowledges with thanks the bibliographical suggestions by Harvey E. Goldberg in the preparation of this collection.

Afforestation -- use "CULTURAL GOALS (185)"

Agricultural instructors -- use "RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (654)", use "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"

ALIYA -- a general term used to refer to the migration to Israel -- use "EXTERNAL MIGRATION (167)"


AMUTOT -- building cooperatives -- use "CONSTRUCTION (331)" and/or "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)"

AYIN HA'RA -- the evil eye -- "SORCERY (754)"

BA'ALEI TESHUVA -- a newly religious person -- use "CONGREGATIONS (794)" and/or "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)"

BAR MITZVAH -- a rite of passage to adulthood for 13 year old boys at or near puberty -- use "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)"

BID -- a special wedding party for the groom, just before the wedding -- use "NUPTIALS (585)" and/or "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)"

Black Panthers -- a militant protest group -- use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

bomb shelters -- construction, use "MISCELLANEOUS STRUCTURES (349)" and/or "WARTIME ADJUSTMENTS (722)"


CHASSIDISM -- a religious folk movement in the eighteenth century, stressing the mystical and emotional aspects of religious life -- use "GENERAL CHARACTER OF RELIGION (771)"

defence organizer -- use "MILITARY ORGANIZATION (701)"

Development Corporation of "Greentown" -- use "ECONOMIC PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT (179)"

Federation -- a union of collective settlements -- use "TOWNS (632)"

GAMAHIM -- voluntary organizations that provide aid to those in need, use "PRIVATE WELFARE AGENCIES (747)" and/or - use "POVERTY (735)"

general assembly -- the general public forum -- use "COUNCILS (623)" and/or use "PUBLIC LECTURES (544)"

GIBUSH -- social cohesion or crystallization of a group -- use "SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS (571)"; use of term as a metaphor and in semantics -- use "SOCIOLINGUISTICS (195)" and/or "SEMANTICS (196)

GUSH -- the national political party machine -- use "POLITICAL MACHINES (667)" and "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)"

HAHLAFOT -- the ritualized swapping of collectible items -- use "EXCHANGE TRANSACTIONS (437)" (sometimes combined with "HOBBIES (523)")

HALUKKA -- an institution which raised funds for needy Jews -- use "PRIVATE WELFARE AGENCIES (747)"

HAMULA -- a form of extended family in use by Arabs and Jews from Arab countries -- use "EXTENDED FAMILIES (596)"

HAPOEL HAMIZRAHI -- a religious political party -- use "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)"

HAREDI -- ultraorthodox Jews -- use "CONGREGATIONS (794)" and/or "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)"

health insurance -- use "SOCIAL INSURANCE (745)"

HEVRA KADISHA -- burial societies -- use "MORTUARY SPECIALISTS (767)"

HEVRAT OVDIM (society of workers) -- a holding company which functions to found and manage the economic activities of the HISTADRUT'S cooperative societies -- use "CORPORATE ORGANIZATION (473)" and/or "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)"

HIBUDIM -- the ritualized sharing of treats (children) -- use "SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS (571)"

HILLULA -- memorial celebration -- use "CULT OF THE DEAD (769)" and/or "RITUAL (788)"

HINNA -- a special evening party for the bride, just before the actual wedding -- use "NUPTIALS (585)" and/or "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)"

HISTADRUT -- a major trade union (the General Federation of Labor) -- use "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)" (sometimes with "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)")

Holocaust -- use "WARFARE (726)"

IKHPAT-LI -- a political pressure group -- use "PRESSURE POLITICS (664)" and/or "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)"

INTIFADA -- a civil uprising of Palestinians against the Israelis -- use "INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (648)"

Israel as a welfare state -- use "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)" (sometimes with "CONSTITUTION (642)")

Jewish Agency -- use "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)" or "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)" (depending on context)

Jewish National Fund -- an organization created to purchase land in Palestine, and lease it to Jewish people for agriculture, home building, etc. -- use "OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL OF CAPITAL (471)", "REAL PROPERTY (423)", or "RENTING AND LEASING (427)"

Jewishness, concept of -- use "CULTURAL IDENTITY AND PRIDE (186)"

KFAR AVODA -- work villages, established on cultivatable land -- use "TILLAGE (241)", "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)", or "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)

KELET -- a program to provide a framework of pre-vocational training for youths who have dropped out of school, but still are of elementary school age -- use "VOCATIONAL EDUCATION (874)"

KEHILLA -- the community -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

KEVUTZA -- a child's peer group -- use "CHILDHOOD ACTIVITIES (857)"

KIBBUTZ (pl. KIBBUTZIM) -- a cooperative farm or community -- use "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)", "TILLAGE (241)", or "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

KITURIM -- "griping", as a speech mode use "SPEECH (191)", in conversation use "CONVERSATION (521)", as an expression of world view, use "ETHNOSOCIOLOGY (829)"

KLITA -- absorption, adaptation, assimilation -- use "ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)" or "ACCULTURATION AND CULTURE CONTACT (177)"

KNESSET -- the Israeli parliament -- use "DELIBERATIVE COUNCILS (646)"

KOSHER, concept of -- use "PURIFICATION AND ATONEMENT (783)"

KUPPAT HOLIM -- the sick fund established by the HISTADRUT labor organization -- use "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)" or "SOCIAL INSURANCE (745)"

KVUTZA -- the commune -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" and/or "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)"

Land Settlement Department -- use "ECONOMIC PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT (179)" and/or "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)"

LANDSMANSCHAFTEN -- associations of persons from the same homeland -- use "EXTERNAL MIGRATION (167)", "ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)", "SODALITIES (575)", and "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)" (depending on context)

LIKUD -- the Independent Liberal Party -- "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)"

MA'ABARA -- transit villages composed of tents, huts and barracks established in areas where work was available -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" and/or "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)"


MADRIKH (pl. MADRIKHIM) -- guides or instructors in helping new immigrants get adjusted to village life -- use "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)" and/or "EXTERNAL MIGRATION (167)"

MAFDAL -- a political party composed mostly of Moroccan immigrants -- use "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)", use "CONGREGATIONS (794)", and "ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)" (depending on context)

MAGHREB -- a single Jewish culture area divided into Jews of northern Tunisia, southern Tunisia, and Tripolitania -- use "EXTERNAL MIGRATION (167)" and/or "ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)"

MALBEN -- the Israeli health and welfare agency of the American Joint Distribution Committee -- use "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)"

MAMZERS -- status of Jews who were conceived in certain rabbinically proscribed, illicit sexual unions -- use "DOWNWARD MOBILITY (558)"

MAPAI -- the leading socialist party in Israel -- use "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)"

MARBEK -- marketing agencies -- use "BUYING AND SELLING (432)"and/or "MERCANTILE BUSINESS (441)"

marketing manager -- use "MERCANTILE BUSINESS (441)"

MASCHGICHOT -- ultra-orthodox women who were paid to sit in fertility labs and supervise the lab workers -- use "HOSPITALS AND CLINICS (743)" and/or "CONGREGATIONS (794)"

MEZUZA (pl. MEZUZOT) -- a rectangular piece of parchment on which holy words are inscribed, which is affixed to the door post of a house -- use "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)"

MIKVEH -- ritual baths -- use "PURIFICATION AND ATONEMENT (783)" (sometimes with "PERSONAL HYGIENE (515)")

ministries, government -- use "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)"

MIMOUNA -- a traditional light-hearted spring celebration (Moroccan) -- use "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)"

MITSVA (MITSVOT) -- a meritorious act; something that people are commanded to do by God -- use "ETHICS (577)" (possibly with "THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS (779)")

MOADONIM -- clubhouses -- use "RECREATIONAL FACILITIES (529)" (sometimes with "PUBLIC STRUCTURES (344)" and/or "RECREATIONAL STRUCTURES (345)")

MO'ETZA DATIT -- religious councils -- use "COUNCILS (623)" and/or "CONGREGATIONS (794)"

MORI -- an informal rabbi; a respected and learned man who can explain religious works -- use "PRIESTHOOD (793)" and/or "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)", (possibly with "TEACHERS (875)")

MOSHAV (pl. MOSHARVIM) -- a cooperative settlement of small individual farms -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" (and "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474) when relevant)

MOSHVEI OLIM -- immigrant settlements -- use "EXTERNAL MIGRATION (167)" and/or use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"


OTSEM -- a union for workers in a MOSHARVIM -- use "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)"

PLO-Israeli relations -- use "INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (648)"

PROTEKTSIA -- political nepotism -- use "EXPLOITATION (661)", "POLITICAL INTRIGUE (662)", and/or "MANIPULATIVE MOBILITY (557)" (depending on context)

regional councils -- a committee composed of members from several communities in an area who operate in defense of that area and in the provision of services such as drainage and sewerage -- 632, 631 (sometimes 633, and 634 depending on context)

regions -- territorial administrative units -- use "TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY (631)"

religious councils -- see MO'ETZA DATIT

SAGE -- a commpound composed of a number of workshops which employ the indigent elderly -- use "BUSINESS STRUCTURES (347)" or "PHILANTHROPIC FOUNDATIONS (741)"

scrutinizing committee -- see VA'ADAT HA'BIKORET

secretary of the MOSHAV -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" and/or "LOCAL OFFICIALS (624)"

sentries -- use "MILITARY ORGANIZATION (701)"

settlement movement -- a function of the Land Settlement Department, which supervises the economic development of one or more MOSHAV -- use "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)" (sometimes with "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)", and "RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (654)")

SHABBAT -- the Jewish sabbath -- secular aspects of, use "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)"; religious aspects, use "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)"

SHEKHUNOT -- neighborhoods -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

SHOHET -- a religious slaughterer -- use "OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALIZATION (463)" and/or use "DOMESTICATED ANIMALS (231)"

SHTETLS -- a small Jewish town or village -- use "TOWNS (632)" and/or use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

social instructors -- see MADRIKH (pl. MADRIKHIM)


SOLEL BONEH -- a cooperative society for public works -- use "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)" and/or "PUBLIC WORKS (653)"

Standing Committee, political -- part of the Israelis political parties -- use "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)"

surrogacy -- a woman who "rents" her womb to produce a child for an infertile couple, basically a human incubator -- use "CONCEPTION (842)"

TAHAL -- the Israel Water Planning Authority -- use "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)", "WATER SUPPLY (312)", and/or "CORPORATE ORGANIZATION (473)"

The Movement -- a youth movement in Israel and abroad which prepared young people for KIBBUTZ living; also a political party -- use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)", "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)", use "ADOLESCENT ACTIVITIES (883)" (where relevant)

TNUVA -- the agricultural marketing cooperative of the HISTADRUT -- use "BUYING AND SELLING (432)", use "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)", use "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)", use "DAIRYING (234)" (depending on context)

VA'ADAT HA'BIKORET -- the "scrutinizing" committee which reviews the rulings of the council -- use "LOCAL OFFICIALS (624)"

village councils -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

village executive -- village council or committee -- use "COUNCILS (623)"

YESHIVA -- religious educational schools or seminaries -- use "ELEMENTARY EDUCATION (872)", "LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION (873)" and/or "VOCATIONAL EDUCATION (874)"

YISHUV -- the old religious settlements in pre-independence Palestine -- use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" and/or "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)"


youth instructor -- a teacher -- use "TEACHERS (875)"

youthtown program -- a form of settlement house for disadvantaged youths, use "PRIVATE WELFARE AGENCIES (747)"; as a community, use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

ZADDIK -- a "saint"; a holy or godly individual -- use "PROPHETS AND ASCETICS (792)" and/or "PRIESTHOOD (793)"; as a supernatural being, "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

ZAHAL -- the Israel Defense Forces -- use "MILITARY ORGANIZATION (701)"

Zionism -- use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

Zionist Forum -- use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)" and/or use "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)" (depending on context)

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