In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Israeli Culture

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • The Rise of Modern Hebrew
  • Origins
  • The Holocaust and Israeli Identity
  • Between East and West
  • Land, Space, Architecture
  • Gender, Sexuality, and the Body
  • Arabs and Israeli Culture
  • Israeli Cinema
  • Popular Culture

Jewish Studies Israeli Culture
Eran Kaplan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 August 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0071


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.


Several English-language journals cover various aspects of Israeli culture. Hebrew Studies and Prooftexts are dedicated to the entire Hebrew literary tradition, including Modern Hebrew, while Israel Studies is devoted to all aspects of this field (history, sociology, political science, anthropology), including Israeli culture. There are numerous Israeli journals dedicated to various aspects of Israeli culture. Among them Mozna’im is the longest-running journal dedicated to Modern Hebrew literature; Studio: Art Magazine is an Israeli art journal; and Ma’arvon is an Israeli cinema journal.

  • Hebrew Studies: A Journal Devoted to Hebrew Language and Literature.

    This journal, sponsored by the National Association of Hebrew Professors, publishes studies on both ancient and modern Hebrew language and literature.

  • Israel Studies.

    Dedicated to Israel Studies in general, this journal regularly publishes on various aspects of Israeli culture, including Israeli literature and cinema as well as Israeli popular culture. Published since 1996 by Indiana University Press.

  • Ma’arvon.

    This is an Israeli, Hebrew-language journal published since 2006, dedicated to both world and Israeli cinema. The journal is supported by the Israeli association of film directors and screenwriters.

  • Mozna’im

    Founded by Bialik and sponsored by the Hebrew Writers Association in Israel, this is the longest-running journal (since 1928) dedicated to Modern Hebrew literature.

  • Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History.

    Sponsored by the Department of Hebrew Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary and published since 1981 by Indiana University Press.

  • Studio: Art Magazine.

    An Israeli Hebrew-language art magazine with a focus on Israeli art, published since 1987 by Havatzelet-Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa’ir Cultural and Educational Association.

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