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Israel - SOCIETY

Israel - Society


THE SOCIETY OF MODERN ISRAEL has diverse sources, but the majority of these sources stem ultimately from Judaism and the modern political movement called Zionism. Crystallizing in the late nineteenth century as a response to both the repression of Jews in Eastern Europe and the non-Jewish European nationalist movements of the time, Zionism called for the reversal of the Jewish dispersion (Diaspora) and the "ingathering of the exiles" to their biblical homeland. Although only small numbers of Jews had resided in Palestine since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70, the "new Yishuv" (as opposed to the "old Yishuv" consisting of traditional Orthodox Jewish residents), or prestate Jewish community in Palestine, dates from 1882 and the arrival from Russia of a group called Hibbat Tziyyon (Lovers of Zion), intent on settling the land as part of its fulfillment of the Zionist ideal.

As a nationalist movement, Zionism largely succeeded: much of the Jewish Diaspora was dissolved, and the people were integrated into the population of the State of Israel--a self-consciously modern Jewish state. Along with this political achievement, a cultural achievement of equal, if not greater, importance took place. Hebrew, the ancient biblical language, was revived and became the modern spoken and written vernacular. The revival of Hebrew linked the new Jewish state to its Middle Eastern past and helped to unify the people of the new state by providing them with a common tongue that transcended the diversity of languages the immigrants brought with them.

Despite these political and cultural achievements--achievements that Israeli sociologist S.N. Eisenstadt sees as comprising "the Jewish re-entry into history"--modern Israeli society is still beset by problems, some of them profound. Among these are problems found in all industrial and economically differentiated social systems, including stratification by socioeconomic class, differential prestige attached to various occupations or professions, barriers to social mobility, and different qualities of life in urban centers, towns, and rural localities. For example, there are significant differences between the quality of life in the so-called development towns and the rural localities known as kibbutzim (sing., kibbutz) and moshavim (sing., moshav), respectively collective and cooperative settlements that are strongly socialist and Zionist in history and character.

Other social problems that Israel faces are unique to its own society and culture. The role that traditional Judaism should play in the modern state is a major source of controversy. The tension between religious and secular influences pervades all aspects of society. For example, religious practices influence the education system, the way ethnic groups are dealt with, how political debate is conducted, and there is no civil marriage in Israel.

The division between the Ashkenazim (Jews of European or American origin) and Oriental Jews (Jews of African or Asian origin) is another serious problem. This divisiveness results from the extreme cultural diversity in the migratory streams that brought Jewish immigrants to Israel between the late nineteenth century and the late 1980s. Already-settled members of the receiving society have had difficulty absorbing immigrants whose cultures differ so greatly from their own and from each other. Adding further to cultural disharmony is the problem of the place of non-Jews in the Jewish state. In Israel non-Jews are primarily Arabs (who are mostly Muslims, but also Christians and Druzes) a small number are non-Arab Muslims (such as the Circassians) or Christians (such as the Armenian residents of Jerusalem). Jewish Israelis also distinguish between Arabs who reside within the pre-June 1967 War boundaries of Israel and Arabs who live in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip--the latter group is perceived as having no loyalty to the state.

The rift between Arabs and Jews in Israel is, of course, related to Israel's position in the contemporary Middle East. By Israeli count, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was the fifth major Arab-Israeli war since 1948. This does not count smaller military actions or larger, more celebrated military actions, such as the Entebbe raid of July 1976. American political scientist Bernard Reich has written that "Israel is perhaps unique among states in having hostile neighbors on all of its borders, with the exception, since 1979, of Egypt." He adds that this fact has dominated all aspects of Israeli life since 1948, when the state was established and was invaded by Arab armies. It might be noted that security concerns were a striking feature of life (especially after 1929 and Arab violence against Jews) in the Yishuv as well. To the tension caused by cleavages between Oriental and Ashkenazi Jews, between the religious and the secularists, and between Jews and non-Jews must be added the profound social and psychological stress of living in a society at war with, and feeling itself to be under siege by, its neighbors. Many Israelis would also cite the special stress of having to serve as soldiers in areas regarded by Arab inhabitants as "occupied territories," a situation characterized, especially since December 1987, by increasing civil disobedience and violence.


Israel - Population


At the end of October 1987, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the population of Israel was 4,389,600, of which 3,601,200 (82 percent) were Jews. About 27 percent of the world's Jews lived in Israel. About 605,765 (13.8 percent) of the population of Israel were Muslims, 100,960 (2.3 percent) were Christians, and about 74,623 (1.7 percent) were Druzes and others. At the end of 1986 the population was growing at a rate of 1.3 percent for Jews, 3.0 percent for Muslims, 1.5 percent for Christians, and 2.8 percent for Druzes and others.

In 1986 the median age of the Israeli population was 25.4. Differences among segments of the population, among Jews and Muslim Arabs in particular, were striking. The non-Jewish population was much younger; in 1986 its median age was 16.8, that of Jews was 27.6. The Jewish population was skewed toward the upper and lower extremes of age, as compared with the non-Jewish age distribution. This skewing resulted from large-scale Jewish immigration, especially the immigration that accompanied the formation of the state in 1948. Many of these immigrants were older individuals; moreover, most of the younger immigrants were single and did not marry and raise families until after their settlement. This circumstance accounts in part for the relatively small percentage of the Jewish population in the twenty to thirty-five-year-old age- group.

With regard to minorities, Muslim Arabs clearly predominated over Christians, Druzes, and others. In 1986 Muslims accounted for 77 percent of the non-Jewish Israeli population. Together with the Druzes, who resembled them closely in demographic terms, they had the highest rate of growth, with all the associated indicators (family size, fertility rate, etc.). Christian Arabs in 1986 were demographically more similar to Israeli Jews than to Muslims or Druzes.

The Jewish Israeli population differed also in country of origin; the population included African-Asian and European-American Jews, and native-born Israelis, or sabras. In the oldest age-groups, those of European-American provenance, called "Ashkenazim," predominated, reflecting the population of the pre-1948 era. By the early 1970s, the number of Israelis of African-Asian origin outnumbered European or American Jews. In Israel, immigrants from African and Asian countries were called either Orientals, from the Hebrew Edot Mizrah (communities of the East), or Sephardim, from an older and different usage. It was not until 1975 that the sabras outnumbered immigrants.

Understanding the importance of aliyah (pl., aliyot), as immigration to Israel is called in Hebrew, is crucial to understanding much about Israeli society, from its demography to its ethnic composition. Aliyah has historical, ideological, and political ramifications. Ideologically, aliyah was one of the central constituents of the Zionist goal of ingathering of the exiles. Historically and politically, aliyah accounted for most of the growth in the Jewish population before and just after the advent of the state. For example, between 1922 and 1948 the Jewish population in Palestine grew at an annual average rate of 9 percent. Of this growth, 75 percent was due to immigration. By contrast, in the same period, the Arab population grew at an average annual rate of 2.75 percent--almost all as a result of natural increase. Between 1948 and 1960, immigration still accounted for 69 percent of the annual average growth rate of 8.6 percent. A significant group entering Israel since 1965 has been Soviet Jews, of whom approximately 174,000 immigrated between 1965 and 1986. In the most recent period for which data existed in 1988, the period from 1983 through 1986, immigration contributed only a little more than 6 percent to a much diminished average annual growth rate of 1.5 percent.

The practical political aspects of declining aliyot are important in comparing the Jewish and non-Jewish population growth rates; one must also consider emigration of Jews from Israel, called yerida, a term with pejorative connotations in Hebrew. It is estimated that from 400,000 to 500,000 Israelis emigrated between 1948 and 1986. Emigration is a politically sensitive topic, and statistical estimates of its magnitude vary greatly. To take one possible index, the Central Bureau of Statistics noted that of the more than 466,000 Israeli residents who went abroad for any period of time in 1980, about 19,200 had not returned by the end of 1986. Continued emigration combined with falling immigration, together with unequal natural population growth rates of Jews and Arabs, mean that by the year 2010, assuming medium projections of Arab and Jewish fertility, the proportion of the Jewish population within Israel's pre-1967 borders would decrease to 75 percent. If the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were to be annexed, by 2010 Jews would become a clear minority in the state, comprising approximately 45 percent of the total population.

These demographic facts have affected population and family planning policies in Israel, but as of 1988 no consistent course of action had emerged. Until the mid-1960s, Israel followed a policy favoring large families, and family planning was not a priority. In the early 1970s, as a result of unrest among Oriental Jews, the Labor government under Golda Meir decided to support family planning as a way of reducing the size of Oriental Jewish families and narrowing the socioeconomic gap between them and Ashkenazim. Nevertheless, most family planning consisted, unsatisfactorily to most people concerned with the issue, of abortions performed under a liberal abortion law that was opposed bitterly by Orthodox Jews for religious reasons. (Orthodox Jews managed to restrict the criteria for performing abortions after Menachem Begin came to power in 1977.) Thus, because Jews feared being demographically overtaken by Arabs and because of potent opposition by Orthodox Jews, the development of a coherent family-planning policy was stymied. In the late 1980s, Israel's policies on family planning remained largely contradictory.

The dispersal of the population has been a matter of concern throughout the existence of the state. In 1986 the average population density in Israel was 199 persons per square kilometer, with densities much higher in the cities (close to 6,000 persons per square kilometer in the Tel Aviv District in 1986) and considerably lower in the very arid regions of the south. The population continues to be overwhelmingly urban. Almost 90 percent resides in urban localities, more than one-third of the total in the three largest cities (in order of population), Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. Since 1948, despite calls throughout the 1960s to "Judaize" Galilee, the population has been shifting southward. Still, as of 1988, almost two-thirds of the population was concentrated on the Mediterranean coast between Haifa and Ashdod.

In the mid-1950s, in an effort both to disperse the population from the coast and settle the large numbers of immigrants coming from Middle Eastern and North African countries, so-called development towns were planned and built over the next fifteen years. They were settled primarily by Oriental Jews, or Sephardim and through the years they have often been arenas of unrest and protest among ethnic groups. In 1986, about 77 percent of rural Jews lived in kibbutzim and moshavim; still, these two rather striking Israeli social institutions attracted a very small percentage (3.5 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively) of the total Jewish population.

The changing distribution of population was more pronounced among Arabs. Whereas 75 percent of the Arabs lived in rural localities in 1948, less than 30 percent did by 1983. This pattern was not entirely because of internal migration to urban areas, but rather resulted from the urbanization of larger Arab villages. For example, in 1950 the Arab locality of Et Taiyiba near Nabulus had 5,100 residents; by 1986 its population had risen to 19,000. Israeli Arabs were concentrated in central and western Galilee, around the city of Nazareth, and in the city of Jaffa (Yafo in Hebrew), northeast of Tel Aviv. Arabs resided also in Acre (Akko in Hebrew), Lydda (Lod in Hebrew), Ramla, Haifa, and near Beersheba. They constituted the majority in East Jerusalem, annexed formally in July 1980.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 1986 about 51,200 Jews resided in the the West Bank occupied territories (called Judea and Samaria by Jewish Israelis), and an additional 2,100 resided in the Gaza Strip (these figures represented 1.4 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, of the 1986 Jewish population of Israel). They lived in 122 localities in both areas, including 4 cities, 10 kibbutzim, 31 moshavim, and 77 "other rural localities." This last category included more than fifty localities of a kind called yishuv kehillati, a nonagricultural cooperative settlement, a form new to Israel. Such settlements were associated especially with Amana, the settlement arm of Gush Emunim, and developed in the mid-1970s especially to enhance Jewish presence in the West Bank. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 1985 about 7,094, and in 1986 approximately 5,160, Jews settled in the occupied territories. Some did so for religious and nationalistic reasons, but many more were motivated by the high costs of housing inside Israel, combined with economic incentives offered by the Likud governments of the late 1970s and early 1980s to those who settled in the West Bank.

The Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the 1986 Arab population of the West Bank to be 836,000, and that of Gaza to be 545,000, for a total population of close to 1.4 million. In 1986 the population increased at a rate of 2.5 percent for the West Bank and 3.4 percent for Gaza--among the highest annual rates attained during the Israeli occupation.

Updated population figures for Israel.




The social structure of contemporary Israel has been shaped by a variety of forces and circumstances. Israel inherited some institutions and customs from the Ottomans and some from the British mandatory rule over Palestine. Zionists who strove to build the Yishuv under Ottoman and British rule also wielded influence. Immigration patterns have altered the social structure radically at different times. From 1882 to 1948, Israel received many immigrants from Eastern Europe and Central Europe. Following independence, huge numbers of Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian Jews came to the new state and altered its dominant Ashkenazi cast. Another shaping force was the presence of non-Jews in the Jewish state--a growing Arab minority within the pre-1967 borders of Israel and an absolute majority in the territories held under military occupation since the June 1967 War. Finally, among the most important forces shaping contemporary Israeli society is religion.


Israel - Varieties of Israeli Judaism


As the references to "Orthodox Zionists," "Orthodox non-Zionists," and "Orthodox anti-Zionists" indicate, Judaism is not a monolithic cultural entity in contemporary Israel. Furthermore, an understanding of religious categories in American Judaism, is not sufficient for understanding Israeli Judaism. Israelis religiously categorize themselves first as dati, that is, "religiously" observant Jews or lo dati, "not religiously" observant Jews. One who is religious strictly follows halakah, that is, adheres to the totality of rabbinic law. One who is not religious is not a strict follower of rabbinic law; however, the category can be further subdivided into agnostic or atheistic secularists, on the one hand, and individuals who are committed to Judaism in principle, on the other. The latter groups calls itself "traditionalist."

Many Oriental Jews, especially in the second generation since immigration, are traditionalists, expressing this commitment in observance of folk customs such as ethnic festivals and pilgrimages. This group is important because, although members may not vote directly for religious political parties, they respond positively to religious symbols used politically by a number of parties; for example, the idea of the Jewish people's right to a greater, biblical land of Israel as divinely ordained.


Israel - Orthodox Judaism


Within the Orthodox or dati category one can distinguish between the ultra-Orthodox or haredi, and the "modern" or "neo-Orthodox." At the very extreme, the ultra-Orthodox consists of groups such as the Neturei Karta, a small fringe group of antiZionist extremists, who reject Israel and view it as a heretical entity. They want nothing to do with the state and live in enclaves (Mea Shearim in Jerusalem and towns such as Bene Beraq), where they shut out the secular modern world as much as possible. Nevertheless, among the ultra-Orthodox one can also count some of the adherents of the Agudat Israel Party, who accept the state, although not its messianic pretensions, and work within many of its institutions. These adherents are exempt from compulsory military service and do not volunteer for police work, yet they demand that the state protect their way of life, a political arrangement known as the "preservation of the status quo". In practice, they live in the same neighborhoods as the more extreme haredi and maintain their own schools, rabbinical courts, charitable institutions, and so on. The state has not only committed itself to protecting the separate institutions of different Orthodox Jewish groups but also, especially since 1977, to their financial subvention.

The modern or neo-Orthodox are those who, while scrupulously adhering to halakah, have not cut themselves off from society at large. They are oriented to the same ideological goals as many of the secularists, and they share the basic commitment to Israel as a Zionist state. Furthermore, they participate fully in all the major institutions of the state, including the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This group is also referred to as "Orthodox Zionists." They have been represented historically by a number of political parties or coalitions, and have been the driving force behind many of the extraparliamentary social, political, and Jewish terrorist movements that have characterized Israeli society since the June 1967 War. Most Orthodox Zionists have been "ultra-hawkish" and irredentist in orientation; Gush Emunim, the Bloc of the Faithful, is the most prominent of these groups. A minority of other Zionist groups, for example, Oz Veshalom, an Orthodox Zionist movement that is the religious counterpart to Peace Now, have been more moderate.

Relations between the ultra-Orthodox and the neo-Orthodox have been complicated and not always cordial. Nevertheless, the neo-Orthodox have tended to look to the ultra-Orthodox for legitimacy on religious matters, and the ultra-Orthodox have managed to maintain their virtual monopoly on the training and certification of rabbis (including neo-Orthodox ones) in Israel. (The neo-Orthodox university, Bar-Ilan, as part of the parliamentary legislation that enabled it, was prohibited from ordaining rabbis.) Thus ultra-Orthodoxy has an aura of ultimate authenticity, a special connection to tradition that has been difficult for others to overcome. Even a staunch secularist such as David Ben-Gurion lamented during a confrontation that the ultra-Orthodox "look like our grandfathers. How can you slap your grandfather into jail, even if he throws stones at you?"


Israel - Non-Orthodox Judaism


The American denominations of Conservative Jews and Reform Jews, although they have enrolled between them the vast majority of affiliated American Jews, have achieved a very modest presence in Israel. Neither Reform nor Conservative rabbinical ordination is recognized by the Israeli chief rabbinate; thus, these rabbis are generally forbidden to perform weddings or authorize divorces. (In the mid-1980s a few Conservative rabbis were granted the right, on an ad hoc basis, to perform weddings.) In the early 1980s, there were twelve Reform congregations in Israel and about 900 members--almost 90 percent of whom were born outside the country. During the same period there were more than twenty Conservative congregations with more than 1,500 members; only about 14 percent were native-born Israelis (and, as in the case of Reform, the great majority of these were of Ashkenazi descent).

Although both Reform and Conservative movements dated their presence in Israel to the 1930s, they experienced real growth, the Conservative movement in particular, only in the late 1960s to mid-1970s. During this period, relatively large numbers of American Jews immigrated--more than 36,000 between 1968 and 1975. Nevertheless, the opposition of the Israeli Orthodox establishment to recognizing Conservative and (particularly) Reform Judaism as legitimate was strong, and it continued to be unwilling to share power and patronage with these movements. Neither of the newer movements has attracted native-born Israelis in significant numbers. The importance of the non-Orthodox movements in Israel in the late 1980s mainly reflects the influence they have wielded in the American and West European Diaspora.


Israel - The Role of Judaism


In 1988 two-thirds to three-quarters of Jewish Israelis were not religious or Orthodox in observance or practice. Among the minority of the religious who were the most extreme in their adherence to Judaism--the haredi--the very existence of Israel as a self-proclaimed Jewish state was anathema because Israel is for them (ironically, as it is for many Arabs) a wholly illegitimate entity. Given these facts--the large number of secular Israelis, and the sometimes fierce denunciation of the state by a small number of the most religious extremists--one might expect the traditionalists to play a modest role in Israeli society and culture. But the opposite is true; traditional Judaism has been playing a more dominant role since the late 1960s and affecting more of the political and economic dimensions of everyday life.

The relation between traditionalists and the Jewish state has always been ambivalent and fraught with paradox. In the nineteenth century, Zionism often competed with Orthodox Judaism for the hearts and minds of young Jews, and enmity existed between Orthodox Jews of Eastern Europe and the Zionists (and those residing in Palestine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries). Orthodox Jews resented the dominantly secular nature of Jewish nationalism (for example, the desire to turn the holy tongue of Hebrew into an instrument of everyday discourse), whereas the Zionists derogated the other-worldly passivity of Orthodox Jews. Among the most extreme Orthodox Jews, the Zionist movement was deemed heretical because it sought to "force the End of Days" and preempt the hand of God in restoring the Jewish people to their Holy Land before the Messiah's advent.

Nevertheless, for all its secular trappings, Zionism as an ideology was also profoundly tied to Jewish tradition--as its commitment to the revival of the Jews' biblical language, and, indeed, its commitment to settle for nothing less than a Jewish home in biblical Palestine indicate. Thus, secular Zionism and religious Judaism are inextricably linked, and hence the conceptual ambivalence and paradoxes of enmity and attraction.

In any case, conceptual difficulties have been suspended by world events: the violence of the pogroms in Eastern Europe throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany, in which approximately 6 million Jews were killed, nearly destroying Central and East European Jewry in the 1930s and 1940s. In the face of such suffering--and especially after the magnitude of the Holocaust became known--Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews devised ways to work together in Palestine despite their fundamental differences. When the advent of the state was followed immediately by invasion and lasting Arab hostility, this cooperative modus vivendi in the face of a common enemy continued.

The spearheads of cooperation on the Orthodox side were the so-called religious Zionists, who were able to reconcile their nationalism with their piety. Following Rabbi A.I. Kook (1865-1935), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine, many believed that Zionism and Zionists, however secular, were nonetheless instruments of God who were engaged in divinely inspired work. On a more pragmatic level, under leadership such as that of Rabbi I.J. Reines (1839-1915), the religious, like the secularists, organized in political parties, such as the Mizrahi Party. They were joined in the political arena by the non-Zionist Orthodox, organized as the Agudat Israel Party. Although Agudat Israel was originally opposed to the idea of a Jewish state, it came to accept the rationale for it in a hostile gentile world (especially after the Central and East European centers of Orthodoxy were destroyed in the Holocaust). Because Orthodox Jews, like secularists, were organized in political parties, from an early date they participated--the religious Zionists more directly than the religious non-Zionists-- in the central institutions of the Yishuv and, later, the State of Israel. Indeed, since 1977 and the coming to power of Menachem Begin's Likud, Orthodox Jews have been increasingly vocal in their desire not just to participate in but also to shape--reshape, if need be--the central institutions of Israeli society.


Israel - Judaism, Civil Religion, and the New Zionism


All varieties of Judaism--ultra-Orthodoxy, neo-Orthodoxy, the Reform and Conservative forms--together counted as their formal adherents only a minority of Jewish Israelis. Yet religion was a potent force, and increasingly so, in Israeli society. Traditional Judaism has exerted its influence in Israel in three important ways. First, traditional Judaism has influenced political and judicial legislation and state institutions, which have been championed by the various Orthodox political parties and enshrined in the "preservation of the status quo" arrangements through the years. Second, religion has exerted influence through the symbols and practices of traditional Judaism that literally pervade everyday life. Saturday is the sabbath (Shabbat), the official day of rest for Jews (although the majority do not attend synagogue), and most enterprises are closed. Jewish holidays also affect school curricula, programming on radio and television, features in the newspapers, and so on. Minority traditionalists, who extol halakah even if they do not observe all rabbinic law, also observe many folk customs. Through the years, much of the folk religion has taken on an Oriental-Jewish flavor, reflecting in part the demographic preponderance of Oriental Jews since the 1970s. Such customs include ethnic festivals such as the Moroccan mimouna (an annual festival of Moroccan Jews, originally a minor holiday in Morocco, which has become in Israel a major celebration of Moroccan Jewish ethnic identity) and family pilgrimages to the tombs of Jewish holy men. The latter have become country-wide events. Traditional Judaism has influenced Israeli society in yet a third way: Israel's political elite has selectively co-opted symbols and practices of traditional Judaism in an attempt to promote nationalism and social integration. In this way traditional Judaism, or some aspects of it, becomes part of the political culture of the Jewish state, and aspects of traditional Judaism are then enlisted in what some analysts have called the "civil religion" of Jewish society. Thus, Judaism speaks to Israelis who may themselves be nonreligious, indeed even secularist.

Of all the manifestations of religion in Israel, civil religion has undergone the most profound changes through the years, specifically becoming more religious--in the sense of incorporating more traditional, Orthodox-like Judaism. In the prestate period, the civil religion of Jewish society was generally socialist, that is, Labor Zionism. Labor Zionists were hostile to much of traditional Jewish life, to the concept of exile, and to what they viewed as the cultural obscurantism of traditional Jews. They actively rejected Orthodoxy in religion and considered it to be a key reason for the inertia and lack of modernity of exiled Jews. Labor Zionists sought to reconstitute a revolutionary new form of Jewish person in a radically new kind of society.

After 1948, however, new problems faced Israeli society--not only military and economic problems, but also the massive immigration of Jews and their assimilation. First came the remnants of East and Central European Jewry from the detention and displaced-persons camps; then came Jews from Africa and Asia. Social integration and solidarity were essential to successful assimilation, yet Labor Zionism neither appealed to nor united many sectors of the new society. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s--roughly the period of Ben-Gurion's preeminence--a civil religion was fashioned by some factions of the political elite (led by Ben-Gurion himself), which sought to stress the new Israeli state as the object of ultimate value.

Israelis have called this the period of mamlakhtiyut or statism. The Jewish Bible was the key text and symbol, and secular youths studied parts of it as the Jewish nation's history and cultural heritage. Religious holidays, such as Hanukkah and Passover, or Pesach, were reinterpreted to emphasize nationalist and liberation themes, and Independence Day was promoted as a holiday of stature equal to the old religious holidays. The archaeology of the Holy Land, particularly during the Israelite (post-Joshua) period, became a national obsession, first because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and later because of Yigal Yadin's excavations at Massada (a site of fierce Jewish resistance to the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). At the same time, the two thousand years of Jewish history that followed the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, Jewish cultural life in the various diasporas (Ashkenazi as well as Sephardi), and Jewish religion of the postbiblical eras (rabbinic Judaism, exemplified in the Talmud) were rejected or ignored.

For many reasons, the statist focus of Israeli civil religion did not continue after the June 1967 War. These reasons ranged from the greater traditionalism and piety of the Oriental immigrants, who were never satisfactorily engaged by the more limited scope of statism; to the exhaustion of the Labor Alignment, which, after the October 1973 War, had sought to embody socialist Zionism and Israeli modern statism as a manifestation of its own identity and agenda; to the rise of Begin's Likud Bloc with its populist appeals to ethnic traditionalism and an irredentist territorial program as a challenge to Labor Zionism's fading hegemony. Begin and his Likud championed a new civil religion to embody its identity and agenda. This new right-wing civil religion affirmed traditional Judaism and denigrated modernistic secularism--the reverse of the earlier civil religion. Unlike the statist version of Ben-Gurion's time, which focused on the Bible and pre-exilic Jewish history, the new civil religion was permeated by symbols from the whole of Jewish history. It gave special emphasis, however, to the Holocaust as a sign of the ultimate isolation of the Jewish people and the enduring hostility of the gentile world.

The new civil religion (which in its more political guise some have called the New Zionism) has brought traditional Judaism back to a position in the Jewish state very different from that which it occupied twenty, forty, or eighty years ago. After the June 1967 War, the New Zionists linked up with the revitalized and transformed neo-Orthodox--young, self-assured religious Jews who have self-consciously connected retention and Jewish settlement of the West Bank, the biblical Judea and Samaria, with the Messiah's advent. The rise of messianic right-wing politics gave birth in the mid-1970s to the irrendentist, extraparliamentary movement Gush Emunim, which in turn led to the Jewish terrorist underground of the 1980s. When the underground was uncovered and broken by Israeli security in April 1984, it had already carried out several attacks on Arabs, including, it was thought, Arab mayors, in the West Bank and was planning to destroy the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. Even before the June 1967 War, however, Orthodox Judaism had been able to exert influence on Israeli society simply because its religious institutions were so historically entrenched in the society.


Israel - Religious Institutions


The basis of all religious institutions in Israel dates back to the Ottoman Empire (1402-1921) and its system of confessional group autonomy called the millet system. Under the millet, each religious group was allowed limited independence in running its own community under a recognized (usually religious) leader who represented the community politically to the imperial authorities. Matters of law relating to personal status--marriage, divorce, inheritance, legitimacy of children--were also left to community control, so long as they did not involve a Muslim, in which case the sharia (Islamic law) courts took precedence.

The Jewish community in Ottoman Palestine was represented by its chief rabbi, called the Hakham Rashi or Rishon Le Tziyyon (the First in Zion), who was a Sephardi. The Orthodox Ashkenazim in Ottoman Palestine, who never formed a unified community, resented Sephardi preeminence. The secular European Jews who began to arrive in large numbers after 1882 ignored the constraints of the millet system and the standing of the chief rabbi and his council as best they could.

Under their League of Nations Mandate over Palestine, the British retained this system of religious courts (the Jewish Agency became the political representative of the Yishuv as a whole). In recognition of the growing numerical preponderance of Ashkenazim, however, the British recommended the formation of a joint chief rabbinate, one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi, and a joint chief rabbinical council. This system was implemented in 1921, together with a hierarchical court structure composed of local courts, regional appellate courts, and the joint Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem. After Israel's independence--even with the establishment of autonomous secular and military judiciaries--this system of rabbinical courts prevailed. An addition to the system was a Ministry of Religious Affairs under the control of the religious political party that sat in coalition to form the government, originally Mizrahi and later the National Religious Party.

In 1988, in addition to the two chief rabbis and their Chief Rabbinical Council, local chief rabbis were based in the larger cities (again, generally two, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi) and on local religious councils. These councils (under the Ministry of Religious Affairs) functioned as administrative bodies and provided religious services. They supervised dietary laws (kashrut) in public institutions, inspected slaughterhouses, maintained ritual baths, and supported synagogues--about 5,000 of them--and their officials. They also registered marriages and divorces, that is, legal matters of personal status that came under their jurisdiction.

Israel's Proclamation of Independence guarantees freedom of religion for all groups within the society. Thus, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also supervised and supported the local religious councils and religious courts of the non-Jewish population: Christian, Druze, and Muslim. As in Ottoman times, the autonomy of the confessional groups is maintained in matters of religion and personal status, although all courts are subject to the jurisdiction of the (secular) Supreme Court. (This was true technically even of Jewish rabbinical courts, but outright confrontation or imposition of secular appellate review was, in fact, avoided.) Among Christians, the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Latin, Maronite, and Arab Anglican groups operated their own courts. In 1962 a separate system of Druze courts was established. Sunni Muslim judges (qadis) presided over courts that followed sharia.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs also exerted control over Muslim religious endowments (waqfs), and for this reason has been a political presence in Muslim communities. The ministry traditionally was a portfolio held by the National Religious Party, which at times also controlled the Arab departments in the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Social Welfare. This helped to account for the otherwise paradoxical fact that some Arabs--8.2 percent of voters in 1973--supported the neo-Orthodox, Zionist, Nationalist Religious Party in elections.

Besides Christian, Muslim, and Druze courts, there was yet another system of Orthodox Jewish courts that ran parallel to, and independently of, the rabbinate courts. These courts served the ultra-Orthodox (non-Zionist Agudat Israel as well as anti-Zionist Neturei Karta and other groups) because the ultra-Orthodox had never accepted the authority or even the legitimacy of the official, state-sponsored (pro-Zionist, neo-Orthodox) rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In place of the rabbinate and Rabbinical Council, Agudat Israel and the community it represented were guided by a Council of Torah Sages, which functioned also as the highest rabbinical court for the ultra-Orthodox. The members of this council represent the pinnacle of religious learning (rather than political connections, as was alleged for the rabbinate) in the ultra-Orthodox community. The council also oversaw for its community inspectors of kashrut, ritual slaughterers, ritual baths, and schools--all independent of the rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

In 1983 this state of affairs was even further complicated when the former Sephardi chief rabbi, Ovadia Yoseph, angry at not being reelected to this post, withdrew from the rabbinate to set up his own Sephardic ultra-Orthodox council and political party, called Shas (an acronym for Sephardic Torah Guardians). Shas ran successfully in the 1983 Jerusalem municipal elections, winning three of twenty-one seats, and later in the national Knesset (parliament) elections in 1984, where it cut deeply into Agudat Israel's hold on ultra-Orthodox Oriental voters. Shas won four seats in 1984, Agudat Israel only two. In this context, Shas's importance lay in the fact that it split the Oriental ultra-Orthodox from Ashkenazi domination under Agudat Israel, adding yet another institutionalized variety of Israeli traditional Judaism to an already complicated mix.

The practical result of all these separate and semiautonomous judiciaries based on religious grounds was that, for a large area of law dealing with matters of personal status, there was no civil code or judiciary that applied to all Israeli citizens. Marriages, divorces, adoptions, wills, and inheritance were all matters for adjudication by Christian clerics, Muslim qadis, or dayanim (sing., dayan; Jewish religious judge). An essential practical difficulty was that, in strictly legal terms, marriages across confessional lines were problematic. Another result was that citizens found themselves under the jurisdiction of religious authorities even if they were themselves secular. This situation has posed the greatest problem for the Jewish majority, not only because most Jewish Israelis are neither religiously observant nor Orthodox, but also because the hegemony of Orthodox halakah has from time to time forced the raising of issues of fundamental concern to modern Israel. Foremost among these has been the issue of "Who is a Jew?" in the Jewish state.


Israel - The "Who Is a Jew?" Controversy


The predominance of halakah and religious courts in adjudicating matters of personal status--and for that matter, the privileged position of the Orthodox minority in Israeli society--date back to arrangements worked out between the Orthodox and Labor Zionists on the eve of statehood. In June 1947, the executive committee of Agudat Israel received a letter from Ben-Gurion, then chairman of the executive committee of the Jewish Agency, who was the predominant political leader of the Yishuv. Ben-Gurion, wishing to have the support of all sectors of the Yishuv in the dire struggle he knew was soon to come, asked Agudat Israel to join the coalition that would constitute the first government of the State of Israel. In return for Agudat Israel's support, Ben-Gurion offered a set of guarantees relating to traditional Judaism's place in the new society. These guarantees formalized the customary arrangements that had developed in Ottoman times and continued through the British Mandate; hence they came to be known as agreements for the "preservation of the status quo."

The core of the status quo agreements focused on the following areas: the Jewish Shabbat, Saturday, would be the official day of rest for all Jews; public transportation would not operate nationwide on Shabbat and religious holidays, although localities would remain free to run local transportation systems; kashrut would be maintained in all public institutions; the existing religious school system would remain separate from the secular one but would receive funding from the state; and rabbinical courts applying halakah would decide matters of personal status. Both Agudat Israel and the Zionist Orthodox party, Mizrahi (later the National Religious Party), accepted the agreements and joined the first elected government of Israel in 1949.

Ben-Gurion's concern that a more-or-less united Israel confront its enemies was answered by the status quo arrangement. But this arrangement--particularly the educational and judicial aspects--also set the stage for conflict between Orthodox and secular Jewish Israelis. This conflict became quickly apparent in the wake of the first flood of Jewish immigration to the new state and as a direct result of one of the first laws passed by the new Knesset, the Law of Return.

The Law of Return, passed in 1950, guaranteed to all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel. Along with the Nationality Law (1952), which granted Israeli citizenship to people (including non-Jews) who lived in the country prior to 1948, the Law of Return also extended to Jewish immigrants (unless they specifically deferred citizenship or renounced it) immediate Israeli citizenship. Non-Jewish immigrants could acquire citizenship through a slower process of naturalization.

The problem of what constitutes Jewish "nationality" (leom) was essentially new. Before the modern era, one was a Jew (in the eyes of Jews and gentiles alike) by religious criteria; to renounce the religion meant renouncing one's membership in the community. In modern nation-states membership (citizenship) and religion were formally and, it was hoped, conceptually independent: one could be a British, French, or American citizen of the "Jewish persuasion." But the modern State of Israel presented special opportunities to Jews--the right to settle in the country and claim Israeli citizenship as a right, in Ben-Gurion's words, "inherent in being a Jew." With these opportunities have come problems, both formal and conceptual, about the definition of "a Jew."

A halakic definition is available: a Jew is one who is born of a Jewish mother or who converts according to the halakah. The traditional criteria thus consist of biology (descent) and religion. In a sense, biology dominates religion, because, according to halakah, someone remains a Jew if born of a Jewish mother, even if he or she converts to another religion, although such a person is referred to as "one who has destroyed himself."

Another problem is that of defining "nationality". Such an issue is of concern to a modern state and its minister of interior. Moreover, a modern state is interested in the nationality question as part of the determination of citizenship, with all its associated rights and duties. The Orthodox, however, are less concerned with nationality as a guide to citizenship and more concerned with nationality as it determines proper marriage partners, with the attendant legitimacy of children. In Orthodox Judaism an illegitimate child (mamzer; pl., mamzerim) is severely limited in the range of permissible marriage partners; the children of mamzerim are ("even to the tenth generation," according to Deuteronomy 23:2) themselves illegitimate. Furthermore, a woman who has not been divorced according to halakah will have mamzerim as the children of subsequent marriages. Rabbis would never knowingly sanctify the marriage of improper or forbidden partners, nor would such improper unions hold up in rabbinical courts. For the Orthodox, therefore, to know, as assuredly as one can, the status of a potential marriage partner as a "full and proper" Jew is crucial. Any doubts, even in principle, would have the effect of dividing the Jewish community into endogamous groups, that is, groups that would marry only within the confines of assurance against bastardy (mamzerut). This threat of sundering the "whole Jewish community" into mutually nonintermarrying segments has been used by the Orthodox to great effect.

Against this background one can understand much of the "Who is a Jew?" question and the vehemence with which positions have been taken. In 1958 the Bureau of the Registration of Inhabitants, under the minister of interior (from a left-of-center party), was directed to register individuals and issue identity cards that had separate categories under nationality and religion, according to the "good faith" declaration of the individual. Thus a non-Jewish mother could declare herself or her children to be Jewish and would be so registered. The rabbinate and the religious political parties were incensed, especially after they were told that population registry and identity cards were civil matters and need never affect marriages and divorces, which, under the status quo arrangements, would continue to fall under the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts. Orthodox Jews reasoned that if they had to deal with questions of Jewish nationality in a modern society, they could not allow nationality to be separated from religion in the Jewish state. The National Religious Party precipitated a cabinet crisis, and Prime Minister Ben-Gurion responded by forming a committee of Jewish "sages" (including non-Orthodox Diaspora scholars) to study the question.

The response of the scholars--even the non-Orthodox ones--was that it was premature to define who was a Jew in such a way that religion and nationality were separate. If not born of a Jewish mother, then a person must undergo a conversion to the Jewish faith to become a Jew. On the basis of this agreement, as well as Ben-Gurion's own political considerations, a new minister of interior from the National Religious Party, which rejoined the government, was appointed. In 1960 the new minister redirected the Bureau of the Registration of Inhabitants to define a Jew by administrative fiat as "a person born of a Jewish mother who does not belong to another religion, or one who has converted in accordance with religious law." This definition, advanced by an Orthodox minister, is not strictly halakic, since an apostate is still a Jew according to halakah but not according to this definition. Such was the criterion used to deny automatic Israeli citizenship to Brother Daniel, a Carmelite monk who was born Oswald Rufeisen, a Jew, but who converted to Christianity and then tried to claim citizenship under the Law of Return. The Supreme Court in 1962 upheld the ministry's definition, since according to the "commonsense" definition of who is a Jew of the "average" Israeli, "a Christian cannot be a Jew." (Brother Daniel later acquired Israeli citizenship through naturalization.)

The "Who is a Jew?" question still vexes the Knesset and the Supreme Court, and it has brought Orthodox and secular Israelis into sharp conflict. Sometimes, as in the Brother Daniel case, the issue has arisen as individuals tested the directives in terms of their own predicament. In 1968 Benjamin Shalit, an officer in the Israeli navy who was married to a non-Jewish naturalized Israeli citizen, sought to register his children as "Jewish" under the nationality category, but to leave the category under religion blank. This would have the effect of separating religion from nationality but not violate the "commonsense" notion that one cannot be an adherent of another religion (as was Brother Daniel) and still be Jewish. Shalit was claiming no religion for his children. The citizenship of the children was never in question: they were Israelis. What was at stake was their nationality.

The court's first response was to ask the government to drop the nationality category from registration lists; the government declined, ostensibly for security reasons. Finally, after the 1969 national elections, the court ruled by a five-to-four majority in 1970 that Shalit could register his children as "Jews" by nationality with no religion--invalidating the directives of 1960. Orthodox Jews rose up in defiance; Prime Minister Golda Meir backed down, and in 1970, after fierce debate, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Law of Return that revalidated and legalized the 1960 administrative directive; thus: a Jew is one "born to a Jewish mother, or who has become converted to Judaism, and who is not a member of another religion." What the Orthodox did not win, at this time, was the proviso that the conversion to Judaism must have been carried out in conformance with halakah. Thus the status of conversions carried out by Reform or Conservative rabbis in the Diaspora remained in question in the eyes of the religious minority in Israel.

Another way in which the "Who is a Jew?" issue arose involved the status of entire communities. Among these were the Karaites (a schismatic Jewish sect of the eighth century that rejected the legitimacy of rabbinic law), the Bene Yisrael (Jews from near Bombay, India, who immigrated in large numbers in the 1950s), and from the 1970s onward, Jews from Ethiopia--Falashas. The controversy arose over the fitness of these Jews, according to halakic criteria, for intermarriage with other Jews--not over whether they were Jews. The question was whether, because of their isolation (Bene Israel or Falashas) or schismatic deviance (the Karaites), their ignorance or improper observance of halakic rules had not rendered them essentially communities of mamzerim, fit only to marry each other or (according to halakah) Jewish proselytes.

These community-level disputes have had different outcomes: the Orthodox Jewish authorities have not relented on the Karaites, who were doctrinal opponents of rabbinic law, despite pleas to bring them fully into the fold. The Karaites thus remained, according to halakah, a separate community for purposes of marriage. Young Karaites sometimes concealed their affiliation to "pass" in the larger Jewish Israeli society, where they were in all ways indistinguishable. In the mid-1960s, the Orthodox backed down on the Bene Yisrael, changing the rabbinate's special caution against them in the registration of marriages between Jewish ethnic groups to a general caution. The Ethiopian Falashas, among the newest additions to the Israeli Jewish mix, still faced some uncertainty in the 1980s--again, not so much in terms of their Jewishness, which was accepted, but with respect to marriage to other Jews.

Halakah provides many other stipulations and constraints on proper marriages and divorces. Among others these include the biblical levirate, whereby a childless widow must first obtain the ritual release of her brother-in-law before she may remarry; laws restricting the marriage of Cohens, the priestly caste of Israelites, who today have few corporate functions but whose putative individual members are recognized; and laws governing the status of agunot (sing., aguna), married women "abandoned" by their husbands whose remarriage is disallowed until the man files a proper bill of divorce or until his death can be halakically established. This last law has made it difficult for women married to soldiers listed as "missing in action" to remarry within halakah, because the requisite two witnesses to their husband's death (or other admissible evidence) are not always forthcoming. People involved in such hardship cases can get married outside Israel, but then the status of their children, in the eyes of halakah, is tainted. Although such cases arouse the sympathy of Orthodox Jews, the principle followed is that halakah, being divine and eternal, cannot be modified.

It is in regard to the principles of the divinity and immutability of halakah that Orthodoxy opposes Conservative and Reform Judaism. Conservative Judaism affirms the divinity of halakah, but questions its immutability. Reform Judaism denies the authority of both principles. Because of these views and their control over the religious establishment, Orthodox Jews have been able to keep rabbis of either persuasion from establishing full legitimacy in Israel. But because the majority of Jews in the Western democracies, if they are affiliated at all, are affiliated with Reform or Conservative congregations, and because of the high intermarriage rates, as of 1988 Orthodox Jews have been unable publicly to invalidate Reform or Conservative conversions to Judaism under the Law of Return by amending the law again to stipulate specific conformance with halakah as the sole mode of conversion. Yet many new immigrants (and some long-time residents) whose status is in doubt have undergone Orthodox conversions--often added onto their previous Reform or Conservative ones--once resident in Israel.


Israel - The Orthodox and Secular


As has been seen, Israeli Judaism in the late 1980s exerted its influence on society through a complex interplay of ethnicity, halakah, and political and ideological ferment--as well as through the notions of Israeli Jewish citizenship, nationality, security, and sovereignty. In part because of the institutionalization of the status quo arrangements of the late 1940s and early 1950s, in part because of the disproportionate power available to small (religious) political parties in the Israeli parliamentary system, traditional Judaism both pervades and structures much of everyday life. Because many of the Orthodox of various persuasions view the status quo as the baseline from which to advance, they are accused by many secular Israelis of trying to impose additional cultural controls and religious structures. As an example of Orthodox pressures, when Begin formed his first coalition government in 1977, the religious parties took advantage of this change in the political status quo to push for changes in the religious status quo as well. Thirty-five of the forty-three clauses in the 1977 multiparty coalition agreement submitted to the Knesset dealt with religious questions.

Since the early 1970s, neo-Orthodox youths have been more assertive and less defensive in their religious observance--a charge leveled against their elders in the 1950s and 1960s. The "knitted skullcap generation" of the post-June 1967 War era has in some ways replaced the Labor Zionist kibbutzniks of a former era as the pioneering vanguard of Israeli society. Meanwhile, the ultra-Orthodox in 1988 were as willing as ever to challenge secular authorities, on the streets and with violence if need be, to protect their prerogatives and to preserve the special character of their enclave communities.

The results of these trends have been twofold: a growing traditionalization of Israeli society in terms of religion, and the sharpening of conflict between the extremist Orthodox and their sympathizers and the secularists who oppose the Orthodox Jews and their agendas. Despite the sharp rift, a sort of modus vivendi has emerged, which is what the status quo agreements intended. But the status quo itself has not been stable or stagnant; on the contrary it has been dynamic, gradually shifting toward religion.


Israel - Jewish Ethnic Groups


The division of Jewish Israelis into ethnic groups is primarily a legacy of the cultural diversity and far-flung nature of the Jewish Diaspora: it is said that Jews have come to modern Israel from 103 countries and speak more than 70 different languages. As in the United States, the immigrants of yesterday became the ethnic groups of today. But Jewish ethnicity troubles many Israelis, and since the late 1950s it has sometimes been viewed as Israel's major social problem.

There are two principal sources of concern. First, in a rather utopian way, Zionism was supposed to bring about the dissolution of the Diaspora and the reconstitution of world Jewry into a single, unified Jewish people. The persistence of cultural diversity-- Jewish ethnicity in a Jewish state--was simply inconceivable. Second, the socialist Labor Zionists assumed that the Jewish society of Israel would be egalitarian, free of the class divisions that plagued Europe. Instead, along with the growing, industrializing economy came the usual divisions of class, stratification, and socioeconomic inequality. These class divisions seemed to coincide with ethnic divisions: certain kinds of ethnic groups were overrepresented in the lowest classes. For utopian thinkers, the persistence of Jewish ethnic groups was troubling enough; their stratification into a class structure was unthinkable.

<>The Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Oriental


Israel - The Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Oriental


The two dominant Jewish ethnic groups in Israel are the Ashkenazim (the term comes from the old Hebrew word for Germany), which now includes Jews from northern and eastern Europe (and, later, their descendants from America); and Sephardim (the term comes from the old Hebrew word for Spain), which now includes Jews of Mediterranean, Balkan, Aegean, and Middle Eastern lands. There are differences in ritual and liturgy between these two groups, but both sides have always recognized the validity and authority of the other's rabbinical courts and rulings. Nor, throughout the centuries, were scholars or notables from either branch totally isolated from the other. In some countries, Italy for example, communities representing both groups lived together. Originally, Ashkenazi meant one who spoke Yiddish, a dialect of German, in everyday life and Sephardi meant one who spoke Ladino, a dialect of Castilian Spanish. Although this narrow understanding of Sephardim is still retained at times, in Israeli colloquial usage, Sephardim include Jews who speak (or whose fathers or grandfathers spoke) dialects of Arabic, Berber, or Persian as well. In this extended sense of Sephardim, they are now also referred to as the Edot Mizrah, "the communities of the East," or in English as "Oriental Jews."

Whereas the Ashkenazi-Sephardi division is a very old one, the Ashkenazi-Oriental division is new to Israel. The term "Oriental" refers specifically to Israelis of African or Asian origin. This geographical distinction has developed over the years into a euphemism for talking about the poor, underprivileged, or educationally disadvantaged (those "in need of fostering," in the Hebrew phrase). Some social scientists as well as some Sephardi activists have seen a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in this classification. Many Sephardim will not refer to themselves as Orientals.

The heterogenous nature of the Oriental segment of Israeli Jewry is sometimes lost when someone speaks of "the" Oriental community, or collects census data (as does the Central Bureau of Statistics) on the basis of the "continent of origin" ("Europe-America versus Africa-Asia") of its citizens and residents. The category "Oriental" includes Jews from Moroccan and Yemeni backgrounds--to take only two examples that span the range of the Arabic-speaking world. These two communities see themselves, and are seen by other Israelis--particularly Ashkenazim--very differently. Yemenis enjoy a positive self-image, and they are likewise viewed positively by other Israelis; the Moroccans' self-image has been more ambivalent, and they are often viewed by others as instigators of violence and crime. Although this image has become something of a stereotype, Moroccan Jews did instigate acts of violence against the Labor Party in the 1981 elections, and statistically their communities have tended to have a high crime rate. In a similar way, Iraqi, Iranian, and Kurdish Jewish ethnic groups all differ from one another in matters of self-perception and perception by other Israelis. They differ also according to such indices as income (for example, Iraqis are more concentrated in the middle class, Kurds in the lower classes), orientation to tradition (Yemenis are probably the most religious of all non-Ashkenazi groups, Iranians are relatively secular), and so on. These differences are likely to continue, moreover, as marriage statistics in the 1980s indicate a higher rate of endogamy among members of Oriental ethnic groups, as compared to the Ashkenazim. As an ethnic group in the 1980s, Ashkenazim have become much more culturally homogeneous than the Orientals.


Israel - The Second Israel


Before 1882 Sephardim or Oriental Jews were the majority, about 60 percent, of the Jewish population in Palestine. Although Oriental Jews did immigrate between this period and that of the British Mandate--more than 15,000 came from Yemen and Aden Protectorate between 1919 and 1948--they were a minority, about 10 percent of all immigrants. Thus, by 1948 Ashkenazim accounted for 77 percent of the population of the new State of Israel. But this was to change quickly in the period of mass migration that followed the establishment of the state. Between 1948 and 1951 Oriental immigrants accounted for 49 percent of all immigrants; in the Jewish calendar year 1952-53 they comprised 70 percent, and from 1954 to 1957 (following the Sinai Campaign and turbulence in North Africa), African-born Jews, the majority from Morocco, constituted 63 percent of all immigrants. By 1958 almost the entire Jewish populations of Yemen, Aden, Libya, and Iraq had immigrated.

The new state was barely equipped, and had few of the resources needed, to handle this influx. The immigrants were housed in tented "transition camps" (maabarot; sing., maabara); and then directed, often without their approval, to some cooperative settlement (immigrants' moshav) or one of the new development towns. In both cases, authorities wanted to disperse the Jewish population from the coast and place the immigrants in economically productive (especially agricultural or light industrial) settings. The results were village or town settlements that were peripherally located, ethnically homogeneous or nearly homogeneous, and the poorest settlements in the nation.

The lack of resources, however, was not the only obstacle to the successful integration of the Oriental immigrants. Although their intentions were noble, in practice the Ashkenazim viewed their Oriental brethren as primitive--if not quite savage--representatives of "stone age Judaism," according to one extreme phrase. Paternalism and arrogance went hand in hand; the socialist Labor Zionists, in particular, had little use for the Orientals' reverence for the traditional Jewish criteria of accomplishment and rectitude: learnedness and religious piety. In the transition camps and the new settlements, the old elite of the Oriental communities lost their status and with it, often, their self-respect. The wealthy among them had been obliged to leave most of their wealth behind; besides, more often than not, they had been merchants or engaged in some "bourgeois" profession held in low esteem by the Labor Zionists. The rabbis and learned men among them fared no better with the secular Zionists but they were often patronized as well by representatives of the Ashkenazi religious parties, who respected their piety but evinced little respect for the scholarly accomplishments of rabbinical authorities who did not discourse in Yiddish. The religious and secular political parties knew, however, that the immigrants represented votes, and so, despite their patronizing attitudes, at times they courted them for support. In the early years, the leftist predecessor parties to the Labor Party even tried adding religious education to their transition camp schools as a way of enrolling Orientals.

The transition camps were largely eliminated within a decade; a few became development towns. But the stresses and strains of immigrant absorption had taken their toll, and in July 1959 rioting broke out in Wadi Salib, a slum area in Haifa inhabited mostly by Moroccan Jews. The rioters spread to Haifa's commercial area, damaging stores and automobiles. It was the first violence of its kind in Israel, and it led to disturbances in other towns as the summer progressed. Israelis were now acutely aware of the ethnic problem, and soon afterward many began to speak of Israel Shniya, the "Second Israel," in discussing the socioeconomic gaps that separated the two segments of society. In the early 1970s, violent protests again erupted, as second-generation Orientals (mostly Moroccans), organized as the "Black Panthers" (named to great effect after the American Black protest group of the same period) confronted the Ashkenazi "establishment," demanding equality of opportunity in housing, education, and employment. Prime Minister Meir infuriated them even more by calling them "not nice boys."

This remark underscored the perception of many Orientals that when they protested against Israel's establishment they were largely protesting against the Labor Party and its leaders. Many Orientals came to see the Labor Party as being unresponsive to their needs, and many also blamed Labor for the indignities of the transition camps. These were legacies that contributed to Labor's fall from power in 1977; but, in fact, Oriental voters were turning away from Labor and toward Herut, Menachem Begin's party, as early as the 1965 national elections.

The Oriental protest movements, however, were never separatist. On the contrary, they expressed the intense desire of the Oriental communities for integration--to be closer to the centers of power and to share in the rewards of centrality. For example, some of the Black Panthers were protesting against their exclusion from service in the IDF, the result in most cases of previous criminal convictions. This desire was also reflected in the Orientals' turn to Labor's opposition, Herut and later Likud, as a means of penetrating power centers from which they felt excluded--by supporting the establishment of new ones.


Israel - Ethnicity and Social Class


The Orientals' electoral rejection of Labor and embrace of Likud can thus be seen as the political part of a larger attempt to try to lessen the socioeconomic gaps that have separated these two broad segments of Israel's Jewry. The gaps are reflected in the close correlation between Israel's class structure and its ethnic divisions along several critical dimensions, among them educational achievement, occupational structure, housing, and income.

In education, the proportion of Orientals in junior high schools and high schools has risen through the years, but in the late 1980s a gap remained. For example, in 1975 the median years of schooling for Ashkenazim was 9.8, compared with 7.1 for Orientals. In 1986, although both groups enjoyed increased schooling, the median for Ashkenazim was 12.2 years, compared with 10.4 for Oriental Jews. Despite the expansion of higher education in Israel after the June 1967 War, Orientals lagged considerably behind Ashkenazim in their presence in institutions of higher education. In the 1984-85 school year, only 14 percent of university degree recipients were of Oriental heritage, up from 10.6 percent a decade earlier.

In terms of occupational structures, Oriental Jews were still overrepresented in the blue-collar professions. In 1982, for example, 36.6 percent of Oriental immigrants and 34.5 percent of second-generation Orientals were employed in the blue-collar sector. Among Ashkenazim, 25.2 percent of the immigrant generation, and 13 percent of the next (sabra or native-born) generation were employed in the blue-collar sector. Among professional and technical workers, the proportion for Orientals rose from 9 percent in the immigrant generation to 12 percent in the sabra generation, clearly some improvement. Nevertheless, in the same occupations among Ashkenazim, professional and technical employment rose from 15.5 percent in the immigrant to 24.7 percent in the Ashkenazi sabra generation. In the sciences and academia, the gap has remained much larger, in generational terms.

As a result of differential income levels and larger families, Orientals have lagged behind Ashkenazim in housing. In 1984 Ashkenazi households averaged 3.1 persons per room, as compared with 4.5 per room in Oriental households. In 1984 the income of the average Oriental family was 78 percent of that of the average Ashkenazi family--the same proportion as it had been in 1946, and down 4 percent from what it was in 1975. Studies of the regional distribution of income indicated that development towns, most with large Oriental populations, ranked well below the national average in income. Data comparing the period 1975-76 with that of 1979-80, however, indicated a significant improvement in Oriental income status. In this period, there was a decrease in the proportion of Oriental Jews defined as "poor" (having incomes in the lowest 10 percent of the population). These data on education, occupation, and income indicate that although Oriental Jews have made progress over the years, the gaps separating them from Ashkenazim have not been significantly reduced. Moreover, these gaps have not been closing under Likud governments any more quickly or substantively than they had been under Labor.

The close correlation between ethnicity and socioeconomic class in Israel remains the main axis along which the Ashkenazi-Oriental cleavage is drawn. The "hardening" of ethnicity into social class--what some analysts have referred to as the formation of Israeli "ethnoclasses"--represents, with the Orthodox-secular division, the most serious cleavage that divides the Jewish society of Israel from within. In Israel's class structure in the late 1980s, the upper classes were predominantly Ashkenazi and the lower classes predominantly Oriental. Mobility has been most evident in the movement, even though gradual, by Orientals into the large middle class.

Those Sephardim, however, who do rise to the middle class are unlikely to think of themselves as Orientals. They identify more with Ashkenazi patterns--in family size, age at termination of child-bearing, nature of leisure activities, and the like. Upwardly mobile Orientals loosen their ties with their own ethnic groups, and for them the term "Oriental" is reserved for the poor or underprivileged. This phenomenon has been seen by some as a sort of co-optation of upwardly mobile Orientals by Ashkenazi Israelis. Oriental upward mobility has strengthened the correlation for those who do not rise in class between Oriental ethnicity and low class standing. This correlation has led some analysts to speak of Oriental cultural patterns as essentially the culture of a particular stratum of society, the "Israeli working class." To some extent, too, Oriental culture patterns mitigate the integrationist effect of Ashkenazi-Oriental "intermarriage," estimated at nearly 30 percent for women of Oriental heritage who have nine or more years of schooling.

The social manifestations of this rift, however, have been more evident in the political arena than in the economic. Since the mid-1970s, Orientals have comprised a numerical majority of the Jewish population. Thus far, the beneficiaries of this majority have been political parties, often religious ones and typically right-of-center, that have ranged themselves in opposition to Labor. The height of Ashkenazi-Oriental ethnic tensions occurred in the national elections of the 1980s--especially 1981--in which anti-Labor sentiment was expressed, sometimes with violence, as anti-Ashkenazi sentiment. That Orientals supported in those elections the Likud Bloc led by Menachem Begin, himself an Ashkenazi from Poland, whose ultranationalist oratory served to inflame the violence, was a paradox that troubled few in Israel at the time. More troubling to many Israelis were the violence and anti-Ashkenazi overtones of the opposition to the peace demonstrations that were organized by Israeli doves in the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and, from the doves' side, the imputation of "anti-democratic" tendencies, en masse, to the Orientals.

Some commentators have referred to these recent crystallizations as the "new Oriental ethnicity." Unlike the Oriental ethnicity of the 1970s, it has been less concerned with promoting festivals, pilgrimages, and other cultural events, and more explicitly focused on political power. In the 1980s, self-consciously Oriental minor political parties have reentered the political arena, the first serious and successful ones since the Yishuv and early years of the state.

To some extent, the new ethnicity dovetailed with the new civil religion, the new Zionism, in its positive orientation to traditional Judaism and its negative orientation to the modern secularism of Labor Zionism. In this sense, the new ethnicity has contributed to the traditionalization of Israeli society. But the two movements are not identical. As a group, for example, Oriental Jews--although they are hawkish on the question of the occupied territories--have been less committed than many ultranationalist Ashkenazim to the settlement of the West Bank. The primary reason has been that Orientals see such costly efforts as draining resources into new settlements at the expense of solving serious housing problems in the cities and development towns of pre-1967 Israel.

Around issues such as the Jewish settlement of the West Bank can be seen the complicated interplay of ethnicity, religion, politics, and social class interests in contemporary Israeli society. In the late 1980s, the Ashkenazi-Oriental distinction continued to be colored by all these factors. Both Israeli and foreign observers believed that the Ashkenazi-Oriental rift would remain salient for many years, partly because it was a source of social tensions in Israel and partly because it was a lightning rod for them.


Israel - Minority Groups


The non-Jewish--almost entirely Arab--population of Israel in the mid-1980s comprised 18 percent of the total population (these figures refer to Arabs resident within the pre-1967 borders of Israel). More than three-fourths were Sunni Muslims. Among Muslim Arabs the beduins, concentrated in the Negev, were culturally and administratively distinctive. They numbered about 29,000, divided among about forty ethnically based factions. There were approximately 2,500 (non-Arab) Sunni Muslim Circassians, concentrated in two small villages in Galilee. Among non-Muslim Arabs were Christians of various affiliations: Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants of different sects; the Greek Orthodox community being the largest of the Christian groups. In addition, there were Armenians who belonged to several Christian churches.

Another tiny minority group was that of the Samaritans, of whom about 500 remained in Israel in the late 1980s. The Samaritans are thought to be descendants of the Jews who lived in the area at the time of the Exile in Babylon beginning in 722 B.C. and who intermarried with the local inhabitants. Their religion resembles the form of ancient Judaism.

In addition, Israel contained a small number of adherents of Bahaism, an offshoot of Shia Islam. They are followers of Mirza Husayn Ali, known as Baha Ullah (the glory of God), who claimed leadership of a community founded by an Iranian spiritual leader known as the Bab (the way), in the 1850s, after the Bab was executed as a heretic. Bahais have a syncretistic faith that incorporates elements of Islam, Christianity, and universal ethical principles. Their governing body, the Universal House of Justice, which consists of elected representatives from various national spiritual assemblies, acts as supreme administrative, legislative, and judicial body for Bahais, and is located in Haifa.

As a result of a high birth rate and improved health and sanitation conditions, the total number of Israeli Arabs in 1988 (exclusive of those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) was about equal to (and was expected soon to surpass) what it was in 1947 Palestine under the British Mandate. During and immediately after Israel's War of Independence, approximately 600,000 Arabs left the country of their own volition or were expelled; most went to Jordan's West Bank or the Gaza Strip, and some to Lebanon and the Persian Gulf states. In 1948 many had expected to return to their homes (or to take over abandoned Jewish property) in the wake of victorious Arab armies. Instead, they have come to constitute the Palestinian diaspora, whose disposition has proved fateful to the history of many states in the modern Middle East.

Israel's Arabs are guaranteed equal religious and civil rights with Jews under the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. They have voted in national elections and sent members to the Knesset since 1949; following the 1984 elections, seven Arabs sat in the Knesset. Nevertheless, until the end of 1966, Israel's Arabs lived under a military jurisdiction that severely limited their physical mobility and ranges of permissible political expression. They have also lost much land to the Israeli government, a good deal of it expropriated by the army for "security purposes," but much more turned over to Jewish settlements in attempts to increase the Jewish presence in northern and western Galilee, the centers of Arab population.

In social and economic terms, the state has sought to dominate its Arab minority by encouraging dependence. This aim has been achieved, for example, by providing funding for the separate Arab (Muslim, Christian, and Druze) school systems, as well as access to Jewish institutions of higher learning, and by providing funding for health facilities, religious institutions, and courts. Many of these institutions have encouraged the maintenance of Arab spheres of interaction segregated from Jewish ones. But the real dependency has resulted from the integration of Arab labor into Israel's economy. This has entailed an acute deemphasis on agriculture (abetted by government expropriations of arable land) and a funneling of labor into industry, especially construction, and into services. Under the British Mandate, for example, about two-thirds of all Arabs worked in agriculture. By 1955, this figure dropped to 50 percent of Arab labor employed in the agricultural sector, 36 percent in industry and construction, and almost 14 percent in services. By the early 1980s, less than 12 percent were engaged in agriculture, 45 percent in industry and construction, and close to 43 percent in the service sector. Along with this proletarianization of Arab labor--the loss of its agrarian base--has come the urbanization of its population. In 1948 less than one-fourth of the Arab population lived in cities or towns; by the 1980s more than two-thirds did.

Yet another way in which the government has related to its Arab minorities has been by encouraging internal segmentation, primarily along religious lines, in the Arab communities. Thus Muslims, Christians, and Druzes have been differentially treated. (So have the beduins, who are Muslims but are culturally distinctive as pastoralists from Muslim Arab village and town dwellers; and so have the Circassians, who although Muslims are not Arabs. Like Christians, beduins may volunteer for service in the army, and some do; like the Druzes, Circassians are conscripted.) Differential treatment almost always has favored Christians and Druzes over Muslims; at least this has been the semi-official "policy." Some ethnographic and sociological studies of Arab villages, however, indicate that other Israeli policies have had the effect of weakening the Christian and Druze position and strengthening that of Arab Muslims.

In the past, Christian dominance, for example, was based on the control of agrarian resources in villages. The dismantling of the agrarian bases of the Arab economy and the proletarianization of Arab labor led to Arab dependence on the Jewish economy. But it did so at the expense of the wealth, and thus the political standing, of Christians. Similarly, the building and support of village and town schools open to all created an educated (and underemployed) Muslim cadre whose intellectual energies have tended to flow into antiestablishment politics.


Israel - The Druzes


The case of the Druzes is a special one. The Druzes belong to an eleventh century offshoot of Shia Islam, which originated in Egypt. They soon migrated northward, settling first along the western slopes of Mount Hermon, and thence westward into the Shuf Mountains of Lebanon, south to Galilee and Mount Carmel, and east into Syria. In 1988 there were approximately 318,000 Druzes in Syria and 182,000 in Lebanon. Including the Druze population of the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel in December 1981, there were about 72,000 Druzes in Israel. This number represented a large increase from the 1948 population of about 13,000. Besides the Golan Heights, in the late 1980s Druzes lived in seventeen villages in Galilee and around Mount Carmel. Of these, nine were all Druze and the rest mixed, mostly with Christian Arabs. Less than 10 percent of Druzes in Israel lived in cities--compared to more than 60 percent of Christians.

The Druze religion is known mainly for being shrouded in secrecy, even from large groups of Druzes themselves, the juhhal, uninitiated or "ignorant ones." The uqqal, the "wise," or initiated, undergo periods of initiation, each signaling an increased mastery of the mysteries of the faith. Although there is a formal separation between religious and political leadership, the wise ones (particularly the ajawid, or excellent, among them) have traditionally wielded considerable political influence. The religion is fiercely monotheistic and includes an elaborate doctrine of the reincarnation and transmigration of souls. It shares with Shia Islam the doctrine of practicing taqiya, the art of dissimulation in hostile environments. In the past this practice meant seeming to worship in the manner of the conqueror or dominant group, without apostasy. In more recent times, some observers note, it has meant being loyal to the state in which they reside, including serving in its army.

Because the Druze religion was considered schismatic to Islam, even to Shia Islam, Druzes occasionally suffered discrimination and persecution at the hands of Muslims and, like other Middle Eastern dissidents, inhabited marginal or easily defensible areas: mountain slopes and intermontane valleys. Because the Druzes have long enjoyed a reputation for military prowess and good soldiery, they have often not suffered discrimination or persecutions lightly or without responding in kind. Whether because of the desire to settle old scores, or because the doctrine of taqiya can be stretched in this direction, Druzes have been remarkable in being a non-Jewish, Arabic-speaking group that has supported the Jewish state, both in the late Mandate period and since Israel's independence through service of Druze young men in the IDF and the paramilitary Border Police. About 175 Druzes have been killed in action, including a large proportion of that number in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Jewish Israelis have recognized this service and sought to reward it. Druze villages had military supervision and restrictions lifted from them about four years before other Arab areas. Since 1977 there has been a Druze member of the Knesset from the right-of-center Likud, and under Labor they have served in highly visible positions such as that of presidential adviser on minority affairs and, at one time, the Israeli consul in New York City. In 1962 Israeli authorities recognized "Druze" as a separate nationality on internal identification cards--previously Druzes were differentiated only under dat, religion; their nationality was Arab. Although authorities assured Druzes that recognition as a separate nationality would enhance their most favored status, some analysts and younger Druzes have viewed the identification as an attempt to drive a wedge between them and other Arabs.

Many among the younger generation of Druzes have been partly radicalized in their politics--for a number of reasons. First, the favored status accorded the Druzes has not significantly helped them materially. Druzes have been among the least affluent of all groups in Israel, the number receiving higher education has been low, and few Druzes could be found in top professional or technical positions. Even those who have made the army their career have complained of severe limitations in promotions. Second, Israeli actions against Druzes in the occupied and then annexed Golan Heights troubled their coreligionists in Israel. Particularly troublesome was the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. During this invasion, Israeli soldiers, as allies of the Lebanese Christians, were opposed by Druzes of the Shuf Mountains. Pitched battles or military encounters between the IDF and the Lebanese Druzes were avoided. Nevertheless, the Lebanese Christian Maronites have been among the Druzes' most bitter enemies, and many Druzes serving in the IDF were killed or wounded in Lebanon. This was a particularly difficult time for Jewish-Druze relations, one from which they had not fully recovered in 1988.


Israel - The Arab-Jewish Cleavage


The case of the Druzes highlights the peculiar problem of non-Jews, even demonstrably loyal ones, in the Jewish state. Both conceptually and pragmatically, the cleavage between Arabs and Jews is much more profound and perhaps unbridgeable than the one between Orthodox and secular Jews, or that between Ashkenazim and Oriental Jews. There has been an inherent tension between evolving an authentic Israeli national identity centered on the age-old religious character of Judaism and forging an egalitarian socioeconomic system open to all citizens. Reconciling the place of non-Jews within the Jewish state has been a particular problem. These problems have been characterized with special lucidity and frankness by the Israeli-American political scientist, Daniel Elazar:

The views of Israeli Jews regarding the Arabs in their midst are hardly monolithic, but whatever their character, all flow out of a common wish and a general ambivalence. The common wish of virtually all Jews is that the Arabs simply would go away (and vice versa, it may be added). It is possible to get many Israelis to articulate this wish when they are pushed to do so, but needless to say, its very unreality means that it is rarely articulated, and, if articulated by a few extremists, such as Meir Kahane, it is rapidly dismissed from consideration by the vast majority. Yet it should be noted at the outset, because for Israeli Jews, every other option, no matter which they choose, is clearly a poor second.

It is against this background that the Israeli settlement policies of the West Bank and Gaza must be understood. To annex these areas would be to add almost 1.5 million Arabs to the non-Jewish population of the Jewish state--hardly a way to make the problem "simply go away." Until late 1987, Israeli planners had proceeded to build infrastructure in the West Bank as though operating under the premise that two totally separate socioeconomic systems--one Arab, the other Jewish--would exist side by side. Alternatively, the Arab sector was hardly mentioned--as if it did not exist. Still, West Bank Arab labor has been significantly absorbed into the larger Israeli economy; the situation recalls the experience of Arabs in pre-1967 Israel.

The violent protests that began in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in December 1987 may well change this sort of thinking. For example, it has been argued by some analysts that the West Bank (as Judea and Samaria) had already become part of a "cognitive map" for a generation of Jewish Israelis born after the June 1967 War. In light of this analysis, some have noted that security efforts begun in April 1988 to close off the West Bank, thereby keeping journalists (among others) out and, Israelis hope, violent Palestinians in, have already had the unintended effect of reviving the old Green Line. Israeli Arabs living within the old Green Line have also been affected by events on the West Bank and Gaza--events that might prove fateful for Israel.

Between 1948 and 1967 Israeli Arabs were effectively isolated from the rest of the Arab world. They were viewed by other Arabs as, at worst, collaborators, and, at best, hostages. After the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the economic integration of its Arab population into Israel, social intercourse between Israeli Arabs and West Bank and Gaza Palestinians increased. Among other things, this contact has done much to raise the political consciousness of Israeli Arabs and strengthen their sense of Palestinian identity. In this sense, in the minds of many Jewish Israelis the dismantling of the old Green Line and the movement of Jewish settlers to fulfill their religio-nationalistic aspirations in biblical Judea and Samaria has been a double-edged sword. Along the way, the nationalist aspirations of Israeli Arabs have been invigorated as well.

Renewed political activity among Israeli Arabs was already evident when, in 1976, March 30 was proclaimed Land Day as a protest against Israeli expropriations of Arab lands. Several Arabs were shot by authorities during a demonstration, and since then Land Day has become a major event for expressing Israeli Arab political discontent, and for testing its organizational potential. Since early 1988, the political energies of Israeli Arabs have also been focused on expressing solidarity with their West Bank and Gazan brothers and sisters, who themselves have pursued more violent confrontations with Israeli authorities. It seems less and less likely that an unproblematic Israeli Arab identity will develop and that the Israeli Arabs will become, as Israeli Jews had once hoped, "proud Arabs and loyal Israelis." In the late 1980s, it was more relevant to speak of the Palestinization of Israel's Arab minorities.


Israel - Distinctive Social Institutions


Israeli society in the late 1980s continued to be characterized by a number of distinctive institutions. Some, like the Histadrut, were legacies of the socialist aspects of Labor Zionism, with its commitments to the socioeconomic reconfiguration of the Jewish people and the establishment of an egalitarian and industrial nation-state society. Others, like the kibbutz and moshav, stemmed from these values but combined them with the practical problems posed by the need to pioneer and settle the land. Still others--the ulpan (Hebrew school for immigrants) or the merkaz klita (absorption center)--arose from the need to settle and integrate large numbers of Jewish immigrants from diverse lands and cultures.


Israel - The Histadrut


The Histadrut (short for HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael--The General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel) was founded in December 1920 as the primary representative of Jewish labor in Palestine; it has accepted Arabs as full members since 1969. When founded the Histadrut claimed 4,500 members; in the 1985 Histadrut elections more than 1.5 million members were eligible to vote.

Much more than a labor union, the Histadrut was also, next to the government itself, the second largest employer in Israel, through its many cooperative economic enterprises--in industry, building trades, banking, insurance, transportation, travel agencies, dairy cooperatives, and so on--organized under Hevrat HaOvdim, the Histadrut's holding company. The Histadrut also operated pension and social service programs, the most important of which was Kupat Holim (the Sick Fund), the largest provider of health care to Israelis. The Histadrut published Davar, a liberal Hebrew daily newspaper, and owned Am Oved, a major publishing house. In addition, the collective and cooperative agricultural settlements--kibbutzim and moshavim--founded by the Labor-Zionist parties belonged to Histadrut, which marketed their products through its various cooperatives. The dual character of the Histadrut, as both the largest trade union federation in the country and the second largest employer, has sometimes led to difficulties with both the government and labor. A long doctors' strike in the summer of 1983, for example, caused much rancor.


Israel - Kibbutz and Moshav


The first kibbutz, Deganya, near the Sea of Galilee, was founded in 1910. In addition to the two largest kibbutz federations, HaKibbutz HaMeuhad (the United Kibbutz Movement) and HaKibbutz HaArtzi (the Kibbutz of the Land), there were in 1988 a number of small movements including the agricultural collective settlements of the religious HaKibbutz HaDati, affiliated with the labor wing of the National Religious Party. In 1986 there were 125,700 residents of about 265 kibbutzim, divided among five kibbutz federations. The kibbutz is a collective settlement, originally devoted solely to agriculture, but since the late 1960s, it has included industrial concerns, too. Founded by social democrats, kibbutzim are characterized by the collectivization of labor and capital: the means of production, consumption, and distribution are communally owned and controlled, with considerable emphasis on participatory democracy in the operation of kibbutzim. Education and, in some federations, the rearing of children in age-graded dormitories, are communal as well.

Until the 1980s, the kibbutz and its residents played a largerthan -life role in Israeli society. Kibbutzim embodied the courageous and selfless pioneer who settled the most difficult and dangerous areas to claim them for the Jewish state. They sent the highest proportion of young men to elite units of the army and its officers' corps, and later to positions of responsibility in the Histadrut and the government. If there were a sociopolitical elite in Israel (not an economic one, because members of the kibbutz lived with simplicity), it came from the kibbutzim.

This highly positive image no longer held in 1988 for a number of reasons. First, the kibbutz was to a large extent a victim of its own successes. Its economic success raised the standard of living of the average member into the solid middle or upper middle class. It is difficult to conceive of a rural village with air-conditioned housing, a well-equipped clinic, a large auditorium, and an olympic-sized swimming-pool as a pioneer outpost. Second, the economic success and the expansion of the kibbutz economy has forced it to go outside the community to hire labor--a direct contradiction of its earliest canons. Third, the membership of kibbutzim has been overwhelmingly Ashkenazi. Often the labor hired, if not Arab, consisted of Oriental Jews who resided in development towns near the kibbutz. Oriental Jews complained that the only time they saw members of kibbutzim as near equals was when the members came to town just before national elections to lobby the Orientals for votes for the left-of-center parties aligned with the kibbutzim. The turn of the mass of the Israeli electorate to the right wing was both a reflection and a cause of the loss of social prestige for the kibbutz, which has suffered a relative loss of influence in the centers of power in Israel. Nevertheless, the kibbutzim still contributed to Israel's economy and sociopolitical elite out of proportion to their number.

The first moshav was established in the Jezreel, or Yizreel, Valley (Emeq, Yizreel is also seen as the Valley of Esdraelon in English) in 1921. In 1986 about 156,700 Israelis lived and worked on 448 moshavim, the great majority divided among eight federations. There are two types of moshavim, the more numerous (405) moshavim ovdim, and the moshavim shitufim. The former relies on cooperative purchasing of supplies and marketing of produce; the family or household is, however, the basic unit of production and consumption. The moshav shitufi form is closer to the collectivity of the kibbutz: although consumption is family-or household-based, production and marketing are collective. Unlike the moshavim ovdim, land is not allotted to households or individuals, but is collectively worked.

Because the moshav form retained the family as the center of social life and eschewed bold experiments with communal child-rearing or equality of the sexes, it was much more attractive to traditional Oriental immigrants in the 1950s and early 1960s than was the more communally radical kibbutz. For this reason, the kibbutz has remained basically an Ashkenazi institution, whereas the moshav has not. On the contrary, the so-called immigrants' moshav (moshav olim) was one of the most-used and successful forms of absorption and integration of Oriental immigrants, and it allowed them a much steadier ascent into the middle class than did life in some development towns.

Like the kibbutzim, moshavim since 1967 have relied increasingly on outside--particularly Arab--labor. Financial instabilities in the early 1980s have hit many moshavim hard, as has the problem of absorbing all the children who might wish to remain in the community. By the late 1980s, more and more moshav members were employed in nonagricultural sectors outside the community, so that some moshavim were coming to resemble suburban or exurban villages whose residents commute to work. In general moshavim never enjoyed the elite status accorded to kibbutzim; correspondingly they have not suffered a decline in prestige in the 1970s and 1980s.


Israel - The Ulpan and Merkaz Klita


Immigration has always been a serious Israeli concern, as evidenced by the ministerial rank given to the chief official in charge of immigration and the absorption of immigrants. Various institutions and programs have helped integrate immigrants into Israeli society. Perhaps the most ubiquitous is the ulpan (pl., ulpanim), or intensive Hebrew language school. Some ulpanim were funded by municipalities, others by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, or the Jewish Agency. Because they were heavily subsidized, ulpanim were free or charged only nominal fees to new immigrants. Some were residential, offering dormitory-like accommodations with board. They were mainly intended for single immigrants and offered half-day instruction in a course that lasted six months. The municipal ulpanim offered less intensive night classes. Many kibbutzim also ran ulpanim, which combined half-day language instruction with a half day's labor on the kibbutz. In the late 1970s, when immigration to Israel was high, about 23,000 individuals were enrolled in some sort of ulpan.

The merkaz klita, or absorption center, was developed in the late 1960s to accommodate the increased immigration that occurred between 1969 and 1975 of relatively well-off and educated Jews from the West, particularly from the United States. These centers combined the ulpan with long-term (often exceeding one year) accommodation for families. With representatives of all the major ministries ideally on hand or on call, these centers were supposed to cushion the entry of the new immigrant into Israeli society. They were a far cry from the often squalid transition camps of the 1950s, a fact that did not go unnoticed by many Oriental Jews. In the late 1970s, at the height of immigration from the United States, there were more than twenty-five absorption centers housing almost 4,000 new immigrants. Taking all the forms of such immigrant-absorption institutions together--centers, hostels (for families without children) and residential ulpanim--almost 10,000 persons were living in some form of them in early 1976. As of 1988 the occupancy had declined, as had Western immigration to Israel.




Education in Israel has been characterized historically by the same social and cultural cleavages separating the Orthodox from the secular and Arabs from Jews. In addition, because of residential patterns and concentrations--of Orientals in development towns, for example--or because of "tracking" of one sort or another, critics have charged that education has been functionally divided by an Ashkenazi-Oriental distinction, as well.

Before 1948 there were in the Jewish sector alone four different, recognized educational systems or "trends," each supported and used by political parties and movements or interest groups. As part of the prestate status quo agreements between Ben-Gurion and the Orthodox, this educational segregation, favored by the Orthodox, was to be protected and supported by the state. This system proved unwieldy and was the source of intense conflict and competition, especially as large numbers of immigrants arrived between 1948 and 1953. The different parties fought over the immigrants for their votes and over the immigrants' children for the chance to socialize them and thus secure their own political future. This conflict precipitated several parliamentary crises, and in 1953 resulted in reform legislation--the State Education Law--which reduced the number of trends to two: a state-supported religious trend and a state-supported secular trend. In reality, however, there were still a few systems outside the two trends that nevertheless enjoyed state subsidies: schools run by the various kibbutz federations and traditional religious schools, yeshivot (sing., yeshiva), devoted to the study of the Talmud, run by the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Israel and others. In the 1986-87 school year, about 6 percent of all Jewish primary school students were enrolled in yeshivot, about 22 percent in state religious primary schools, and about 72 percent in state secular primary schools. These figures remained constant throughout secondary education as well. Throughout this period and in 1988, Arab education was separately administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture and was divided by emphases on Muslim, Christian, or Druze subjects.

Israeli youth were required to attend at least ten years of school, in addition to preschool. The education system was structured in four levels. Preschool was available to children between the ages of three and six; it was obligatory from age five. Primary education ran from grades one through six; grades seven, eight, and nine were handled in intermediate or junior high schools. Secondary education comprised grades ten through twelve. Secondary schools were of three main types: the general academic high school, which prepared students to take the national matriculation examination, passage of which was necessary to enter university; vocational high schools; and agricultural high schools. The latter two schools offered diplomas that allowed holders to continue in technical or engineering fields at the postsecondary level but did not lead to the matriculation exam. The Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Agriculture shared with the Ministry of Education and Culture some responsibilities for curriculum and support of vocational and agricultural schools. Education through the intermediate school level was free. Before 1978 tuition was charged in secondary schools, and many argued that this discriminated against the poor, especially Orientals. A January 1984 reform imposed a reduced monthly fee of approximately US$10 in secondary schools.

Israeli education has often been at the center of social and ideological controversy. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, sociological surveys indicated that youth attending the state secular system were both ignorant of and insufficiently attached to "traditional Jewish values," which included a sense of kinship with Diaspora Jewry. A Jewish Consciousness Program was then hastily implemented, but results were considered mixed. Most observers of Israeli education believed that the events of the June 1967 War, and the subsequent trauma of the October 1973 War, from which followed the increasing political isolation of Israel, did more than any curriculum to reinstill a sense of Jewish national identity in Israeli youth.

Meanwhile, in the 1960s the state religious system, particularly at the high school level, underwent its own transformation, which many analysts considered to have had far-reaching effects on Israeli society. The state religious system has always included a high proportion of Oriental students from traditional homes. Middle class Ashkenazim began to complain of the "leveling effects" the Orientals were having, and more specifically of the teachers (who were accused of not being pious enough) and the curriculum (criticized for giving insufficient attention to the study of the Talmud).

In response to this dissatisfaction, activists from the youth organization of the National Religious Party, the Bene Akiva (Sons of Rabbi Akiva), in the 1960s fashioned an alternative religious high school system, in which academic and religious standards were much higher than in the usual state religious high school. This alternative form soon attracted many middle class, Ashkenazi youth from the older state religious high schools. In addition to having a more rigorous academic curriculum, the new system was also strongly ultranationalistic, as reflected in the form known as the yeshiva hesder, which combined the traditional values of the European talmudic academy with a commitment, on the part of its students, to serve in the IDF. These institutions have turned out a generation of self-assured religious youth who are not apologetic about their piety--something they accused their elders of being. Israelis referred to them as the "knitted skullcap generation", after their characteristic headgear (as distinguished from the solid black cloth or silk skullcaps of the ultra-Orthodox). Over the years, they have been more aggressive than their elders in trying to extend Orthodox Judaism's political influence in the society at large as well as within the territorial boundaries of the Jewish state. Many of these graduates have been instrumental in shaping the New Zionism.

Arab education in Israel followed the same pattern as Jewish education, with students learning about Jewish history, heroes, and the like, but education is in Arabic. Arab education in East Jerusalem and the West Bank followed the Jordanian curriculm and students sat for Jordanian examinations; the textbooks used, however, had to be approved by Israeli authorities. After the outbreak of the intifadah (uprising) in December 1987, frequent school closings occurred so that students attended school only infrequently.

<>Higher Education
<>Youth Movements and Organizations


Israel - Higher Education


In the late 1980s, seven universities existed in Israel: the Technion (Israel Institute for Technology, founded in 1912); the Hebrew University (1925); Tel Aviv University (begun in 1935, functioning fully since 1956); Bar-Ilan University (1955); Haifa University (1963); Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (1965); and the postgraduate Weizmann Institute of Technology (1934). Higher education in Israel has grown tremendously since independence: in the 1948-49 academic year a total of 1,635 students attended degree-granting institutions, whereas in 1986-87 the figure was 67,160. In terms of enrollments, the largest institution was Tel Aviv University (19,400 students in 1986-87), followed by Hebrew University (16,870), Bar-Ilan (9,480), the Technion (9,090), Haifa (6,550), Ben-Gurion University (5,200), and the Weizmann Institute (570).

Israeli universities have not been isolated from the larger problems of society. High inflation and budget cutbacks have hit them severely since the late 1970s; many observers have expressed fear of a potential "brain-drain" as talented academics, unable to find suitable employment in Israel, emigrate. There have been repeated calls to increase the number of Israelis of Oriental background in colleges and universities, at the same time that charges of "compromised standards" have been advanced. The university campuses have also been centers of political activity among all shades of the political spectrum in Israel, including Arab students.


Israel - Youth Movements and Organizations


During the Yishuv period and in the early 1950s, youth movements associated with political parties were important institutions of political education and socialization. Affiliated branches even existed in the European and American diasporas. They were training grounds for future members, and especially for the future elite, of the parties. Each party of any size had one: Mapam (the original Labor-oriented youth movement was HaShomer HaTzair-- see Appendix B), Herut (Betar--see Appendix B), National Religious Party (Bene Akiva), as well as the Histadrut and other organizations. The fate of these youth movements over the years has reflected the broader changes that have occurred in Israeli society. The relatively apolitical and nonideological Boy Scout organization has grown; left-of-center movements have not. The Bene Akiva, on the other hand, has also grown, more than three-fold since 1960. In the late 1980s, it enrolled more than 30,000 Israeli religious youths, who make up a large part of the "knitted skullcaps." The Bene Akiva has acted as a training ground for many of the young extremist and right-wing Orthodox political activists who have gained prominence since the June 1967 War.


Israel - HEALTH


In part as a legacy of the socialist thrusts of Labor Zionism, Israelis enjoy a widely available health care system. The major complaints of the population have focused on the heavy bureaucratization of health care. In general, the health of the population compares favorably with West European standards, and the decrease in rates of infectious diseases has been very marked. The highest incidences of disease in 1986 were bacillary dysentery, 162 per 100,000, and viral hepatitis, 75 per 100,000. There were reportedly forty-three cases in Israel of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, by the end of September 1987.

In both Arab and Jewish populations, control of sanitation also has improved markedly since the the mid-1950s. Still, health care delivery has been better developed for the Jewish sector than for the Arab sector. In 1985 the life expectancy of Jewish men and women was 73.9 and 77.3 years, respectively; for non-Jews the figures were 72.0 (men) and 75.8 (women). Among Jews, in 1986 the live birth rate per 1,000 was 21.2, the death rate 7.5. Among Muslims the live birth rate per 1,000 was 33.8, the death rate 3.4. The average number of children a woman may have during her lifetime was 2.83 for Jews and 4.63 for Muslims. The infant mortality rate was 9.6 for Jews and 18.0 for Muslims.

The Ministry of Health, the principal public health agency in the country, functioned as the supreme body for licensing medical, dental, nursing, pharmaceutical, and paramedical professions, as well as for implementing all health-related legislation passed by the Knesset. It also functioned when no other nongovernmental agency was present. This fact was important in Israel because in 1985-86 the Sick Funds (Kupat Holim) contributed almost 45 percent of the national expenditure on health; in comparison, the government contributed only some 22 percent. Kupat Holim, the largest sick fund, was affiliated with the Histadrut and was supported by almost two-thirds of the Histadrut's membership dues. As the largest medical insurance carrier in Israel, the Histadrut fund covered about 70 percent of the population (Arabs included). Another 20 percent was covered by the sick funds of other organizations, which means that in general the Israeli population was well protected by health care coverage. Further evidence of the availability of health care was the ratio of physicians to the general population; in the 1970s it was more than 1 to 400, one of the highest in the world.


Israel - WELFARE


The Ministry of Social Welfare began its work in June 1948, carrying on the mission of the Social Welfare Department established in 1931 under the Mandate. The National Insurance Act of 1953 and the Social Welfare Service Law, passed by the Knesset in 1958, authorized a broad range of welfare programs, including old age and survivors' pensions, maternity insurance, workers' compensation provisions, and special allowances for large families. Retirement age was seventy for men and sixty-five for women, but persons were eligible for some benefits five years before retirement age. The Histadrut was also a principal provider of pensions and a supplier of insurance. In addition, there were a number of voluntary agencies, many funded by Diaspora Jewry, that contributed significantly to the social welfare of Israelis.

Special subventionary programs, including low-interest loans, subsidized housing, and rent or mortgage relief, were available to new immigrants after 1967 through the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and the World Zionist Organization. At times these programs have been criticized by native-born Israelis or long-time settlers in the lower income brackets, especially for benefiting relatively well-to-do immigrants from the West. Even more controversial have been benefit programs designed to aid returning Israeli emigrants readjust to life in Israel.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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