Israeli!! What’s that?

Filed in Culture by on 21/01/2013 0 Comments
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Praying at the Western Wall (Photo: Zachi Evenor, CC BY 2.0)

Praying at the Western Wall (Photo: Zachi Evenor, CC BY 2.0)

Israeli, a Unique Blend of Cultures, Tradition and More

Israel is a nation thousands of years old who, since 1948, have had a modern state, on the land that Biblical texts, the Torah and the Old Testament, record as being given to the Jews.  Now, home to thousands of Jews from a multitude of countries, Israel’s culture defies an easy definition.  What can be said about a country who counts among its population such diverse groups as a million former Russians, hundreds of Ethiopians, North American, South African, Australian and UK English speaking Jews, thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and more.  Even prior to 1948, Jewish immigrants were fleeing the holocaust and trying to find safety on Israel shores.  Modern Israeli culture incorporates this melting pot, Jewish culture and middle eastern influences.

Hebrew Language

The revival of the Hebrew language is the great lingua franca that unites the Jews of Israel, but as you travel around you will hear all kinds of different languages as people still hold on to their mother tongues. An interesting phenomenon is the impact of language on immigrant children. Because children spend the majority of time in a Hebrew speaking school system, within a short time of arrival, many are just as comfortable, if not more, with Hebrew than their native language. Parents, in true immigrant style, may always be more comfortable in their native tongue.

Music and Song – an Eclectic Mix!

If you walk around some of the neighborhoods you will also hear music and songs in countless languages coming from apartment windows. Kalinka Kalinka from the Russians, Argentine music, Ethiopian, Georgian, Bukharan and more. American music is very popular with Israelis and that English song you hear may be coming from the home of sabras, native Israelis, who don’t speak English. Moreover, some songwriters have written Hebrew songs in the musical styles where they came from like Brazil, Greece or South America, altogether an eclectic mix that sums up Israel in general.

Jews from Arab Lands

After 1948 over 850,000 Jews were expelled or driven out from nine Arab lands where they had lived for thousands of years, including Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Some music styles were born in Israel as a mixture of the new and the old blended together as is the case with a lot of the Mizrachi music. Mizrachi means eastern and refers to music popular among Jews who originated from the Arab lands.

Marriages from around the Globe

What can you expect from a typical Israeli marriage? Is there such a thing? Israel may never be a true melting pot given its foundations, but the blending together of different cultures is the start of an emerging personality called “Israeli”. One reason, is the intermingling of Jews from different countries through marriage. There are many young married couples who originate from countries as far apart as Russia and Morocco, America and Ethiopia, France and Poland, Yemen and Romania, just to name a few. This “marrying” of cultures and Jewish traditions melds together different groups in a manner that nothing else can.

Religious Israeli Soldiers

Religious Israeli Soldiers

Secular and Religious

Many Israelis live a secular or partly traditional lifestyle and do not adopt distinctive clothing representative of religious or Torah observant Jews. It is somewhat overwhelming to the outside observer what all the different religious clothing styles represent. Even among religious Jews there is also a lot of diversity, not only because of different countries of origin, but because they have different religious customs and traditions from one another.

Many religious Jews prefer to live in religious neighborhoods in order to preserve their lifestyle that centers around the synagogue, yeshiva or bet midrash (house of Torah learning) and Sabbath observance. Popular tourist destinations include the Old City and Meah Shearim neighborhoods in Jerusalem but these are only a small portion of religious communities throughout Israel that you can visit.


For visitors coming from English speaking countries, it is comforting to know that many Israelis speak English. A number of immigrants in recent years are from English speaking countries like the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and South Africa. Know as “Anglos” they have settled all over Israel, especially in Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, and Raananna.

Boy Checking Etrog for Sukkot (Tabernacles) Jewish Holiday (Photo: Udi Steinwell Pikiwiki Israel, CC BY 2.5)

Boy Checking Etrog for Sukkot (Tabernacles) Jewish Holiday (Photo: Udi Steinwell Pikiwiki Israel, CC BY 2.5)

Jewish Holidays

Unlike living in any other country in the world, Israel observes and incorporates Jewish holidays into the calendar.  Public transportation in the majority of cities stops for the Sabbath, Friday prior to sundown to Saturday evening.  There is no need to explain the festival of Succot or that Hannukah is not the most important Jewish holiday in the Jewish calendar everyone thinks it is in North America. Pesach cleaning, matzah baking and school holidays that coincide with Jewish holidays occur and provide school children with a wide variety of activities. Living in a country where Jewish holidays are recognized and incorporated provides a completely different experience for visitors.

In general you will find that people here very friendly and outgoing. Enjoy the middle Eastern culture combined with the Jewish approach to life.


Those who serve in the army live together in close quarters around the clock. Bonds are created and forged, which for many, last years after regular service.

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