Modern Israeli Culture

Monday / Thursday 3rd period
12 College Ave. 107     
Prof. Erez Tzfadia

Israeli society is a mosaic of cultural groups. However, as part of official state policy of "ingathering of the exiles" (the Zionist version of the American melting pot), this mosaic had been conceived of as a temporary stage on the road toward a 'functioning society', with common interests and vision. Yet seven decades after the establishment of the State of Israel, the cultural rifts remain evident: in politics, in places of residency, in class stratification and in the labor market. Many social scientists analyze these cleavages as ethnic conflicts between sets of dichotomies: Jews and Arabs; Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardic Jews; Secular Jews and Ultra-orthodox Jews, and so on, while other attempt to frame Israeli society in terms of domestic politics, the conflict in the Middle East, or economic factors.

The course contains three parts: the first, descriptive part, presents the cultural groups in Israel, depicting the origin of each group, and its cultural-political identity. The second part introduces the approaches in social sciences that explain relations between cultural groups in Israel. The third part of the course focuses on case studies which represent development in Israel's culture and ethnic relations, and challenge the approaches to ethnicity in Israel. This part explores how the 'complex mosaic of cultural groups' has been changed, and what were the reasons behind these changes.

The method of instruction is based on lectures, discussions, movies and students' presentations. Classes may include a discussion of relevant current events in Israel and  students are expected to stay informed of the latest event and issues by reading on-line Israeli newspapers in English (, Jerusalem post).

This course is open to senior citizen auditors.