Israeli Culture – Insights on a Young Country with an Old Religion

israeli cultureIt is impossible to imagine the daily life of an Israeli without first understanding the geography, economy, housing and architectural infrastructure, social construct, exposure to outside influences and the religions of the majority and minority parties of Israel. The problems and advantages of this tiny country make a strong impact on all citizens and go a long way towards forming the attitudes of the citizens and influencing the resulting actions of the nation as a political entity.

Israel is culturally relaxed compared to neighboring countries whose political doctrine is largely influenced by religious doctrine. Surrounded by repressed societies, Israel enjoys the freedoms and benefits of first world privilege while living in reverence to the history and traditions of ancient Jewish ancestors. Few societies have survived the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, and their long history of persecution is a fascinating one. Only after the Holocaust did the Jews finally settle into what is now recognized as Israel, the Jewish State.

Geography

Israel has always been a bit of a melting pot thanks to its geographic location. Egypt and Israel are the dividing countries between the Asian Continent and Africa. The Suez Canal is very close to Israel, and seaside ports bustle with activity almost constantly. This area has been a major trade route hotspot for millennia.

Bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the country of Israel is located in the heart of the Middle East. The Red Sea borders Israel on its southern tip and while the Mediterranean Sea lies just miles from its western border with Palestine. Its location is ideal for doing business, and has always been an active center for trade.

Though European, African and Asian powers have taken turns warring with and controlling this area for thousands of years, the country of Israel is now an independent nation with very strong political and military allies in the Western World.

A History of Shifting Borders

Palestine and Egypt have battled with Israelis sporadically for thousands of years in an attempt to alter their country’s borders. During the days of Moses, Israel was part of a very large empire, and Egyptians wanted a piece of it.  The Life of Moses

Battles with Egypt and other neighboring countries are frequent, as this area has been a major trade route for millennia. Whoever has control over the government can turn a healthy profit. Stability in the area is rare and personal safety can be questionable at times.

The Benefits of Liberal Influence

Liberal countries have brought Israel a lot of first world benefits never before experienced in that part of the world. Middle Eastern influences have resulted in a more conservative culture than countries geographically located in the west, though Israel is extremely unrestricted, joyful and casual in comparison to surrounding Muslim majority countries.

Thanks to its bustling business and high amounts of traffic, Israel has been exposed to outside influences for thousands of years. The exposure to foreign mindsets, attitudes, products, technology, beliefs, knowledge and wisdom has helped cultivate a distinctive, sophisticated and thought-provoking culture.

Pride in the Strength of the Human Mind

Israelis are very proud of their ability to learn and grow with knowledge. Their society is very advanced and highly educated. As a society, they are extremely ambitious. Some of the world’s most talented and intelligent minds are or were Jewish, including: Albert Einstein, William James, Leonardo da Vinci, Camille Pissarro, Shel Silverstein, Anne Frank, Arthur Miller, Elie Wiesel, Ayn Rand, J.D. Salinger, Isaac Bashevis, Leonard Bernstein, Felix Mendelssohn, Arthur Fiedler, John Kemeny, Emile Berliner, Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin, Sigmund Freud and many more.

The first 5 year flu vaccine is being developed in Israel now, and the first West Nile vaccine was created there. Other major advances in chemotherapy and cancer care are made by Jews in Israel. Israeli scientists have developed a DNA nano-computer that detects cancer cells and releases drugs to treat them. Even shunts for Glaucoma were invented in Israel.

Israel produces more scientific papers and patents on new inventions per capita than any other nation. Innovation and entrepreneurship are an integral part of the culture of the Jewish State. Nothing holds them back, and Israel boasts the 3rd highest rate of minority business owners, e.g. women and people over the age of 55 – in the world.

Housing Infrastructure and the Need for Expansion

This nation is very new, and border changes are frequent. One of the leading causes of war with surrounding countries is a lack of room to build homes and businesses. The cities are crowded, and homes are being built upwards rather than sprawling outwards. Citizens live in apartments rather than homes, as there is not enough land to build American style homes.

Palestine blocks Israel off from the sea on its western border. As a wealthy, advanced nation, it is logical and natural to want to expand, strengthen sustainable sources of prosperity and improve the quality of life for Israeli citizens. More land, continued innovation and business expansion would vastly improve this underdeveloped area and breathe life into the economies of surrounding countries.

The Battle for the Coastline and how it affects Cultural Attitudes

Palestine, which is home to the embattled Gaza Strip, lies in the area between the Mediterranean Coastline and Israel. Palestine is a war-torn disaster area so impoverished that people who live there do not have the money to feed or clothe themselves. Israelis view this lifestyle as a choice, and struggles facing the citizens there are met with impatience.

Israelis would like to build new homes and businesses and help the coastline reach its full potential while turning a healthy profit. They have identified a great opportunity and are frustrated that progress is slow or stagnant.

Jewish Business Practices War with Neighboring Muslim Culture

Neighboring countries are all majority Muslim nations. The Muslim religion prohibits foreigners of other religions from investing in their country without adhering to Koranic law. Under Sharia Law, bank loan amounts must not exceed certain amounts, the lender must be Islamic, interest rates are high and repayment schedules are pre-determined my religious doctrine. Non-repayment is an offense punishable by a prison sentence.

These unfortunate circumstances negatively affect the Israel’s attitude toward forming business relationships with neighboring countries, and the Jewish state is isolated from trade with neighbors, though it enjoys the benefits of other international trade agreements across the globe.

Israel and Palestine citizens come from very different cultures and follow opposing belief systems. The battle over land and how it must be acquired is a major point of contention. Israelis have respect for the beliefs of these people, but often cite their laws as illogical and impractical for their purposes. Frequently, peace talks dissolve, purchase contracts are dishonored and the battle for Israeli expansion continues.

East Meets West

An influx of immigrant Jews from Europe into the Americas during and after World War I and II brought strong western cultural influences into the collective culture of the Jews. Many of these people immigrated to Israel as soon as it was safe to do so, and signs of American influence are strong in Israel.

Recent globalization and acceptance of other cultures and ideas has transformed Israel from an ancient culture accustomed to conforming to tradition into the technology capital of the Middle East. Israel is now an advanced first-world country housing a well educated population set to lead the region into the future.

Surrounded by war torn developing nations with cultures that encourage oppression and obedience, Israel’s culture is representative of a hybrid culture that respects tradition and religion but encourages free trade and education for all of its citizens. This respect for human achievement despite the sex of the individual is one of the most encouraging statistics about this country. Human rights activists hope the Israeli influence and reverence for women and elders spreads to neighboring countries.

Ego, Humility and the Willingness to Learn and Adapt

Respect for creativity is vital to this culture. Analysts attribute the strong economy, education system, technology sector and healthcare systems to the acceptance of foreign practices and willingness to learn from other country’s mistakes. The Israeli people are humble, and their egos do not get in the way of progress, which is proven by the incredible number of technological advances and inventions coming out of this country.

Languages

Hebrew is the language of the Jews, and Israel is a majority Jewish nation. Though all neighboring countries are Arabic speaking, Israel is different. Most of the Jews speak several languages, including Hebrew, Arabic and English.

The Hebrew language uses an ancient alphabet that is sacred to their people. It is a very difficult language to learn as an adult, though comparative religions scholars and Middle Eastern studies students would do well to at least learn the basics of the language. Native English speakers must build up the muscles in the back of the throat and neck in order to properly speak either Hebrew or Arabic. Language courses help foster the strengthening of these vital muscles.

Israel has a superb educational system that strongly encourages the development of foreign language skills. Israelis speak English and Hebrew from their earliest years, and their English language accents are closely related to the American accent. Because children beginning learning foreign languages early, their skills are well honed by adulthood. Many Israelis who study abroad make an excellent income working through school as interpreters.

Both British and American English spellings are acceptable when writing in Israeli English, though most media outlets use British English sentence structure and vocabulary with American spelling. There are many American schools within Israel where children are taught by American and Canadian English teachers.

Israelis have a strong tourism sector, so Russian, French, Italian, Urdu, Japanese and Arabic are also commonly spoken languages there. When touring Israel, it is usually possible to find very talented tour guides, English language publications and road sighs as well as an abundance of interpreters. The citizens are most honored, however, by tourists who go to the trouble of learning a few words of Hebrew. Use these words while on vacation as a display of reverence and respect for the nation of Israel.

Like the Koranic Saudi Arabic language, the even older language of Hebrew has been preserved by religious texts passed from generation to the next. Though Hebrew was only revived in the mid-1900’s, it is the official language of Israel. It is possible to learn Hebrew words from the Bible without going to the trouble of learning the language as an adult. Get started today with this course through Udemy.