Israel: Political, Cultural, And Religious Description Essay, Research Paper
ISRAEL A Political, Cultural, and Religious Description of the Current Atmosphere As Exists in Israel Israel, in the 1990’s, is in a continual state of political, cultural and religious flux. Religion continues to play a central factor in the difficulties which the state has been and continues to experience. This unique country is characterized by an amalgam of cultural and ethnic diversity. This historical and cultural fact ensures that the difficulties the state has been experiencing in realizing self-adjustment will continue. At the same time, there exist mostly positive and persistent facets of the culture which continue unabated as will be discussed. Israel is characterized by many religious groups including Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Palestinians, Jews, Arabs and others. Similarly, the Labor Ruling Party is integrally linked to religious orientation and has been embroiled in domestic controversy and flagellation from many sides in recent years. OVERVIEW Statehood in Israel was attained some three thousand years ago, and has served as the home of the Jewish people who are credited with giving the world the Bible. As mentioned, however, this land is comprised of many different groups. The Jewish people constitute 81.8%, and Muslims represent 14.1%. The Christians comprise 2.4% and the Druze and others make up 1.4%. Some five million people from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds live in Israel today. It is a country of immigration, and in the decades prior to the establishment of the state, the majority of newcomers came from Europe, joining Jews whose families had lived in the land for generations. Immediately following independence, (1948), Israel’s population doubled with a mass immigration of holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Recently, hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries, as well as most members of the ancient Jewish community of Ethiopia, have arrived to make their homes in Israel. Throughout the years, groups, families and individuals have chosen to come from all parts of the free world, in greater or lesser numbers, to take part in building the country. With a population which has increased more than seven-fold since 1948, and with people still coming from all over the world bringing varied languages, traditions, educational standards, and social outlooks, Israel continues to seek ways to meet the challenge of developing a modern, democratic society. In a certain sense, Israel is not unlike the United States of America, in that it is a land which is comprised of many people from varied backgrounds. It is both urban and rural where some 89.9% of the land is made up of cities and the remaining rural area is comprised of villages, Kibbutzim, and Moshavim. Moshav or Kibbutz comprises about 10% of the population in rural areas and agricultural settlements. The Kibbutz is a social and economic unit (property and means of conduction are communally owned) in which decisions are made by the General Assembly of its members. Meals, prepared in a central kitchen, are served in a communal dining hall. Clothing and linens are washed, mended and distributed by a central laundry; and children grow up together in organized frameworks. Members work in various sections of the Kibbutz economy, while dining hall, kitchen and other duties are filled on a rotation basis. The Moshav is an agricultural village in which each family maintains its own farm and household. Originally, cooperation extended to purchasing, marketing and the provision of community services; today Moshav farmers have chosen to be more independent economically. The culture of Israel is thriving, however. It is as reach and diverse as is its history, and this is reflected in the arts, theatre, music, literature, etc. To a large part, this is an effect of Zionism “ingathering of the exiles,” and had contributed much to the preservation of a singular and rich culture and tradition. The holocaust itself, is never to be forgotten, and this fact is evidence within contemporary Jewish culture. The continuance of a normal life and tradition is one which, albeit interrupted, is for that very reason that Judaism and the people of Israel persist with a renewed sense of motivation and determination. The innumerous languages and translations of Hebrew writings which have emanated from the Institute of Translation of Hebrew Literature (1962) continue to infuse Hebrew writings, poetry, children’ literature and fine arts into its own society as well as peoples world wide. CONTEMPORARY ISRAEL In his book, A History of Israel, Howard Sachar discussed the development of Israel from the rise of Zionism to our time. Currently, Israel’s president is elected by the Knesset and he may preside over a legislative body of 120 members for a maximum of two five-year terms. The Israeli form of government may be considered a democratic one and, like the United States, citizenship is determined by birth, residence or nationalization. The state of Parliament and the government is essential in understanding the development and evolution of Israel in contemporary times. Israel’s democracy has experienced difficulties in terms of its parties, historically, where it represented one of the critical weaknesses of the emerging Israeli state; a politicization, not less tenacious or all-embracing than in the days of the Yishuv. It is recalled that this legacy could be traced to the non-indigenous origins of Israeli’s parties. They were born and nurtured in the diaspora. This European inspired ideological commitment survived for nearly a decade after the birth of Israel, and in its relentless purism, ensured that none of the various factions were willing to compromise on issues of dogma, much less on the question of self liquidation. Government by coalition and demagoguery have characterized the political evolution of Israel and its government. The Arab minorities have impacted the historical and political evolution of Israel and its various parties and minorities, particularly the Arab minorities, which is seen in both the citizenry as well as military government. It is only in relatively recent times that Israel had been acknowledged to be a player in the common market. Its participation has been only luke warm, while its geo-political influences are certainly world-wide, and in this age of a shrinking global marketplace, this is no small factor. Additionally, in recent times, we have seen an increase of what is referred to as the Arab intelligencia. The long-standing support it has enjoyed from the United States has been crucial to its survival, and this is seen with geo-political relations with the Middle East, Israel and the United States. Things did not particularly improve during the Bush administration. In fact, during his administration, relations between Washington and Jerusalem were strained. The Bush administration’s decision to support two United Nations moves — one condemning Israel’s deportation of four Palestinians, the other backing an international peace conference on the Middle East — cast things into the deep freeze. The administration was unhappy with Israel’s failure to move ahead on the peace process and with shootings by Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories. In a meeting with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Secretary of State James Baker raised both issues, and according to transcripts, even suggested an alternative to shooting as being, “Couldn’t you possibly use water canons?” Israeli officials see things differently. They believe the United States is moving away from its long-time ally in the region just to keep Arab states in the coalition against Iraq. This and other incidents raised critical issues, and these issues were further explored by U.S. and Israeli critical analysts. For instance, it is known that the influx of hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews could drastically reshape Israeli politics throughout the 1990’s. Should immigrants capture a solid bloc of 10-15 parliamentary seats, as expected, they could break a long-time labor Likud deadlock, and reduce the inordinate influence of tiny and fanatical ultra-religious parties. In fact, it was speculated by many that one was prompted to wise crack, “Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse,” which sounds depressingly credible. The scene is gloomy; economic and social strains are growing, Palestinian terrorism is rising, ties with Washington are fraying, and there are gnawing fears of an Iraqi missile attack on Israel. Yet, some Israelis seen opportunities in the current tribulations. Israel’s low profile in the Gulf persists. Many Israeli’s are worried about chemical attacks from Iraq as Saddam Hussein still represents a threat. Soviet immigrants continue to inundate Israel and its economy, which in 1993 is being taxed to the maximum. Housing is a difficult problem, and Israel is forced to borrow billions of dollars from abroad, and reliance upon the United States is probably at an all-time high. At this writing, there appears to be no let-up in sight.
BIBLIOGRAPHYSachar, Howard M. A History of Israel From the Rise of Zionism to our Time.Yalowitz, Gerson, U.S. News and World Report, “How Bad Can it Get?” December 10, 1990, Vol. 109.____________, A Letter From Israel, Halva, Jerusalem (1992).__________________, Israel Today, Halva Press, Jerusalem (1992)._______________, U.S. News and World Report, “A Chilling Effect With Israel,” (December 31, 1990), Vol. 109, p. 14.
Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel From the Rise of Zionism to our Time.Yalowitz, Gerson, U.S. News and World Report, “How Bad Can it Get?” December 10, 1990, Vol. 109.____________, A Letter From Israel, Halva, Jerusalem (1992).__________________, Israel Today, Halva Press, Jerusalem (1992)._______________, U.S. News and World Report, “A Chilling Effect With Israel,” (December 31, 1990), Vol. 109, p. 14.