Israeli culture reflects the diverse background of its people. Thecountry’s most successful writers draw their inspiration from Jewishtradition. Such writers have included the novelist Shmuel Yosef Agnon,co-winner of the 1966 Nobel Prize in literature, and the philosopherMartin Buber. The foremost orchestra of the nation, the IsraelPhilharmonic, attracts a number of world-famous conductors and soloistseach year.
A vigorous tradition of folk song, in which the influence ofOriental Jewish music is strongly felt, thrives in Israel, as does folkdance. The Israel National Theater, in Tel Aviv, is notable. Israel hasmore than 130 museums, two of the most prominent being the Tel Aviv Museumof Art and the Israel Museum, in Jerusalem, which houses a largecollection of Jewish folk art, a collection of modern sculpture, andbiblical and archaeological artifacts. The Shrine of the Book, a part ofthe Israel Museum, houses a notable collection of Dead Sea Scrolls. Of themore than 500 public libraries in the country, the most important is theJewish National and University Library on the campus of the HebrewUniversity of Jerusalem, which contains approximately 4 million volumes.Order now
1ReligionThe affairs of the three major religions, Judaism, Islam, andChristianity, are overseen by the ministry of religious affairs throughcouncils established by the various religions. Jewish holy days and theweekly Sabbath are, by law, observed throughout the country, and onlykosher food is served in the army, hospitals, and other officialinstitutions. About 82 percent of Israel’s Arabs are Muslim, and most ofthe rest are Christian. LanguagesHebrew and Arabic are the country’s official languages. The mostwidely spoken language is Hebrew, but Arabic is used frequently inschools, legal affairs, and the legislature.
Many Israeli residents speakEnglish, Yiddish, Russian, or any of a number of other European languages. EducationIsrael’s educational tradition reaches back to biblical times, althoughthe country did not become a modern independent state until 1948. Duringthe ancient period, schools of all levels were in existence, and throughthe centuries elementary and secondary education and, to a large extent,higher learning continued under various ruling factions. The CompulsoryEducation Law of 1949, as amended, provides for free and compulsoryelementary education for all children between 5 and 16 years of age.
Reform continued with the State Education Law of 1953, which established anational system of public secondary schools. Higher education is governedby a law enacted in 1958, which set up a council to control universitiesand other higher educational institutions, such as the Hebrew Universityof Jerusalem (1918); the Technion^Israel Institute of Technology (1912),in Haifa; Bar-Ilan University (1953), in Ramat Gan; Tel Aviv University(1953); the University of Haifa (1963); Ben Gurion University of the Negev(1965), in Beersheba; and the Weizmann Institute of Science (1949), inRehovot. Students in secondary schools receive aid from state and localauthorities in amounts up to 100 percent of costs, depending on parents’incomes. In addition to the secular system of elementary, secondary, andhigher education, a parallel system of Jewish religious schools exists,culminating in postgraduate schools of independent study and research.
Mission schools conducted by various Christian groups are also widelyattended. An educational problem peculiar to Israel is that of assistingimmigrants of various backgrounds to adjust to Israeli society. In theearly 1990s about 960,200 Israeli children attended kindergarten orelementary schools, about 163,600 attended intermediate schools, and about273,900 students were enrolled in general secondary schools. In addition,about 121,600 students attended vocational schools, and 96,700 personswere enrolled in institutions of higher education, including about 18,100attending teacher-training colleges.2 cultere .