Cultural Overview

In 1947 the United Nations passed a resolution to divide Palestine into two separate national entities: a Jewish Israel, and an Arab Palestine. Following this resolution, Israel declared its independence (1948), declaring itself as the homeland of the Jewish people. A war between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries resulted from their rejection of these developments. Although peace treaties were signed with Egypt and Jordan in the 1980s and 1990s, hostilities between Israel and the surrounding Arab states, as well as with Palestinians living in territories Israel occupied following the 1967 war, have been continuous. These hostilities have insured that the Israeli army maintains a pivotal role in Israeli society. Hence, all 18-year-old Jewish men and women are required, de jure, to complete mandatory military service.

The first wave of Jewish settlers fled Eastern Europe to Palestine to escape anti-Semitism by establishing a Jewish homeland in Zion (and hence—Zionism) in the latter part of the 19th century. The second wave of settlers, who were largely responsible for the egalitarian image of Israeli society, sought personal redemption through a commitment to both Zionist and Socialist values. They believed that physical labor, reclamation of the land, and the establishment of communal settlements in a Jewish homeland would produce a society with social equality. This utopian vision regarding a common good meant sacrificing the rights of individuals and nonhegemonic groups (Swirski & Safir, 1993). This Zionist-Socialist way of life came to fruition with the advent of the "kibbutz", a communal settlement in which inhabitants theoretically share all responsibilities and prerogatives. With the gradual move towards a more capitalistic economy following the Six-Day War and the strengthening of politics and cultural ties with the United States, Socialist Zionism lost its hegemonic status, and other, hitherto disenfranchised, groups started asserting their agendas.

Israel is a land of immigration. Following World War II, Israel's population more than tripled by an influx of Jewish refugees. The trauma of the Holocaust in Europe and the expulsion of Jews from Islamic countries could not but leave a distinctive mark on the new society. The latest major wave of Jewish immigrants has been from the former Soviet Union, primarily in the 1990s. During this period, there was a 25% increase in the Jewish Israeli population.

In addition to these waves of diverse Jewish immigrants, a fifth of contemporary Israel's citizens are Arabs. Within this national minority population, there are distinct religious/cultural groups, the majority of whom (16%) are Muslim, with about 70% living in small villages, Christians (1.9%), who live primarily in cities, Druze (0.9%), members of a secretive religion living in relatively closed communities, and other even smaller groups. These minorities have been increasingly torn between their identification with the Palestinian people and their identification as citizens of Israel (Suleiman & Beit-Hallahmi, 1997).

Following the creation of the State of Israel, Jewish religious law was integrated into state law. As a result, rabbinical courts were granted jurisdiction over personal status. For Muslims, Christians, and Druze too, matters of personal status were left to the jurisdiction of the respective religious courts. While religious law is incorporated into Israeli state law, most Israelis do not define themselves as religious (Levi, Levinsohn, & Katz, 2000). These are but a few of the factors that combine to make contemporary Israel a bizarre amalgam of a socialist welfare state with egalitarian ideology, a capitalist economy, and strong religious/traditional influences and institutions.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

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