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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Modern Israel Through its Culture

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2014/2015
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

The course examines modern Israel via its culture, both high brow and popular. There is discussion of ‘what is Israeli’ with consideration of the ideas of the ‘melting pot’ and the ‘ingathering’ as the nation’s attempt at creating a new identity. The course will expose the student to a variety of cultural expressions which will include literature, theatre, cinema, art, architecture, as well as sub-culture such as comics, popular music, food and folklore.


Acceptance on to the host programme

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The aim of this course is to give an introduction to Israeli culture, both high-brow and popular, without requiring a knowledge of Hebrew or Israeli history. 

Scope and syllabus

This course shares teaching hours with the BA course Introduction to Israeli culture. Two hours of teaching are shared with BA students and there is one additional hour of Masters-tailored tuition per week.

The course begins with an attempt to understand what Israeli culture is, though a study of the Israeli identity vis-a-vis Jewish culture and the neighbouring cultures of the Middle East. The course will concentrate the following themes:

  • The land of Israel
  • Aliyah (the immigration) and the Sabra (the native Israeli)
  • The Kibbutz and the urban centres
  • The Holocaust
  • The Arab-Israeli conflict
  • The tension between the Ashkenazim and the Sepharadim
  • The army and its place in Israeli society
  • Religion
  • The family and childhood in Israel

These themes are presented through cultural representations as they appear in literature, drama, the visual arts and popular culture.

Method of assessment

Assessment is by coursework (two assignments each of 4000-4500 words) and one written examination in May-June.

Suggested reading

  • Abramson, Glenda, Drama and ideology in modern Israel (1998)
  • Aronof, Myron J., Cross-currents in Israeli culture and politics (1984)
  • Brenner, Rachel Fledhay, Inextricably bonded: Israeli Arab and Jewish writers re-visioning culture (2003)
  • Elon, Amos, The Israelis: founders and sons (1981)
  • Even-Zohar, Itamar, ‘The emergence of a native Hebrew culture in Palestine: 1882-1948,’ Studies in Zionism 4 (1981), 167-84
  • Gertz, Nurith, Myths in Israeli culture: captives of a dream (2000)
  • Handleman, Don and Elihu Katz, ‘State ceremonies of Israel: Remembrance Day and Independence Day’ in Models and mirros: towards an anthropology of public events, ed. Don Handelman (1990)
  • Harlap, Amiram, New Israeli architecture (1982)
  • Katriel, Tamar, Talking straight: Dugri speech in Israeli Sabra culture (1986)
  • Katz-Freiman, Tami, Desert cliche: Israel now – local image (1996)
  • Keren, Michael, The pen and the sword: Israeli intellectuals and the making of the nation-state (1989)
  • Lustick, Ian S. and Barry Rubin (eds) Critical essays on Israeli society, politics and culture (1991)
  • Morag, Gileadh, ‘New images of the Arab in Israeli fiction,’ Prooftexts 6 (1986), 147-62
  • Oren, Tasha G., Demon in the box: Jews, Arabs, politics and culture in the making of Israeli television (2004)
  • Regev, Motti and Edwin Seroussi, Popular music and national culture in Israel (2004)
  • Segre, Dan V., A crisis of identity: Israel and Zionism (1980)
  • Sered, Susan Starr, ‘Food and holiness: cooking as a sacred act among Middle Eastern Jewish women,’ Anthropological Quarterly 61
  • (1988), 129-39
  • Sharon, Aryeh, Kibbutz & Bauhaus: an architect’s way in a new land (1976)
  • Shehori, Ran, Art in Israel (1974)
  • Shohat, Ella, Israeli cinema: East/West and the politics of representation (1989)
  • Shiloah, Amnon and Erik Cohen, ‘The dynamics of change in Jewish Oriental music in Israel’ in Studies in Israeli ethnicity: after the ingathering, edited by Alex Weingrod (1985)
  • Silberstein, Laurence J., The Postzionism debate: knowledge and power in Israeli culture (1999)
  • Simon, Rita, Continuity and change: a study of two ethnic communities in Israel (1978)
  • Smoira-Roll, Michal, Folk song in Israel: an analysis attempted (1963)
  • Sultan, Sa’ida, ‘Danna International: transgender pop and polysemiotics of sex, nation, and ethnicity on the Israeli-Egyptian border’ in Mass mediations: new approaches to popular culture in the Middle East and beyond, ed. Walter Armbrust (2000)
  • Taub, Michael (ed.), Israeli Holocaust drama (1996)
  • Turner, Judith, White city: international style architecture in Israel (1984)
  • Urian, Dan and Efraim Karsh (eds.), In search of identity: Jewish aspects in Israeli culture (1999)
  • Urian, Dan, The Judaic nature of Israeli theatre: a search for identity (2000)
  • Yosef, Raz, Beyong flesh: queer masculinities and nationalism in Israeli cinema (2004)
  • Zerubavel, Yael, Recovered roots: collective memory and the making of Israeli national tradition (1994)