Jews of Israel - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Judaism is the dominant religion, although the majority (about two-thirds to three-fourths) of Israeli Jews are nonobservant. There are ritual and liturgical (and, some claim, stylistic and emotional) differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions.

Religious Practitioners. Rabbis are the predominant Jewish religious practitioners. Religious-court judges serve as state civil servants. There is a Ministry for Religious Affairs and a Chief Rabbinate, the latter divided into Ashkenazi and Sephardi offices.

Ceremonies. All of the holidays of the Jewish religious calendar are celebrated in Israel. Some ethnic festivals (e.g., the North African Mimouna) are also celebrated, and some national holidays—for example, Israeli Independence Day (Yom Haatzma'ut) and Remembrance Day—are given a semisacred status.

Arts. Both the "high arts" (classical music, dance, theater, and literature) and folk arts (dance, especially) are highly extolled.

Medicine. Good medical care is widely available, and medical insurance ( kupat holim ) covers virtually all Israelis.

Death and Afterlife. Traditional Jewish death rites are simple. At the grave site, a kaddish is said; on various occasions from then on it will be repeated by close relatives to memorialize the deceased. A seven-day full mourning period ( shivah ) follows. (Lesser mourning lasts thirty days, a full year for one's parents.) The anniversary of the death ( yahrzeit ) is celebrated by close relatives. The soul ( nefesh ) of the deceased is thought to return to God.

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