Acculturation in Israel

Gabriel Horenczyk, Yoav S. Bergman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

17 Scopus citations


A foreign visitor walking through different areas of Israel and observing contemporary Israeli society would probably be impressed by its diverse and complex tapestry of groups and cultures, which differ in religion, ethnic origin, customs and many other characteristics. A brief review of such groups would reveal Jews of varying degrees of religiosity and of different ethnic origins (Ashkenazi and Sephardic); Arabs with different ethnoreligious backgrounds – Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouins; immigrants, both new and old, from all six inhabited continents; migrant workers from various origins; and tourists from many parts of the world. When walking through a typical street in a large city in Israel, our visitor would also encounter a large variety of languages, traditions, worldviews, customs and norms, out of which a rich multicultural society could emerge and flourish. Undoubtedly, this demonstrates that the Israeli society is culturally plural. However, does this diversity turn Israel into a multicultural society, one characterized by the ideology, ethos and institutional support needed to promote the value of diversity (Fowers & Richardson, 1996; see Chapter 22), a society in which differences among cultural groups are granted legitimacy, and cultural maintenance is secured, even encouraged? The diversity within the Israeli society is not free of intergroup conflicts (Peres & Ben-Rafael, 2006). A partial mapping of the complex and at times volatile sociocultural structure of this society reveals four major divisions: a national division separating Jews and Arabs; ethnic and ethnoreligious divisions within the Jewish and the non-Jewish populations; sociopolitical distinctions within the various groups based on the degree of religiosity; and political discrepancies on major issues mostly related to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Tatar, 2004). A similar classification of the contradictions and disagreements characterizing Israeli society was suggested by Peres and Ben-Rafael (2006), who view three distinctive, albeit comparable, conflicts: the national conflict; conflicts among groups of different ethnic origins within the Israeli Jewish population; and the conflict between religiously observant and secular groups, primarily among Israeli Jews. The multiplicity of groups and divisions makes it difficult to identify and characterize dominant versus nondominant groups in Israeli society; it often seems that a group can play the dominant role in one context or at one time, and the minority role in another (Horenczyk & Ben-Shalom, 2006).

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Acculturation Psychology, Second Edition
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781316219218
ISBN (Print)9781107103993
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2016.


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