Zionist & Israeli Culture in Words, Art & Music

In this 45-minute video recorded Jan. 11, 2023, scholars of Jewish, Zionist and Israeli art, music and culture discuss how culture not only was a fundamental part of the effort to build a safe Jewish homeland, but was for many the reason behind the modern State of Israel. Featured are Dr. Arieh Saposnik, an associate professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Dr. Susan Nashman Fraiman, an instructor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Dr. Eli Sperling, an Israel Institute teaching fellow at the University of Georgia. Moderating the conversation is Center for Israel Education President Dr. Kenneth Stein, professor emeritus of Middle Eastern history and political science and Israel studies at Emory University. This webinar is part of CIE’s Israel@75: A Yearlong Exploration project.

The following links provide more information on the topic of CIE’s Jan. 11, 2023, Israel@75 webinar, Zionist & Israeli Culture in Words, Art & Music:


Against the Canon: Voices of Diversity in Israeli Art,” Dr. Susan Nashman Fraiman, 44 minutes, recorded July 2022 — Dr. Fraiman presents a taste of the variety of voices in Israeli art that have emerged in the past 20 years, including female, religious, Mizrahi, Ethiopian and Israeli-Palestinian, all of which are rich subjects in themselves. 

Teaching Diversity With Israel’s Music Mix,” Dr. Eli Sperling, 53 minutes, recorded July 2020 — Dr. Sperling programs a youthful, entertaining video playlist to bring Israel’s religious, cultural and ethnic variety into the classroom.

The Progression of Israeli Culture,” Dr. Eli Sperling, 61 minutes, recorded June 2020 — The architects of the Zionist enterprise cultivated a “new Jew” to lay the societal foundation for what would become the State of Israel. The result was a largely European, secular and labor-focused conception of Hebrew and then of Israeli society and culture. Since Israel’s independence in 1948, staggered waves of culturally, religiously and geographically diverse immigrants came to Israel from the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, Western Europe and other locations. These immigrants and Israel’s Arab population have challenged and changed notions of “Israeliness” as reflected in the arts.

The Evolution of Israeli Culture & Society,” Dr. Eli Sperling, 63 minutes, recorded June 2018 — The architects of the Zionist enterprise evolved a cultural identity along with state structures. Its dynamism is still evolving from the diversity of its population’s origins.

Identity and Politics in Israel,” Dr. Jonathan Rynhold, 31 minutes, recorded June 2021 — Applying demographic statistics and polling data, Professor Rynhold examines Israel’s politics through the lenses of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. He concludes that Israeli society and its political priorities are ever-changing.

The Sephardim: Making the State, Politics and Culture,” Dr. Yaron Ayalon and Rich Walter, 39 minutes, recording June 2021 — The diverse people collectively known as Sephardim or Mizrahim, who make up the Jewish majority in Israel, have increasingly shaped Israeli music, food and other cultural areas the past 50 years.

6 Schools of Zionist Ideas for Today’s Torchbearer Generation,” Dr. Gil Troy, 47 minutes, recorded June 2020 — From its beginnings, the modern Zionist movement has encompassed different views about goals and strategies, including the importance of cultural efforts, but Zionism remains a vibrant and crucial part of Jewish identity.

Hebrew Revival,” 4 minutes, created February 2019 — CIE’s Israel On Board series of whiteboard videos looks at the role of modern Hebrew in Zionism and Israeli identity. 

Other CIE Resources

Israel and Hebrew Language: A Nation’s Choice” — A CIE e-book explaining Hebrew language beyond religious practice, its use as a spoken language of the street and its rise to a rich literary renaissance. In this curriculum, Hebrew literature excerpts demonstrate how the language became a core element in Jewish state identity.

Hebrew/Israeli Literature — Selected Works — a representative sample of published items by 46 Zionist and Israel authors, collect by CIE (2014)

A Bibliography of Israeli Literature — Articles and Books — collated by CIE (2020)

Outside Resources

Dr. Susan Nashman Fraiman, “Israeli Art, Jewish Art, and Jewish Studies,” AJS Perspectives, Fall 2021

Liam Hoare, “1967: Nathan Alterman or Amos Oz? The Six-Day War and Israeli Literature,” Fathom, Spring 2017

Bella & Harry Wexner Libraries of Sound & Song – Legacy Heritage Fund, National Library of Israel’s Music Collection and Sound Archive — 

The collection of 10,000 records or songs also includes the personal archives of several pre-eminent composers and the archives of a number of musical institutions in Israel. The notable archives of Israeli composers include those of Alexander (Sasha) Argov, Paul Ben-Haim, Andre Hajdu, Moshe Wilensky, Dov Seltzer, Emanuel Zamir, Mordechai Zeira, Marc Lavry, Daniel Sambursky, Mordecai Seter, Yair Rosenblum, Naomi Shemer and Noam Sheriff. Beyond written and recorded music in draft and final form are items related to the process of the composition and performance of the music, such as correspondence with colleagues and performers, concert recordings, announcements, programs, reviews and photographs.