Israel Arts and Literature


The literature in Israel is primarily written in Hebrew or Yiddish. In Arabic, Palestinian fiction is also published, see Palestine (Literature). Compare also Jewish literature.

Modern Hebrew literature was born in Europe during the late 18th century cultural enlightenment among the Jews (Hebrew haskala). In Palestine, Hebrew literature was developed at the end of the 19th century, since Eliezer Ben-Yehuda had revived the “tongues of the prophets” so that it could serve as a spoken and newspaper language. From 1905 to 17, many writers from Eastern Europe immigrated, among other things. Joseph Chaim Brenner, Devorah Baron, SJ Agnon (Nobel Laureate 1966), Zewi Schatz and poets such as Jacob Fichman, David Shimoni, Jacob Steinberg and Rahel Bluwstein. Thematically, they preferred Eastern European traditions but also the immigrants’ harsh conditions and disillusionment.

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The authors during the term (1917-48) were also mainly immigrants from Eastern Europe, eg. Hayyim Hazaz, Yosef Aricha and poets such as Chajim Nachman Bialik, Saul Tchernichowsky, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Abraham Shlonsky, Nathan Alterman and Lea Goldberg. For them, the uniqueness of the new country and the unity of the Jews took a clear shape. Realistically, Aricha depicted life in Palestine, but also in the diaspora. Hazaz, the leading prosaist of the period with Agnon, described the Jews of Ukraine during the revolution, but after his arrival in Palestine in 1931 he devoted himself mostly to immigrants and Yemeni Jews. But it was the lyricists who dominated the field, especially Shlonsky, inspired by European symbolism and surrealism. His experimental, individualistic poetry is characterized by the tension between the childhood world in Ukraine and the immigrants’ struggle for existence. Joining his modernist circle include Goldberg, influenced by German symbolism. Shlonsky also wrote prose, not least children’s books and dramatic works. The Hebrew Writers’ Association was formed as early as 1921.

At the founding of Israel, most of the writers were already Palestinian Jews or those who immigrated at a young age, and the families’ old Eastern European world ended up in the background. Characteristic became a liberated living Hebrew, filled with everyday words. Politically, the majority were Zionists and Socialists. Their work was socially realistic and socially critical, exceptionally focused on existential issues. Many did not see Israel with the idealizing gaze of the parent generation, although they gladly praised the beauty of the country. They clearly saw the unresolved conflict with the Arabs, mass immigration, the new political direction of the Soviet Union and the daily struggle for survival, military and economic. They observed how the idealism of the first time lost its gilding and was replaced by individualism and careerism. The author was no longer the servant of the collective.

The poets in the young state often had their background in military groups, such as Haim Gouri, who represents a Zionist ideology, Amir Gilboa and Abba Kovner, both with roots in the European left and deeply affected by World War II, as well as one born in the United States, T. Carmi, who introduced American and French modernism and also found room for a subjective, existentialist perspective. The female poet Amaliah Kahana-Carmon deviated from her poetry generation both through her peculiar style and personalized content. Yehuda Amichai, immigrated in 1936 and with a German Orthodox background, came to characterize an entire generation of young poets, including David Rokeah, Nathan Zach, Tuvyah (Tuvia) Reubner, Dan, through his existentialism and distinctive use of everyday language, irony and metaphorical expression Pagis, David Avidan and Dalya Ravikovitch. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, young poets broke new ground, influenced by English-American, to some extent, French lyric, with richer associations, sounds and aesthetic values, among other things. Yona Wallach, Mordechai Geldman and Ory Bernstein. Among the poets of the 1980’s and 1990’s, alongside several already mentioned are Admiel Kosman, Yair Hurvits, Aryeh Sivan, Israel Pinkas, Anadad Eldan, Rachel Gil, Avot Yeshurun, Dalia Hertz and Aharon Shabtai. However, since the mid-1980’s, the prose has dominated the literature. Israel Pinkas, Anadad Eldan, Rachel Gil, Avot Yeshurun, Dalia Hertz and Aharon Shabtai. However, since the mid-1980’s, the prose has dominated the literature. Israel Pinkas, Anadad Eldan, Rachel Gil, Avot Yeshurun, Dalia Hertz and Aharon Shabtai. However, since the mid-1980’s, the prose has dominated the literature.

The War of Liberty and the kibbutz life were the focus of the 1940’s and 1950’s proseists. S. Yizhar’s novel “The Days of Ziklag” (1958) deals with the internal conflicts of the soldiers during the 1948-49 war, and he has also worked on the relationship with the Arabs. Moshe Shamir has realistically described the war and the kibbutz life. Other kibbutz painters are Aharon Meged. “Experiences of a Fool” (1960), Yehuda Yari, Hanoch Bartov, the poet David Rokeah and in particular the still very active Amos Oz. The leading representatives of the “new wave” (1950’s and 1960’s) were Abraham B. Yehoshua, Aharon Appelfeld, Amos Oz, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, and Yoram Kaniuk, who are considered to have broken ground for recent Hebrew literature, created by postmodernists such as Itamar Levi, Yoel Hoffmann, Avraham Heffner, Orly Castel-Bloom and Tzipora Dolan. Among the proseists of the 1980’s and 1990’s, David Grossman, Aharon Almog, Israel Hameiri, Rivka Keren, and Nava Semel.

The dominant sphere of Israeli literature has been questioned by female prosaists of the 1990’s. They believe that the monolithic, Ashkenazic, secular, male establishment is about to be replaced by political pluralism, which, in the literature, leads to greater openness towards Sephardic, Arab, ultra-Orthodox and, of course, even female writers, whose role has gradually become larger. Personal experience rather than collective characterizes the prose of leading female writers such as Devorah Baron, Shulamit Lapid, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, Tzipora Dolan, and most recently Yehudit Katzir, Orly Castel-Bloom and Hannah Bat-Shahar. Yona Wallach revolutionized poetry through her provocative liberated lyric, like a force of nature, full of intellectualism, and she has come to exert great influence on the younger female poets.

Drama and theater

Theater in Israel occurs mainly in Hebrew, to some extent also in Arabic and Yiddish.

The first professional Hebrew theater was Habima, which was established in Moscow in 1917 and in 1931 moved to Palestine. By then, immigration had already led to the establishment of the first theater companies there, the earliest being the lovers of the Hebrew stage (1904-14) and in the early 1920’s, among other things. Hebrew theater. Zionist-socialist ideology among the early immigrants led, among other things. Moshe Halevi to create the theater Ohel (‘Tent’), which first erected socialist pieces in 1926, later nationalist. In 1944, a group of Western-oriented young actors founded under the direction of the Yosef Millo theater Kameri (‘Chamber Theater’). Among its influential sets is the first play about an indigenous Israel, Moshe Shamir’s “He Walked the Fields” (1948), with the theme of the Freedom War.

In 1949 Michael Almaz created the theater Zira (‘Arena’), which in the 1950’s set up, among other things. Becketts and Ionesco’s plays. There is also a significant semi-professional kibbutz theater, Bimat ha-kibbutz (the ‘Kibbutz stage’). During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the political and religious problems of the young state were dealt with in pieces by, among other things. Moshe Shamir, Yigal Mossinson, Ephraim Kishon, Lea Goldberg and Nissim Aloni. The latter’s “The American Princess” (1963) has also been erected in Scandinavia. Since the 1960’s, playwrights such as Yaacov Shabtai, AB Yehoshua, Yehoshua Sobol and Hanoch Levin have played a leading role.

The Yiddish theater has flourished seriously in Israel since the 1970’s, having previously been held back for Hebrew theater. Hundreds of Yiddish actors and several theater companies are expected, all with Tel Aviv as their central location.

See also Yiddish (Drama and Theater), Jewish Theater and Palestine (Theater).


From the silent film era, there was film documentation of the Jews returning to their old homeland. With these as a base, Nathan Axelrod’s (1905-87) film collections later became the basis for Israel’s national film archive. Only in the 1950’s, after the country’s independence, a national film industry slowly began to emerge with the film studios Geva and Herzliyya (founded in 1950 and 1951, respectively) as important conditions. In 1954, Britten Thorold Dickinson (1903-84) was responsible for the first Israeli film that attracted international attention, “Height 24 does not respond”, with its Zionist content typical of contemporary film production, dominated by documentaries and low-budget productions.

In the 1960’s, film production flourished – some 80 years long films were made – to drastically decrease by the end of the decade. By then, a new generation of filmmakers had debuted with bolder subject choices, and they continued to develop artistically over the following decades. These include Ephraim Kishon (1924-2005; “Sallah Chabati”, 1964), Avraham Heffner (born 1935; “But Where Is Daniel Wax?”, 1972) and Mosh谷 Mizrahi (born 1931; “Rachel’s Man”, 1974). In 1969, the Israel Film Center was founded to support the domestic film, something that producer duo Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus (born 1941) immediately benefited from with a series of internationally successful youth films, such as Boaz Davidsons (born 1943) “Party with the gang” (1977) and a series of action films – many directed by Golan – with European and American stars, such as the Oscar-nominated “Operation Thunderbolt” (1977).

During the 1980’s, Golan-Globus expanded with the multinational film group The Cannon Group, but their English-language production was mainly located outside of Israel, including. in the United Kingdom and the United States.

At the same time, Israeli film in Hebrew and Arabic continued to have international success, e.g. with Uri Barbash’s (born 1946) Oscar nominated “Behind the Walls” (1984) and Eli Cohen’s (born 1940) “The Summer with Aviya” (1988).

The 1990’s marked the beginning of a more socially critical wave of films, which in the 2000’s also began to investigate the situation of Palestinians. The gay activist and director Amos Guttman (1954-93) made his last and most notable film, ※Amazing Grace§ (1992), about the AIDS epidemic in the country before he himself died of the disease. Eran Riklis (born 1954) portrayed both the Arab neighbors and the Palestinians in “The Syrian Bride” (2004) and “Citronlunden” (2008).

With “Kedma” (2002), Amos Gitai (born 1950) made an unsentimental and critical study of the Zionist struggle for the future Israel after World War II. The film went in many parts across from previous hero portrayals of the nation’s founding, such as the Hollywood production “Exodus” (1960). Internationally acclaimed and award-winning, Ari Folmans (born 1962) also animated “Waltz with Bashir” (2008), based on the director’s own memories of his time as a soldier during the massacres of the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila during the war in Lebanon. Samuel Maoz (born 1962) also made an internationally acclaimed and distributed film based on the war experiences in the country in the 1980’s: “Lebanon” (2010).

Palestinian filmmakers such as Elia Souleiman (born in 1960) have also financed their production in full or in part with Israeli funds, see Palestine (Film).

Israel produces about 15 feature films a year.


Various cultural programs were developed within the Jewish colony in Palestine. The Bulgarian artist Boris Schatz (1867-1932) started in Bezalel art school in Jerusalem in 1906, where on the basis of a partially popular, Eastern European genre tradition cultivated a narrative, often idyllic painting with a focus on simultaneous Jewish everyday life and religious parties etc, to some extent also Biblical motives. In addition to Schatz Samuel Hirzenberg (1865-1908) and Abel Penn (1883-1963), the artists around the Bezalel School are notable). The first major art exhibition was held in Jerusalem in 1921 and received great acclaim. During the 1920’s, an opposition to the early tradition of immigrant Western European artists developed, which gradually captured the public with a schooled and observant realism, still with the Jewish environment and the landscape around Jerusalem as the main motive. However, it was not until the 1930’s that modernism became seriously assertive with new immigrants who were schooled, among other things. in Paris. Among them, expressionist tendencies predominated in an often strongly emotional color art.

When the Jewish state came into being after World War II, the environment in Jerusalem brought several significant contemporary works of art; inter alia Marc Chagall performed a suite of stained glass windows in the Hadassah Synagogue. For the art in question, the main center of the event was Tel Aviv. several art schools arose. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art received a representative collection of European art from various stages, with a significant modern department. The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion is attached to the museum as an art hall. Already established artists who immigrated after 1945 played a dominant role in the rapid modernization of Israeli art life, among them the former Dadaist Marcel Janco (1895-1984). For a later generation, the foundation has often been education at the Bezalel Academy – e.g. for the nonfigurative painter Yakov Agam (born 1928), or at schools in Tel Aviv, such as the sculptors Menashe Kadishman (born 1932) and Dani Karavan (born 1930).


The modern architecture applied in present-day Israel before 1948 was strongly influenced by the influence of Bauhaus through former students such as Arieh Sharon and the influence of internationally active architects such as Erich Mendelsohn and Alexander Klein. With the mass influx of Jews from all over the world to I. After 1950 there was a huge need for housing, which was mass produced in a simple, functionalist style. Modernist architecture was also reflected in public buildings such as the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv (1953-57) by Dov Karmi and Zeev Rechter and the hospital in the same city (1955) by Arieh Sharon, as well as the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (1959) by Al Mansfeld and Dora Gad.

In the 1960’s, prefabricated building elements began to be used, which created greater variation in housing construction. At the same time, there was an effort to adapt the architecture to local conditions. Several of Israel’s older cities, including Jaffa, underwent a period of simultaneous restoration and renewal at the end of the 1960’s. The newer urban development was usually given international design, but a distinctive Israeli architecture began to emerge at the same time, with buildings characterized primarily by a different and imaginative design language, usually expressed in raw concrete. In particular, a variety of institutional buildings and monuments bear this mark, including Frederick Kiesler’s monument in Jerusalem (1964) over the Dead Sea Scrolls, the convalescent home in Zichron Yaakov (1969) by Yacov Rechter and the Tel Aviv Museum (1971) by Dan Eitan and Itzhak Yashar.


From the end of the 19th century to the present, both folk and artistic music have been influenced by many different traditions, forms and styles from east and west. Jews from Tsarist Russia sang to Russian melodies Hebrew texts taken from the Bible, the Talmud and from medieval poets. Jews from other Eastern European countries sang Hebrew lyrics to chassidic tunes and folk songs in Yiddish (compare Jewish music). The rhythms became lively, giving these old tunes a new spirit. The highlight of this song type was the world famous song “Hava nagila” (traditional melody, recorded in 1915 by AZ Idelsohn, text Moshe Nathanson). The oriental tunes sung in what was then Palestine were transformed by Western immigrants. Joel Engel, who was a teacher, critic and composer of artistic music in Russia, was one of the first to adapt Eastern tunes to new texts. He became the “father” of the Hebrew folk song. Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria during the 1930’s included talented musicians and composers such as Paul Ben-Haim, Josef Tal, Stefan Wolpe, Marc Lavry, Alexander Uriyah Boscovich, Oedoen Partos and Mordechai Seter. They wrote artistic music, instrumental, choral and piano music, string solo, virtuoso pieces and artificial songs. They tried to compose music that recalled the mood, scales and rhythms of the Oriental-Jewish song, along with the tone of Middle Eastern instruments.

In 1927 the first symphony orchestra was founded. The world famous Palestine Symphony Orchestra (now Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) was founded in Tel Aviv in 1936 by Polish violinist Bronisław Hubermann; the same year Karel Solomon founded the radio symphony orchestra. Many prominent musicians from different parts of the world lead concerts in the country. There are several music schools, e.g. Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. The younger composers such as Yardena Alotin, Mark Kopytman, Noam Sheriff, Yitzhak Sadai and Max Stern write music in different styles in accordance with contemporary pluralism. After the 1967 Six Day War, a new type of popular song emerged. European and American beat music became attractive. Above all, war, terrorism and economic tensions had a tremendous effect on the development of the Israeli song. Many songs are about peace, others about a better and safer future. The music has continued to alternate between European and Eastern styles.


Immigrants from diverse cultures have brought Israel dances and folklore, which have been encouraged to survive and have also been an inspiration for the folk dance in the new country. The early pioneers were welded together by folk dances, especially whores of Romanian origin. Israel’s first dance ensemble Inbal (‘The Clock in the Clock’), founded in 1950 by Sara Levi-Tanai, transformed dance and music traditions from Yemen into performing arts.

In the 1960’s a lively dance exchange with the West began. With the help of Martha Graham, 1963 was added to the Batsheva Dance Company, supported by dance patron Bethsabee de Rothschild. The repertoire consisted of contemporary works, mainly Graham’s. In 1967, Rothschild expanded the field with the Bat-Dor Dance Company, combining modern and classical technology. Both tour internationally. Other dance theaters are Kibbutz Dance Company, Israel Ballet and the unique Qol Demama, whose leader Moshe Efrati joins deaf and hearing dancers in a good repertoire. In addition, a dozen smaller groups and a lively amateur business.

Israel Arts and Literature