Jewish Israel is made up of a plethora of sub-cultures, and in many ways this has made the attempt to achieve a modern integrated culture as envisaged by many of the founding fathers’ generation more difficult. In the years following the creation of the state, hundreds of thousands of Jews flowed into the country, transforming a relatively homogenous society into a truly heterogeneous one. The advanced social norms that had been largely a product of a confluence of European ideologies, and which had stood as basic suppositions within the pre-1948 society, suddenly found themselves embroiled in a cultural struggle with representatives of a hundred different Diasporas.

The result was a cultural tug-of-war in which the dominant society of the pre-State establishment attempted to impose its cultural assumptions on the newcomers. This period, which basically lasted for a generation and has lasted in some ways till today, has seen a struggle, among other things, over the question of the role of women. Many of the societies whose Jews came to Israel, especially the Moslem lands of North Africa and the Middle East, were societies that held extremely conservative attitudes towards women. The reinforcement of traditional Jewish attitudes towards women by traditionally Moslem norms in countries which had stayed still, economically and culturally for centuries (apart from the situation in large cities), created a cultural mix that was extremely conservative in attitudes towards women.

The shock of encounter with the modern Western-oriented Israeli society of the early 1950’s was very great indeed. Only slowly, have some of those attitudes been eroded. Patriarchal norms are still very strong in large sub-cultures within Israel. It is not just the immigrants of the early state years who have exhibited such conservative modes of behaviour towards women. Many of the immigrants from the large Russian Aliyah of the eighties and nineties have brought with them similar ideas as has the smaller Ethiopian wave of Aliyah.



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27 Apr 2015 / 8 Iyar 5775 0