Doron Kima (Florida State University)


Nation/Culture. The State of Israel is located in the Middle East on the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, Gaza Strip in the southwest, and Egypt and the Red Sea in the south. It was on May 14, 1948 that David Ben-Gurion, the first prime-minister, declared the establishment of a Jewish state to be known as the State of Israel, a state independent upon the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine. After the founding of the state, countless Jewish immigrants rushed to Israel from many different countries, particularly from Eastern Europe and Arab countries such as Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, and Iran. The immigrants brought their cultural and religious traditions with them to Israel making modern day Israel a rich mixture of vibrant diversity.


The official language is Hebrew. Nevertheless, as a country of immigrants, many languages can be heard, such as various Arabic dialects, Russian, French, and Amharic. Many Israelis communicate reasonably well in English, as many television programs are broadcast in this language and English is taught from the early grades in elementary school.


Music. The wide ranging diversity in Israel left its imprint on Israeli culture in general and on Israeli music specifically. The Eastern European klezmer music, Hassidic music (a branch of Orthodox Judaism), Russian folk music, traditional Arabic music, Yemenite music, Moroccan music, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), Greek music, Ethiopian music, pop, and rock are all part of the musical influence on Israeli musicians. Some distinctive musical styles that developed throughout the years are: Shirei Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel songs) to strengthen ties with the land of Israel as opposed to Diaspora (characterized by dance rhythms that often have strong off beats and asymmetric meters) and Mizrahit music, a musical style that combines Turkish, Greek, Arabic, and Israeli elements. Israeli music is also influenced by the current musical trends from the US such as hip hop, rap, blue grass, and rhythm & blues. Many Israeli musicians choose to pursue their academic degrees, mostly in jazz, western art music, or contemporary media, in Europe and the US. Many of them return to Israel upon completion to enrich the musical scene in Israel. In addition to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra that is led by maestro Zubin Mehta, several cities, mostly from the center of Israel, hold a symphonic orchestra. Jazz big band ensembles are mostly assembled for specific projects.


Notable Musicians.

Alexander”Sasha” Argov (1914-1995, song-writer) was influenced by Russian folk songs but was dominated by Hebrew rhythms and subtle harmony.


Haim Hefer (1925-2012, song-writer) was awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew songs for his contribution to the Music of Israel.


Moshe Vilenski (1910-1997, song-writer) was considered a “pioneer of Israeli song” and one of Israel’s leading composers.


Naomi Shemer (1930 –2004, song-writer) was hailed as the “first lady” of Israeli song and poetry.


Yair Rosenblum (1944-1996, song-writer) composed songs for the Israel Defense Forces army and navy ensembles. Mostly notable for his “Song for Peace” (Shir L’Shalom).


Shoshana Damari (1923-2006, singer) was a Yemenite-Israeli singer known as the “Queen of Hebrew Music”.


Yafa Yarkoni (1925-2012, singer) was named Israel’s “songstress of the wars” due to her frequent performances for Israel Defense Forces soldiers especially in wartime.


Ofra Haza (1957-2000, singer) was an international recording artist. She was inspired by the Yemenite and Hebrew culture.


Arik Einstein (b.1939, singer & song-writer) and Shalom Chanoch (b.1946, singer & song-writer) introduced Israeli rock songs. Their works have profoundly influenced Israeli rock and modern Israeli music.


Itzhak Perlman (b. 1945) is regarded as one of the preeminent violinists of the 20th and early 21st centuries.


Avishai Cohen (b.1970) is internationally known as a jazz bassist. He combines Israeli and oriental elements in his music.


Music in Higher Education. There are nine universities including the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology and Weizmann Institute of Science and several dozen colleges in Israel, which are recognized and academically supervised by the Council for Higher Education in Israel. Universities (government-funded) generally require a certain amount of high school matriculation units (bagrut), a certain grade average, and a good grade in the Psychometric Entrance Test, which is similar in many respects to the American SAT. The Buchmann-Mehta School of Music of Tel-Aviv University offers undergraduate, graduate, and artistic diploma programs in music performance (instrumental and voice), composition & conducting (orchestral & choral), and musicology. It also offers a Ph.D degree in musicology and composition combined with musicology. The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance is an independent institution recognized by the Council for Higher Education in Israel, but also collaborates with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It offers undergraduate studies in performance (instrumental and voice), oriental-Arabic music, cross-disciplinary music, and composition. It also offers a Master of Music degree in conjunction with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. University of Haifa Music Department offers a BA degree in music and MA degree in music therapy. Bar-Ilan University offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate degrees in music. Unlike the other universities in Israel that require matriculation, Psychometric Entrance Test, and a certain grade average for admission, The Open University of Israel has an open admission policy and it offers a bachelor’s degree in humanities with music emphasis. Levinsky Teacher's Seminary offers a B.Ed degree in music education. Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music offers a B.Ed degree in cooperation with the Levinsky Teacher's Seminary. Rimon also offers a credit transfer agreement with Berklee College of Music, Boston Massachusetts. Ono Academic College provides jazz and commercial music courses and offers a B.Mus. Degree in cross-disciplinary music. Other universities/colleges offer some music courses in appreciation and history.


Music in Schools. Music education in Israel enjoys considerable government support. The Israel Ministry of Education supports approximately 41 music conservatories throughout the country (conservatories offer programs for all ages). Music is part of the national curriculum in elementary schools (mostly an hour or two weekly). Some elementary schools also provide enrichment music classes after school hours (with additional fee). Junior high schools for the arts provide music education classes mostly in fundamentals and ensembles. While music is not part of the curriculum in high schools, numerous high schools for the arts provide extensive music curriculum with emphasis given to fundamentals, theory, history, performance, and ensembles and provide the students with certain matriculation units (bagrut) in music.



Prof. Emanuel Krasovsky, Tel-Aviv University


Ms. Michal Golani, The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance


Dr. Oded Zehavi, Haifa University


Amikam Kimelman, Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music


Recommendations for Listening.

Arik Einstein & Shalom Hanoch (Shablul), 1970; Phonokol Records.


The Sixteenth Sheep (Hakeves Hashisha-Asar), 1978; NMC Records.


Zohar Argov (Elinor), 1980; Reuveni Brothers Records


A Collection of Israeli Songs (Agadat Deshe), 2010; NMC Records


The Idan Raichel Project, 2002; Helicon Records


Noa, Achinoam Nini & Gil Dor, 1993; NMC Records


Recommendations for Viewing.

Israel Music Institute:


Music Associations in Israel:


Recommendations for Reading.

Brinner, Benjamin, 2009. Playing Across a Divide, Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters. Oxford University Press.


Gradenwitz, Peter, 1996. The music of Israel: from the biblical era to modern times. Amadeus Press Portland, OR.


Seroussi, Edwin, 2002. Mediterraneanism in Israeli Music: An Idea and its Permutations. Journal of Musical Anthropology of the Mediterranean.


Waterman ,Stanley, 2010. The Israeli Music Scene: An Essay in Secular Culture. Contemporary Jewry.


Katz-Gerro, Tally, Raz, Tally, and Yaish, Meir, 2007. Class, status, and the intergenerational transmission of musical tastes in Israel. Poetics Elsevier.


Regev, Motti, and Seroussi, Edwin, 2004. Popular music & national culture in Israel. University of California Press.


Nathan, Hans, and Bohlman, Philip, 1994. Israeli Folk Music: Songs of the Early Pioneers.A R Editions, Inc.