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Israeli culture reflects the diverse background of its
people. The country's most successful writers draw their
inspiration from Jewish tradition. Such writers have
included the novelist Shmuel Yosef Agnon, co-winner of the
1966 Nobel Prize in literature, and the philosopher Martin
Buber. The foremost orchestra of the nation, the Israel
Philharmonic, attracts a number of world-famous conductors
and soloists each year. A vigorous tradition of folk song,
in which the influence of Oriental Jewish music is strongly
felt, thrives in Israel, as does folk dance. The Israel
National Theater, in Tel Aviv, is notable. Israel has more
than 130 museums, two of the most prominent being the Tel
Aviv Museum of Art and the Israel Museum, in Jerusalem,
which houses a large collection of Jewish folk art, a
collection of modern sculpture, and biblical and
archaeological artifacts. The Shrine of the Book, a part of
the Israel Museum, houses a notable collection of Dead Sea
Scrolls. Of the more than 500 public libraries in the
country, the most important is the Jewish National and
University Library on the campus of the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem, which contains approximately 4 million
volumes.1 Religion
The affairs of the three major religions, Judaism, Islam,
and Christianity, are overseen by the ministry of religious
affairs through councils established by the various
religions. Jewish holy days and the weekly Sabbath are, by
law, observed throughout the country, and only kosher food
is served in the army, hospitals, and other official
institutions. About 82 percent of Israel's Arabs are
Muslim, and most of the rest are Christian. Languages
Hebrew and Arabic are the country's official languages. The
most widely spoken language is Hebrew, but Arabic is used
frequently in schools, legal affairs, and the legislature.
Many Israeli residents speak English, Yiddish, Russian, or
any of a number of other European languages. Education
Israel's educational tradition reaches back to biblical
times, although the country did not become a modern
independent state until 1948. During the ancient period,
schools of all levels were in existence, and through the
centuries elementary and secondary education and, to a
large extent, higher learning continued under various
ruling factions. The Compulsory Education Law of 1949, as
amended, provides for free and compulsory elementary
education for all children between 5 and 16 years of age.
Reform continued with the State Education Law of 1953,
which established a national system of public secondary
schools. Higher education is governed by a law enacted in
1958, which set up a council to control universities and
other higher educational institutions, such as the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem (1918); the Technion^×Israel
Institute of Technology (1912), in Haifa; Bar-Ilan
University (1953), in Ramat Gan; Tel Aviv University
(1953); the University of Haifa (1963); Ben Gurion
University of the Negev (1965), in Beersheba; and the
Weizmann Institute of Science (1949), in Rehovot. Students
in secondary schools receive aid from state and local
authorities in amounts up to 100 percent of costs,
depending on parents' incomes.
In addition to the secular system of elementary, secondary,
and higher education, a parallel system of Jewish religious
schools exists, culminating in postgraduate schools of
independent study and research. Mission schools conducted
by various Christian groups are also widely attended. An
educational problem peculiar to Israel is that of assisting
immigrants of various backgrounds to adjust to Israeli
society. In the early 1990s about 960,200 Israeli children
attended kindergarten or elementary schools, about 163,600
attended intermediate schools, and about 273,900 students
were enrolled in general secondary schools. In addition,
about 121,600 students attended vocational schools, and
96,700 persons were enrolled in institutions of higher
education, including about 18,100 attending
teacher-training colleges.2



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