The Ministry of Social
Welfare began its work in June 1948, carrying on the mission of
the Social Welfare Department established in 1931 under the Mandate.
The National Insurance Act of 1953 and the Social Welfare Service
Law, passed by the Knesset in 1958, authorized a broad range of
welfare programs, including old age and survivors' pensions, maternity
insurance, workers' compensation provisions, and special allowances
for large families. Retirement age was seventy for men and sixty-five
for women, but persons were eligible for some benefits five years
before retirement age. The Histadrut was also a principal provider
of pensions and a supplier of insurance. In addition, there were
a number of voluntary agencies, many funded by Diaspora Jewry,
that contributed significantly to the social welfare of Israelis.
Special subventionary programs, including low-interest loans,
subsidized housing, and rent or mortgage relief, were available
to new immigrants after 1967 through the Ministry of Immigrant
Absorption and the World Zionist Organization. At times these
programs have been criticized by native-born Israelis or long-time
settlers in the lower income brackets, especially for benefiting
relatively well-to-do immigrants from the West. Even more controversial
have been benefit programs designed to aid returning Israeli emigrants
readjust to life in Israel.
* * *
Of the numerous books on Israeli society, Michael Wolffsohn's
Israel, Polity, Society and Economy, 1882-1986 is a veritable
compendium of demographic information and social indicators. Israel:
Building a New Society, by Daniel Elazar is lucidly written
and closely argued. Sammy Smooha's Israel: Pluralism and Conflict
explains the major social rifts discussed in this chapter and
contains useful statistical information in detailed appendices.
More concise, and focused upon the post-Begin era, is Peter Grose's
A Changing Israel. For two views of Israel by Israelis,
see Amos Elon's The Israelis: Founders and Sons and Amos
Oz's In the Land of Israel. Finally, the Political
Dictionary of the State of Israel, edited by Susan Hattis
Rolef, contains many valuable entries on aspects of Israeli society
On religion in Israel, the most comprehensive treatment remains
S.Z. Abramov's Perpetual Dilemma: Jewish Religion in the Jewish
State. More analytical is Religion and Politics in Israel
by Charles S. Liebman and Eliezer Don-Yehiya. Their civil religion
thesis is developed at greater length in Civil Religion in
Israel. Also recommended is an article by Shlomo Deshen,
"Israeli Judaism: Introduction to the Major Patterns," in the
International Journal of Middle East Studies.
On the waves of Oriental immigration and the settlement of Oriental
Jews, see Nation-Building and Community in Israel by
Dorothy Willner. A series of anthropological studies covers this
period especially well. These include Cave Dwellers and Citrus
Growers, by Harvey Goldberg; Immigrants from India in
Israel, by Gilbert Kushner; and The Dual Heritage: Immigrants
from the Atlas Mountains in an Israeli Village, by Moshe
Shokeid. Myron J. Aronoff's Frontiertown: The Politics of
Community Building in Israel is a study of a development
town in the same period. Also recommended is The Predicament
of Homecoming, by Shlomo Deshen and Moshe Shokeid. The best
book on Oriental ethnicity is the collection edited by Alex Weingrod,
Studies in Israeli Ethnicity: After the Ingathering.
On more recent immigration, see American Immigrants in Israel:
Social Identities and Change, by Kevin Avruch; for a comparison
of American with Soviet immigrants, see Zvi Gitelman's Becoming
Israelis: Political Resocialization of Soviet and American Immigrants.
A critical study of Israeli education in a development town may
be found in Power, Poverty, and Education by Arnold Lewis.
The classic study of a kibbutz is Melford E. Spiro's Kibbutz:
Venture in Utopia. On Israeli Arabs, the most comprehensive
and balanced study is Ian Lustick's Arabs in the Jewish State,
although events in late 1987 and early 1988 have overtaken its
main theme, the explanation of Israeli Arab political quiescence.
On the Druzes, see Gabriel Ben-Dor's The Druzes in Israel:
A Political Study. On West Bank Arabs, the collection Palestinian
Society and Politics, edited by Joel S. Migdal, is recommended,
as is Meron Benvenisti's continuing West Bank Data Project.
The Journal of Palestine Studies is an important resource
as well, containing useful articles such as that by Elia Zureik.
The Israel Pocket Library, which contains material originally
published in the Encyclopedia Judaica, has several books
in the series that address aspects of Israeli society. These include
Society, Religious Life, Jewish Values,
and Education and Science. The material in these books
is now dated but still valuable for the period before the October
1973 War. (For further information and complete citations, see
Data as of December 1988