Israel is an old-new country, small in size, but with a culturally active, heterogeneous population. Four thousand years of Jewish heritage, over a century of Zionism, and more than half a century of modern statehood have contributed to a culture which has already created an identity of its own, while preserving the uniqueness of 70 different communities.
The theater scene is very active, with many professional repertory companies, other theaters and dozens of regional and amateur companies performing throughout the country to large audiences. Israel has one of the highest percentages of theater-goers in the world.
Israelis are also very devoted music lovers, whether it be classical, opera, folk or contemporary music. Israelis love to sing their songs, from those of the pre-state period to ones just written. Community singing takes place in public halls and private homes, in kibbutz dining rooms and around bonfires all over the country. In the communal and religious life of the Jewish people, dance has been regarded as an expression of joy and sorrow since biblical times and is today an integral part of the Israeli cultural scene.
Filmmaking in Israel has undergone major developments since its inception in the 1950s. For the past three years, Israeli films have been nominated for academy awards in the best foreign film category, while this year, an Israeli documentary was considered a leading candidate.
Hebrew is the language of Israel. Although it virtually ceased to be spoken around 200 CE, it continued to be used by Jews throughout the ages as their 'sacred tongue.' In the late 19th century, it emerged as a modern cultural medium, becoming a vital factor in the national revival movement which culminated in the establishment of Israel. Hebrew press and literature have flourished with new generations of authors and readers, and today it is a rich, vibrant, living tongue.