Founded in 1948 amid bloodshed and the near devastation of the Jewish people after the Holocaust, modern Israel is something of a miracle. In a little more than fifty years of existence, the country has evolved into a significant economic and military power, both feared and resented by its Arab neighbors in the volatile Middle East. In Sticking Together, an Israeli and an American examine the major challenges confronting Israel within its own borders. These challenges—well known to Israelis but relatively little known elsewhere—have emerged in part out of the country’s experience with large-scale immigration. Like the United States, Canada, and Australia, Israel has tried to melt different peoples into a cohesive nation. While its citizens have forged common bonds under circumstances of adversity— particularly constant threats from Palestinians and from neighboring Arab countries— the fabric of Israeli society is torn by four major schisms: between immigrants and native Israeli; between Jews and Arabs; between secular and religious Jews; and between Jews of different cultural and national backgrounds (such as Ashkenzim and Sephardim). Gradually, and often with great difficulty, Israelis have learned to accommodate and respect the deep differences among its population. To borrow a culinary analogy, Israeli society, much like American society, has become more “salad bowl” than “melting pot.” Sticking Together examines the many challenges confronting Israel’s experience with pluralism, and in the process, draws lessons that might prove useful to other societies that struggle to accommodate the needs of highly diverse populations.
Yaakov Kop is director of the Center for Social Policy Studies in Jerusalem. Robert E. Litan is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and vice president for research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation.