Israel Module - Israel Lesson 5: Culture and People

Time Allotment:

50 minutes


Classroom board
4×6” photographs by Zion Ozeri related to Israeli culture:

Copies of Israel worksheets_5A“Culture: Photograph Worksheet” (one per pair or small group)
Glue or tape (for affixing photographs to worksheets)
Copies of  Israel Worksheet 5B “Culture: Jewish Texts Worksheet” (one per student)

Note to Teacher

In this lesson, students analyze photographs of different scenes in Israel and consider ways in which the people and events pictured convey various aspects of Israeli culture.

 The last three photographs suggested in the Materials section of this lesson show scenes tied to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious worship. If you choose to use these photographs, you should be prepared to have an open discussion about the roles of different religions in the cultural make-up of Israel and the ways in which they contribute to diversity in the country.

 Steer the conversation in a positive direction by maintaining the focus on the concept that Israel is a “melting pot” for people from different lands, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and histories. 


Prior to class, tape or glue each photograph to the center of a copy of the “Culture: Photograph Worksheet,” and write the name of the photograph and its location beneath the photograph.

Big Idea:

What does it mean when we identify something as “Israeli,” beyond its being from or taking place in Israel? What makes up “Israeli culture,” and how does the culture of Israel reflect the nation’s rich history, its diverse people, and the land itself? In this lesson, students examine photographs capturing different aspects of Israeli culture and explore how they blend together to create a uniquely Israeli experience.

Learning Objectives:

In this lesson, students will:

  • develop definitions for “a culture” and “culture,” and explore the role that various elements play in creating a unified culture;
  • connect the concepts explored in the previous lessons (Israel as a homeland, Israel as a refuge, connecting past and present, and the Land of Israel) to the idea of Israeli culture;
  • apply these concepts to photographs representing different facets of Israeli culture;
  • correlate Jewish texts to photographs and explain how they are interrelated.

Warm-Up/Introduction Activity (10 minutes):

  1. Prior to class, write the following prompt on the board:
    David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, once remarked, “This country made us a people; our people made this a country.” What do you think this quotation means? How does it pertain to the State of Israel?
  2. When students enter class, give them a few minutes to respond to the prompt in writing; then encourage them to share their responses.
  3. Next, write the words “a culture” on one side of the board and the word “culture” on the other, and brainstorm as a class a definition for both. (“A culture” might be defined as a specific group of people with shared beliefs, values, customs and practices, while “culture” refers to the arts, collectively – such as music, literature, art, language, and food.)
    • What is the difference between ”a culture” and “culture”?
    • What is the role of “culture” within “a culture”?
    • How does the Ben-Gurion quotation relate to Israeli culture?


Class Discussion (10 minutes):

  1. Briefly discuss how each of the four topics already studied in the Jewish Lens unit relate to culture – more specifically, their role in fostering a unified Israeli culture. Use the questions below as a guide:
    • Israel as a Homeland: How does the concept of “culture” emerge from the idea of Israel as a homeland for Jews worldwide? Why are a unified culture and shared cultural experiences important when we talk about Israel as our homeland?
    • Past and Present: How are elements of Israel’s history and past reflected in modern Israeli culture? Why do you think the link between past and present is important in understanding any culture?
    • The Land: What does it mean to have a contemporary culture in an ancient land? How does the Land of Israel itself play a role in Israeli culture?
    • In-gathering of Exiles: Because Israel is a Zionist melting pot, Israeli culture draws on experiences and influences of peoples from around the world. What connects all of these diverse peoples within Israel to become one culture?


Photo Activity (25 minutes):

  1. Explain to students that they will be looking at photographs by Zion Ozeri and analyzing how the images connect Israeli culture with the other concepts explored in this unit.
  2. Divide students into pairs or small groups, and give each a copy of the “Culture: Photograph Worksheet,” prepared with a photograph affixed in the center. (If there are more photograph worksheets than there are groups, you might allow students to choose their photographs.) Each grouping should look carefully at their photograph and discuss how the ideas of Homeland, Refuge, Past and Present, and The Land are elements of the photograph. In the appropriate boxes on the worksheet, students should explain how they think these four ideas are connected to Israeli culture as captured in the picture.
    For example, if the photograph shows a group of Israeli soldiers, students should ask themselves, “How are the ideas of ‘Israel as a homeland’ and ‘Israeli culture’ connected in this photograph?” “How are the ideas of ‘Israel as a refuge’ and ‘Israeli culture’ connected in this photograph?” and so on.
    Remind students that some of the four ideas explored in the past lessons might not be explicitly seen in the photographs, so that they should think broadly about the images and creatively about possible connections.
  3. After students have completed their analyses, each group should present its photograph and connections to the class.


Wrap Up/Review (5 minutes):

  1. Ask students to discuss ways in which taking part in cultural experiences helps us to better understand and feel a part of that culture, even if it is not our own culture (e.g., the experiences of hearing Israeli music, viewing Israeli dance, and eating Israeli food). How did the photographs they analyzed in this lesson give them insight into those experiences?



Give each student a copy of the “Culture: Jewish Texts” handout. At home, students should read the texts and choose one that they feel best relates to the photograph he or she analyzed in class. Then, students should write a brief reflection connecting the Jewish text to the photograph. Ideas can be shared in a subsequent class.


Extension Activities:

  • Each student can research an Israeli artist, cultural visionary, or cultural site, and write a page for a “Cultural Travel Guide” of Israel. The page should focus on how this person or place has influenced and/or contributed to greater Israeli culture, and should include photographs and a map (if appropriate).
  • Like Israel, the United States is a “melting pot” of people from many cultures. So what then is meant by “American culture”? Students can repeat the photograph activity completed in class with a photograph taken in the United States (either a famous photograph or one taken by the students). How and why are the concepts of homeland, refuge, connecting past to present, and the land itself central concepts in American culture as well?
  • Students can create a gallery featuring photographs of people and things that reflect their own cultural identities or their connection to Israeli culture. Photographs can be taken at home, in the neighborhood, at school, or in synagogue. Students should write a caption for each photograph and a paragraph explaining the cultural connections. The photographs can be displayed in a school hallway or other public area for viewing by the larger community.