Glossary -- Israel

agora (pl., agorot)
An Israeli coin. One hundred agorot equal one new Israeli shekel--NIS (q.v.).
aliyah (pl., aliyot)
Literally, going up. The immigration of Jews to Eretz Yisrael, or the Land of Israel. Historians have classified five major periods of immigration to Israel, as follows: First Aliyah (1882- 1903); Second Aliyah (1904-14); Third Aliyah (1919-23); Fourth Aliyah (1924-31); and Fifth Aliyah (1932-39).
Asefat Hanivharim (Constituent Assembly)
The Yishuv's parliamentary body and the Knesset's predecessor.
Ashkenazim (sing., Ashkenazi)
Jews of European origin.
Son of; frequently used in personal names, as Bar-Lev.
Son of; frequently used in personal names, as Ben-Gurion.
A political labor organization of Jewish workers founded in Vilna, Lithuania in 1987. The name is an abbreviation in Yiddish for The General Union of Jewish Workers in Russia, Lithuania, and Poland. The Bund opposed Zionism and viewed Yiddish as the only secular Jewish language.
Conservative Jews
Accept the primacy of halakah (q.v.) but have introduced modifications in liturgy and ritual.
Refers to the Jews living in scattered communities outside Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) during and after the Babylonian Captivity (sixth century B.C.) and, especially, after the dispersion of the Jews from the region after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70 and the Bar-Kokhba War in A.D. 132- 35. In modern times the word refers to the Jews living outside Palestine or present-day Israel. When the word is applied--usually lowercased--to non-Jews, such as the Palestinian Arab refugees, the word describes the situation of the people of one country dispersed into other countries.
Member of a religious community that constitutes a minority among Arabic-speaking Palestinians in Israel. Druze beliefs contain elements of Shia (q.v.) Islam, Christianity, and paganism.
fiscal year (FY)
Begins April 1 and ends March 31; FY 1988, for example, began April 1, 1988, and ended March 31, 1989.
Gaza Strip
former Egyptian territory occupied by Israel in the June 1967 War.
GDP (gross domestic product)
A value measure of the flow of domestic goods and services produced by an economy over a period of time, such as a year. Only output values of goods for final consumption and intermediate production are assumed to be included in final prices. GDP is sometimes aggregated and shown at market prices, meaning that indirect taxes and subsidies are included; when these have been eliminated, the result is GDP at factor cost. The word gross indicates that deductions for depreciation of physical assets have not been made. See also GNP.
GNP (gross national product)
GDP (q.v.) plus the net income or loss stemming from transactions with foreign countries. GNP is the broadest measurement of the output of goods and services by an economy. It can be calculated at market prices, which include indirect taxes and subsidies. Because indirect taxes and subsidies are only transfer payments, GNP is often calculated at factor cost, removing indirect taxes and subsidies.
Golan Heights
former Syrian territory occupied by Israel in the June 1967 War and formally annexed by Israel in 1981.
Greater Syria
Term used by historians and others to designate the region that includes approximately the present-day states of Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria before those states were formed.
Green Line
name given to the 1949 Armistice lines that constituted the de facto borders of pre-1967 Israel.
Literally, defense. Abbreviation for Irgun HaHaganah, the Jewish defense organization formed in 1919-20 by volunteers in early Jewish communities as home guards for protection against hostile bands. It became the military arm of the Jewish Agency (q.v.) and went underground during the British Palestine Mandate period (1922-48) when it was declared illegal. Along with the Jewish Brigade, which fought with the Allied forces in World War II, it formed the nucleus of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) established in 1948.
HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael (General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel)
Commonly known as Histadrut. Founded in 1920, this national- level organization was also the nation's largest single employer after the government. Histadrut performs many economic and welfare services in addition to trade union activities; leadership of Histadrut has generally been drawn from the Labor Party and its predecessors.
Either those parts of the Talmud that concern legal matters or an accepted decision in rabbinical law. Sometimes translated as religious law.
Hasid (pl., Hasidim)
Member of a religious movement, known as Hasidism, founded in the eighteenth century by Israel Ben-Eliezer Baal Shem Tov in Eastern Europe. The movement, still active in the 1980s, stresses the importance of serving God in ecstasy and has strong mystical elements.
An abbreviation for Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization). Established in 1937 as an underground Jewish extremist organization, also known as Etzel, derived from the pronounced initials of its Hebrew name. A more extreme group, known as the Stern Gang (q.v.), broke away from it in 1939. Both groups were especially active during and after World War II against the British authorities in Palestine. Both maintained several thousand armed men until all Israeli forces were integrated in June 1948.
Israeli pound
see new Israeli shekel.
Jewish Agency
Representing the World Zionist Organization as its executive body, the Jewish Agency works in close cooperation with the government of Israel, encourages and organizes immigration of Jews into the country, and assists in their social and economic integration.
Keren HaYesod
Literally, Israel Foundation Fund. The central fiscal institution of the World Zionist Organization that finances its activities in Israel.
kibbutz (pl., kibbutzim)
An Israeli collective farm or settlement, cooperatively owned and operated by its members and organized on a communal basis.
Israel's parliament, a unicameral legislature of 120 members elected by universal suffrage for four-year terms; the Knesset may, through legislative procedures, call for elections before the end of the regular term or postpone elections in time of war.
Language based on medieval Castilian but with Hebrew suffixes and written in Hebrew alphabet; developed and used by Sephardim (q.v.).
Law of Return
Passed by Knesset in July 1950 stating that "Every Jew has the right to come to (Israel) as an olah (new immigrant)."
Acronym for Lohamei Herut Yisrael, literally, Fighters for Israel's Freedom, a former resistance and political organization, created in 1939 and disbanded under pressure in 1948. Commonly known as the Stern Gang. See also Irgun.
moshav (pl., moshavim)
A cooperative smallholders' settlement of individual farms in Israel. Individuals own their farms and personal property. Work is organized collectively, equipment is used cooperatively, and produce is marketed jointly. There are several variants including the moshav ovdim, a workers' cooperative settlement, and the moshav shitufi, a collective smallholders' settlement that combines the economic features of a kibbutz (q.v.) with the social features of a moshav. Farming is done collectively, and profits are shared equally.
new Israeli shekel (NIS)
In September 1985, the new Israeli shekel (NIS) went into circulation, replacing the Israeli shekel that had existed since 1980. (Before 1980 the Israeli currency was called the Israeli pound or lira.) The NIS is equivalent to 1,000 old Israeli shekels and is divided into 100 agorot. The requirement for the NIS stemmed from the very rapid inflation rate of the preceding years, which also resulted in dramatic devaluation of the old shekel against foreign currencies; for example, from 1980 to 1985 the old shekel lost value against the United States dollar by 25,000 percent. As of August 1986, the NIS was no longer pegged to the United States dollar but rather to a trade-weighted basket of foreign currencies: 60 percent United States dollar, 20 percent West German deutschmark, 10 percent British pound, 5 percent French franc, and 5 percent Japanese yen. The currency notes in circulation are 5, 10, 50, and 100 NIS. The approximate exchange rate for the new Israeli shekel and the United States dollar in 1988 was NIS 1.6 = US$1.00.
Oriental Jews
See Sephardim.
Orthodox Jews
Adherents of that branch of Judaism that insists on a rigid and strict observance of halakah (q.v.) and an emphasis on national ritual conformity.
Pale of Settlement
Area of twenty-five provinces of czarist Russia within which Jews were allowed to live, outside of which they could reside only with specific permission.
Abbreviation for Pelugot Mahatz, shock forces. In British Palestine and until June 1948, it was a commando section of the Jewish military forces. Organized in 1941 to provide the Haganah (q.v.) with a mobile force, it consisted of young men mostly from kibbutzim, who took military training while working part-time at farming, serving in cooperation with the British army, without pay or uniforms.
Reform Jews (sometimes called Progressive or Liberal Jews)
emphasize rationalism and ethical behavior, reject the absolute authority of halakah, and assert the private religious nature of Judaism.
sabra (pl., sabras)
From Hebrew word meaning "a prickly pear," but adapted to mean a native-born Israeli Jew.
Sephardim (sing., Sephardi; adj., Sephardic)
Basically Jews whose families were of Spanish or Portuguese origin, wherever resident; historically, they tended to speak Ladino (q.v.) or Arabic. The term is often applied to those Jews who are not Ashkenazim. Since the 1960s, Sephard have often been called Oriental Jews.
Sabbath, observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
Shia (or Shiite, from Shiat Ali, the Party of Ali)
A member of the smaller of the two great divisions of Islam. The Shias supported the claims of Ali and his line to presumptive right to the caliphate and leadership of the Muslim community, and on this issue they divided from the Sunnis (q.v.). Shias revere Twelve Imams, the last of whom is believed to be hidden from view.
Stern Gang
See Lehi.
Sunni (from sunna, meaning orthodox)
A member of the larger of the two great divisions of Islam. The Sunnis supported the traditional method of election to the caliphate and accepted the Umayyad line. On this issue they divided from the Shias (q.v.) in the first great schism within Islam.
Literally, teaching. Compendium of discussions on the Mishnah (the earliest codification of Jewish religious law, largely complete by 200 A.D.), by generations of scholars and jurists in many academies over a period of several centuries. The Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Talmud mainly contains the discussion of the Palestinian sages. The Babylonian Talmud incorporates the parallel discussions in the Babylonian academies.
The first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; often called the Pentateuch or the Law of Moses. In a broader sense, the entire body of traditional religious teaching and study.
ulpan (pl., ulpanim)
center for study, particularly for the study of Hebrew by adult immigrants to Israel.
West Bank
The area of Palestine west of the Jordan River seized from Jordan by Israel in the June 1967 War. In 1988 it remained Israeli- occupied territory and was not recognized by the United States government as part of Israel. Israelis refer to this area as Judea and Samaria.
World Zionist Organization (WZO)
Founded in August 1897 at the First Zionist Congress called by Theodor Herzl at Basel, Switzerland. The movement, named after Mount Zion in Jerusalem, was designed to establish in Palestine a national home for Jews scattered throughout the world. Since 1948 its efforts have been devoted primarily to promoting unity of the Jewish people and raising funds. In 1929 it established the Jewish Agency (q.v.). Until 1960 its formal name was Zionist Organization, but word World added in new constitution.
yeshiva (pl., yeshivot)
Traditional rabbinical school for the study of Talmud (q.v.).
A language based on medieval Rhineland German used by Jews in eastern, northern, and central Europe and in areas to which Jews from these regions migrated. It also contains elements of Hebrew, Russian, and Polish, and it is commonly written in Hebrew characters.
The Jewish community in Palestine before statehood. Also used in referring to the period between 1900 and 1948.