The expansion and development of the nonprofit sector worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s did not bypass Israel, and, as in other countries, sparked an interest for study to uncover its characteristics and major features.
The Israeli population—both Jewish and Arab—has a rich tradition of voluntaristic activity on the individual as well as on the collective (organizational) levels, mostly in the communal context. The modern welfare state created new opportunities and new challenges for such activity within the broad framework of the nonprofit sector.
This article aims to review the development of the nonprofit sector in Israel and analyze it within existing nonprofit theories. It takes a historical perspective in looking at its evolution, in light of political, social, ideological, and economic changes in the world and in the country. It discusses the development of policy and government involvement on the one hand and the unique features of Israeli philanthropy, both Jewish and Arab, on the other. It analyzes Israel’s civil society and social movements, as well as social entrepreneurship and their expression in the Third Sector. The article also covers the development of research and education on the Third Sector; it includes a review of research centers, databases, journals, and specific programs that were developed by Israeli universities. Finally, this article summarizes the characteristics of the nonprofit sector in Israel.