The family

Untitled (Father and Son), 2004, Angela Strassheim. Born USA 1969. From the series "Left Behind" Chromogenic print Purchase, Contemporary Art Acquisitions Committee of American Friends of the Israel Museum, New York

Unlike animals, whose young can stand on their feet and take care of their basic needs merely hours or days after being born, humans are utterly helpless at birth. The family unit is therefore essential to the survival of the species, providing safety, food, a caring environment, and all the necessary tools for the infant to grow into an independent adult who can contribute to society.

Evidence dating from the Neolithic age — some 9,000 years ago, when humankind made the transition from a nomadic to a settled way of life — shows that ancestors were buried at home in a ceremonial funeral, attesting to the supremacy of the family. These ceremonies served not only to honor the dead, but also to indicate that the family owned the house and surrounding fields with their crops. Establishing this right was crucial in a society whose economy was entirely based on agriculture.

Today, we are witnessing changes in the traditional family unit, both in terms of gender role and in terms of its structure. Whatever its character, however, the family — nuclear or extended — ensures the continuity of identity, tradition, customs, and culture.