caps height

I have a couple of unrelated type questions:

1. What is the reasoning for having ascenders exceed caps height, is it just a style or does it help when reading small copy or large bodies of text?

2. When developing a sans inspired Hebrew character set, is there any reason to develop an italic set as well? From what I understand, Hebrew has no true italics, but are italics used with any frequency in modern day text settings using Hebrew?

3. What's the reasoning behind some Small Caps exceeding x height is it just preference depending on the dimensions of they typeface or is it just about aesthetics?

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