Israelization of Judaism

Authored by: David Ohana

The Routledge Handbook of Religion, Politics and Ideology

Print publication date:  August  2021
Online publication date:  August  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367417826
eBook ISBN: 9780367816230
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter studies the dialectical tension between Judaism and Zionism. How did Zionism mould perceptions and images that were formed in the Jewish past, and to what extent were these Jewish themes reflected, modified and crystallized in the national culture of the State of Israel? This study brings up constituent topics such as messianism, utopianism, memory, territorialism, along with the critics that threatened to undermine the Zionist appropriations and constructs. Thus, in addition to concrete utopian plans and redemptionist territorial views, this study discusses the fundamental critiques of messianism penned by Gershom Scholem and Jacob Talmon and the non-territorial perceptions of the Levant by the essayist Jacqueline Kahanoff. This study ends with the nationalization of the Negev (Israel's desert), the vision of the “old man” who proclaimed statehood in 1948, as shown by David Ben-Gurion's funeral and the symbolic memory of his grave in the desert. In its attempt to acquire historical legitimation, Zionism appropriated themes and myths from the Jewish past, yet, these appropriations were modified as they selectively culled elements that suited the national allegory. This study opens with Ben-Gurion's messianic vision and comes full circle with his death in 1973, thereby framing the question of how Judaism was nationalized.

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