Israel in Search of Identity: Reading the Formative Years

Israel in Search of Identity: Reading the Formative Years

Israel in Search of Identity: Reading the Formative Years

Israel in Search of Identity: Reading the Formative Years

Synopsis

"Thought-provoking and eminently readable. A refreshingly original approach to a subject long bedeviled by controversy and partisanship."--Shukri B. Abed, University of Maryland

Nissim Rejwan examines conflict that has plagued Israel--both with its neighbors and within its own borders--since its inception, placing the current situation in historical perspective and tracing the roots of the conflict to the way in which the founding fathers of the Jewish state conceived of the world and of their situation.

Israel's founders, hailing overwhelmingly from Russia and Russian Poland, subscribed to ethnic-nationalist doctrines current in 19th-century Eastern and Central Europe in their day--doctrines which Rejwan shows are alien not only to Judaism as a faith but also to the religious cultures of the Middle East as a whole. Rejwan analyzes the ways in which modern concepts of ethnic nationality--Arab as well as Jewish--have affected both Zionist Jew and Pan-Arab nationalist, and how Israeli statehood is changing the basic concept of Jewish identity in Israel and in the Diaspora.

He also discusses the demographic trends that affect Israel's communal and ethnic makeup, specifically the growing influence of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. He concludes with a wide-ranging discussion of the vexed subject of Levantinism and the scare of "Orientalization," and rejects calls made for cultural planning and for a "Western"-as against "Middle Eastern"-Israel.

Nissim Rejwan is a research fellow at the Harry Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Arabs Face the Modern World: Religious, Cultural, and Political Responses to the West (UPF, 1998), Israel's Place in the Middle East: A Pluralist Perspective (UPF, 1998), and The Jews of Iraq: 3,000 Years of History and Culture.

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