Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century

By Peter Y. Medding | Go to book overview

“We Are All One Bereaved Family”:
Personal Loss and Collective Mourning
in Israeli Society

Meira Weiss
(the hebrew university)

On February 4, 1997, a tragic helicopter collision caused the death of seventy-three soldiers on their way to southern Lebanon. A national day of mourning was declared by the government. Politicians, dignitaries and the media reenacted their sad routines. Radio programs featured plaintive Israeli melodies; the national television networks provided wide coverage of the funerals as well as extensive interviews with friends and relatives; newspapers featured photographs and biographies of the fallen soldiers. In short, the media enlisted itself to promote a sense of community, a “we” feeling of being one big, bereaved family. Afew days later, the well-known Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling published an uncommonly sharp critique in the daily Ha'aretẓ Entitled “A Moment of Solidarity, ” it reflected on the collective discourse of bereavement:

It seems that the more divided our society is, the more we need such moments… . The generation that did not experience the magical days of anticipation just prior to the SixDay War, of the lingering national depression of 1973, could now renew (for a little while) the holy days of the “candle children” who appeared—albeit for a short time—after Rabin's assassination…. Not that one should doubt the sincerity of people's feelings. The trauma and mourning are real, even when disseminated by anchorpersons… . In such moments, the voice of reason must remain silent…. When such moments (as this) are to a large extent prescribed from above, by the elites, the public—or parts of it—easily lends itself to be manipulated. 1

This article examines and extends the point made by Kimmerling. It does so by looking at a number of commemorative “moments of solidarity, ” as well as at the actual reactions of bereaved families to the collective ideology of bereavement and commemoration. My point of departure is that these phenomena, in Israel and elsewhere, constitute a powerful social institution, a symbolic space where the public and the private, the military and the civil spheres meet to form “one big family. ” This space, whether occupied by the smallest burial ceremony or the largest war memorial, is therefore traditionally marked by normative control.

Funerals and mourning have traditionally been viewed by anthropologists as universal group mechanisms used by society for the enhancement of solidarity. 2 This per-

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Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Studies in Contemporary Jewry *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Symposium - Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century *
  • The Place of Ethnic Identity in the Development of Personal Identity: A Challenge for the Jewish Family 3
  • Notes *
  • Marriage, Americanization and American Jewish Culture, 1900–1920 27
  • Notes *
  • Making Fragmentation Familiar: Barry Levinson's Avalon 49
  • Notes *
  • The Economics of Contemporary American Jewish Family Life 65
  • Notes *
  • Children of Intermarriage: How “jewish”? 81
  • Notes *
  • What Happened to the Extended Jewish Family? Jewish Homes for the Aged in Eastern Europe 128
  • Notes *
  • Cohesion and Rupture: the Jewish Family in East European Ghettos During the Holocaust 143
  • Notes *
  • The “family-Community” Model in Haredi Society 166
  • Notes *
  • We Are All One Bereaved Family: Personal Loss and Collective Mourning in Israeli Society 178
  • Notes *
  • Essays *
  • Evangelists in a Strange Land: American Missionaries in Israel, 1948–1967 195
  • Notes *
  • Balfour's Mission to Palestine: Science, Strategy and Vision in the Inauguration of the Hebrew University 214
  • Notes 228
  • Review Essays *
  • Vichy and the Jews: A Past That is Not Past 235
  • Notes *
  • Mastering the Middle East: Israel in a Regional Context 250
  • Examining the Oslo Process: A First Cut 256
  • Notes *
  • Book Reviews *
  • Antisemitism, Holocaust and Genocide 265
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • History and the Social Sciences 281
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Language, Literature and the Arts 307
  • Notes 309
  • Notes *
  • Religion, Thought and Education 325
  • Notes *
  • Zionism, Israel and the Middle East 339
  • Notes 349
  • Recently Completed Doctoral Dissertations 351
  • Studies in Comtemporary Jewry XV 360
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