Cultural Roots in the Zionist Movement

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Historians have examined the Zionist movement from three different perspectives: modernist, primordialist and ethno-symbolic approaches. The first sees Zionism as a new invention, a radical revolution from the historical past of the Jewish people and as a creation of modern times alone (Sand, Ram and Wasserman). The opposite approach, the primordial, sees Zionism as a direct continuation of the traditional Jewish longing for return to Zion (Dinur, Eliav and Morgenstern). The third, the cultural approach, recognizes the modern context in which Zionism arose in the end of the nineteenth century; yet believes that the Jewish historical past had a significant influence on the creation of Zionism. As I will show in this lecture the cultural approach is especially appropriate for the study of Zionism. I will argue that a complete and round understanding of Jewish nationalism is not possible without studying the cultural dimension in Zionism, and the pre-modern Jewish cultural legacy. In this paper I will show how the cultural origins of Zionism as expressed in the Zionist awareness of the Jewish past, its interpretation of the present, and the aspiration for a utopian future. Early Jewish national thought such as that of Peretz Smolenskin, Moshe leib Lilnblum, Ahad Ha'am, Yehoshua Hano Rawnitzky, Haim Nahman Bialik among many others, was based on cultural aspects of Jewish tradition. From the inception of the Jewish national movement up until the establishment of the State of Israel the impact of the cultural dimension in Zionism was decisive.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2018
EventIsrael at 70. AIS Annual Conference - AIS, Berkeley, United States
Duration: 25 Jun 201827 Jun 2018 (Website)


ConferenceIsrael at 70. AIS Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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