From "Great History" to "Small History": The Genesis of the Zionist Periodization

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Abstract

The article examines the genesis, in the late 1910s and early 1920s, of the current Zionist periodization, which separated the early decades of Zionist history into distinct immigration waves [Aliyot], and numbered them from the first to the fifth. The anticipated mass immigration to Palestine right after the Balfour Declaration was numbered the 'Third Aliya', following the two biblical immigrations from Babylonia. Later, the linguistic convention of the 'Third Aliya' was changed from a long-range perception of history to a short-range one, and two preceding immigration waves were retrospectively pinpointed in the late Ottoman era. The new periodization was disseminated in the Yishuv during the 1920s, when the sequence of immigration waves was extended with the beginning of the Fourth Aliya in 1924. The new Zionist periodization established the concept of Aliya as the measure for assessing Zionist history, employing a judgmental distinction between the oleh driven by nationalist motives, contrasted with the Mehager whose concerns were personal or limited to family well-being. It thereby explains the magnitude of the pioneer ethos in the middle class Yishuv society, and demonstrates the political, cultural, and social implications of linguistic processes. Reprinted by permission of Indiana University Press
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)31-55
Number of pages25
JournalIsrael Studies
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

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