From legalism to symbolism: anti-mobility and national identity in Israel, 1948-1958

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The paper traces the historical roots of anti-mobility discourse in Israel and examines the changing policies and practices geared towards the prevention of mass Jewish departure during its first decade of statehood. It identifies two distinct phases in the battle waged against international mobility, under the headings of 'Legalism' (1948-1953) and 'Symbolism' (1954-1958). While the former was led by official agencies of the young state and required the passing of laws and other administrative decrees, the latter was mainly a society-led campaign of ad-hoc symbolic practices by groups seeking to de-legitimize international mobility and emigration in particular. Despite their qualitative differences, both were instrumental to the national identity formation project in postindependence Israel, assisting in the construction and maintenance of (physical and cultural) boundaries between Jews in Israel and others - both Diaspora Jews and non-Jews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Emigration
  • Israel
  • Mobility
  • National identity


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