Within the Zionist movement, the sea initially served no nationalistic purpose; it was a means of transit, a conduit for ingathering the Jewish diaspora. The Zionist leadership neglected the sea as a tool, emphasizing ‘Jewish work’ in agriculture instead. But the sea held meaning in modern nationalism for many countries, and the pre-state Land of Israel was no exception. The Yishuv institutions began to recognize the sea’s significance for the national movement in the mid-1930s and acted to impose its authority in the field. It was then that conflicts erupted over the origins of Jewish seafaring, with the right-wing Revisionist movement laying claim to the Zionist sea ethos and attacking the central institutions’ initial dismissive attitude to the maritime field. This dispute, and its expressions surrounding Sea Day celebrations, can be understood within the Yishuv’s broader politics and the different institutions’ attempts to cement their own status.
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