Zionist Awareness of the Jewish Past: Inventing Tradition or Renewing the Ethnic Past?

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Since the 1980s, the question of how nations are formed has been the topic of historiographic debate: is it correct to define nation-building in terms of inventing traditions, or is the ethnic-symbolic viewpoint more useful in understanding the process of development of the nation-state? This debate is also reflected in research on Jewish nationalism. In this article, I will examine this issue in relation to the Zionist movement, focusing on several clear examples of forging the nation and nation-building: 1) the change in configuration of traditional Jewish holidays; 2) ceremonies and Zionist holidays on kibbutzim; 3) the status of the Bible in the Zionist movement; and 4) Jewish history and Zionist historiography. These examples indicate that the process of nation-building reveals a strong ethnic-cultural link to the Jewish past. I will argue that modern political explanations such as inventing tradition do not offer a full explanation of the phenomenon of Jewish nationalism. In order to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the success of Zionism in consolidating around it a group willing to commit such a high level of personal sacrifice over time, we must give consideration to cultural-ethnic continuity as well as the feeling of commitment and sanctity that Jewish nationalism offered to its believers, both religious and secular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-171
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Ethnicity and Nationalism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Journal compilation © 2012 Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism.


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