German Jewish Athletes and the Formation of Zionist (Trans-)National Culture
Abstract

Abstract:

Despite the popularity of Zionist sports clubs and the incorporation of athletic activity as an essential component within the Zionist ethos, Jewish sports in pre-1948 Palestine have been allotted a relatively minor place in Zionist historiography. One reason for this marginalization is the convoluted institutionalization of Zionist sports and the tensions it embedded between various perceptions of identity (national, transnational, regional, and political). Such tensions exerted a crucial influence on the ways Zionism was experienced and interpreted by the numerous people who practiced, taught, trained, and watched sports before and after their immigration to Palestine. This article underscores the roles of sports in the Central European Zionist activism and imagination in order to present a twofold argument. First, sports provided a distinctive realm that enabled Jewish immigrants from Central Europe to assimilate into the Zionist national culture in Palestine and to influence significantly the shape of this culture. Second, for many of the German-speaking newcomers to Palestine in the 1930s, sports also provided a unique discursive sphere in which several perceptions of identity could coexist under the umbrella of Jewish nationalism.