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Jewish Women in Pre-State Israel

Life History, Politics, and Culture

Ruth Kark

Publication Year: 2009

This fascinating interdisciplinary collection of essays brings gender issues to the foreground in order to redress a profound imbalance in the historiography of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, and in the early years of the State of Israel. Although male discourse still dominates this field, some initial studies have begun to create an authentic and multifaceted Hebrew-Israeli voice by examining the activities and contributions of women.

This research has led to a number of basic questions: What was the reality of life for women in Jewish society in Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine (Eretz Israel), and in the early years of the State? What was the contribution of women to the renewal of Israeli society and culture? What is the place of gender perceptions in the study of the new local identity? The original articles in this anthology forge an innovative response to one or more of these questions, and reflecting the state of research in the field.

Published by: Brandeis University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you probably won’t go wrong judging an anthology by its editors. The three editors of this particular collection—professor of historical geography, Ruth Kark; professor of history, Margalit Shilo; and professor of folklore, Galit Hasan-Rokem—are stars...

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pp. 1-4

This collection was prompted by a search for the concealed identity of women in the history and culture of the Yishuv, the Jewish settlement in pre-state Israel, and by the call for a new national discourse. Issues regarding women and gender have been largely ignored in the historiography...

Constructing the Historical Narrative

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The Study of Women in Israeli Historiography: Starting Points, New Directions, and Emerging Insights

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pp. 7-17

For about twenty years now, since the mid-1980s, the story of women has begun to seek its place as part of the general story of Jewish-Zionist settlement in Eretz Israel. We have come a long way since then. Male and female scholars turned, simultaneously, to a number of channels, and...

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Have Gender Studies Changed Our Attitude toward the Historiography of the Aliyah and Settlement Process?

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pp. 18-32

The aim of this article is to examine to what extent gender studies in Israel have thus far changed our attitude toward the history of the periods of the First and Second Aliyah, and in general, the history of the aliyah and Jewish settlement processes in Eretz Israel at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning...

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Mizrahi Women: Identity and Herstory

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pp. 33-48

The wordplay in English involving “history” and “herstory” illustrates the claim that history was written by men about men, and that the role of women is missing. The feminist revolution has penetrated into the ivory towers and begun to trickle into fields of research and to illuminate the absence and...

Women and Immigration

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Women’s Aliyah: Migration Patterns of North African Jewish Women to Eretz Israel in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 51-62

The pioneering women of Palestine, those Jewish women who joined the Zionist aliyot (migration; literally, “ascent”), have been the focus of much current research on gender and Jewish settlement in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Eretz Israel.1 However, these pioneers...

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American Jewish Women and Palestine: Their Immigration, 1918–1939

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pp. 63-82

Over five thousand American Jewish women—single and those with their families—migrated to Palestine between the two World Wars.1 The motivations for their migration reflect their situation as Jews and as women in American society. This study distinguishes between “forced”...

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Ethnic and Gender Identity of Iraqi Women Immigrants in the Kibbutz in the 1940s

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pp. 83-99

In the 1940s, a few thousand Iraqi immigrants took their first steps in Eretz Israel among the settlements of Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me’uhad (United Kibbutz movement). For a large part of these olim, the kibbutz was only a way station before they moved on to the city; but there were others among...

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Social Networks of Immigrant Womenin the Early 1950s in Israel

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pp. 100-108

Uprooting, immigration, and absorption have been studied and continue to be investigated intensively by sociologists. They have been treated with various types of theoretical emphases. In the 1950s, when sociological research was institutionalized in Israel, the main focus was on...

Pioneers and Defenders

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A “Woman-Human”: A. D. Gordon’s Approach to Women’s Equality and His Influence on Second Aliyah Feminists

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pp. 111-121

Until the appearance of contemporary Jewish-feminist thought, there was one Jewish philosopher for whom the feminine image was central in his perception of Divinity; it was from this image that his perception of ethics and religion derived. This thinker was A. D. Gordon...

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What Troubled Them?: Women in Kibbutz and Moshav in the Mandatory Period

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pp. 122-130

This study is based primarily on articles written by women members of kibbutzim and moshevei ovedim in their movements’ periodicals from 1919 onwards. Though not an exhaustive study of the status and feelings of these women, it sheds much light on the concerns and attitudes...

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Forging the Image of Pioneering Women

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pp. 131-140

The Zionist movement was, from its outset, a masculine one; from Herzl, Nordau, and onwards, the Zionist utopia was formulated as a project intended to return to the Jewish man his lost masculinity. Biale, Boyarin, Gluzman, and others have shown how the Jewish national...

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A Woman’s Life Story as a Foundation Legend of Local Identity

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pp. 141-164

This was the description given by a participant in a Jerusalem women’s embroidery group of her meeting with Zohar Wilbush, whom the embroiderers consider the “founding mother” of a female dynasty organized into embroidery groups in various places in Israel.1 The centrality of...

Education, Health, and Politics

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A Cross-Cultural Message: The Case of Evelina de Rothschild

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pp. 167-179

"In this whole great community [Jerusalem] there is not one single good school for girls, and all the daughters of Zion grow up without any education, without good training, without knowledge of the language of their nation and its history, be it only the smallest part, and therefore their...

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On Behalf of Mothers and Children in Eretz Israel: The Activity of Hadassah, the Federation of Hebrew Women, and WIZO to Establish Maternal and Infant Welfare Centers—Tipat Halav, 1913–1948

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pp. 180-192

In 1908, Henrietta Szold visited Eretz Israel. Henrietta Szold (1860–1945), a native of Baltimore, daughter of a Zionist rabbinical family, one of the founders of the Hadassah organization and its first president, arrived in the country after a trip to Europe. She was shaken by the misery, poverty, and...

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Establishment of a Nursing School in Jerusalem by the American Zionist Medical Unit, 1918: Continuation or Revolution?

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pp. 193-201

Although studies of the development of health services in Eretz Israel during the Mandate period are part of the general investigation of this period, they are in themselves a distinct field for research.1 Only few studies have focused on the story of nursing in the development of health services...

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“They Have Wings But No Strength to Fly”: The Women Workers’ Movement between “Feminine” Control and “Masculine” Dominance

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pp. 202-216

This discussion aims at exposing the system of relations and links between the various institutions of the Histadrut ha-Ovedim ha-Kelalit be-Erez Israel (General Federation of Labor in Eretz Israel) and at pointing out the way they coped with the special issues of female workers. Taking this system of...

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International Struggle, Local Victory: Rosa Welt Straus and the Achievement of Suffrage, 1919–1926

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pp. 217-228

Ayear after her arrival in Eretz Israel in 1919, Rosa Welt Straus wrote a letter to Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA); the letter was published in the organization’s journal Jus Suffragii.2 In it, Welt Straus tells that on the eve of her departure...

Creativity in Word and Music

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Nehama Puhachewsky: The Alibi of the Arbitrary

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pp. 231-243

Nehama Puhachewsky (1869–1934) played an active role in the public life of the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine (the Yishuv), and especially in the life of its women.1 She contributed to the community’s social and intellectual life, not least through her opinions about...

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The Growing Silence of the Poetess Rachel

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pp. 244-256

The way and silence are key concepts in Rachel’s poems. Rachel’s marching along the path began as progress, with knowledge that the purpose of the journey was to arrive at a target site within a defined period, and turned into treading in space until the end of time. In this article...

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Anda Amir’s Me-Olam, Demuyot mi-Kedem: A Proposal for a Modern Feminine Bible

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pp. 257-267

In the summer of 1942 appeared the fourth book of poetry by Anda Pinkerfeld (later Amir) titled Me-Olam (From Time Immemorial), with the subtitle Demuyyot mi-Kedem (Ancient Figures). In the following, I would like to present this book as an attempt at or proposal for a feminine biblical narrative...

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Poems to the Ghetto: The Poetry of Yocheved Bat-Miriam in the 1940s

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pp. 268-276

In 1946 appeared the booklet 1943—Shirim la-Geto (1943—Poems to the Ghetto). This is a cycle of poems that Bat-Miriam wrote immediately after the Holocaust, poems in which she repeatedly evoked the Holocaust period and the ways of coping with its horrors and with its memory. In...

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Women and Music in Jewish Society: Woman’s Role in the Music Tradition in Israel

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pp. 277-282

The different types of women’s singing have always played an important role in the traditional singing of Jewish communities. In the past, singing accompanied women in their daily chores and in life-cycle activities. Today, women continue to play a central role in folk-traditional...

Shaping the Collective Memory

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The Legend of Sarah: Gender, Memory, and National Identities (Eretz Yisrael/Israel, 1917–1990)

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pp. 285-320

Can there be a surfeit of memory? wonders the historian Charles Maier, referring not only to the collective preoccupation with preserving the past and commemorating certain fragments of it, but also to the burgeoning of the history of memory and commemoration during the...

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“We Were There Too”: Women’s Commemoration in Israeli War Memorials

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pp. 321-337

This article deals with the tension between myth and reality, as reflected in the gender narrative arising from Israeli war memorials. This issue alludes to a wider one that will be touched upon only briefly here (in the hope of dealing with it more fully elsewhere): the connections among nationalism...

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pp. 338-340

A decade after an international conference that took place on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem and culminated in the publication in Hebrew of this volume, the new English version is now available. Our original aim was for the book to serve as a stimulus for more research in the field...


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pp. 34-410


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pp. 411-414


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pp. 415-432

E-ISBN-13: 9781584658085
E-ISBN-10: 1584658088
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584657026

Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2009

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Subject Headings

  • Jewish women -- Palestine -- History -- Congresses.
  • Jewish women -- Israel -- History -- Congresses.
  • Feminism -- Palestine -- History -- Congresses.
  • Feminism -- Israel -- History -- Congresses.
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