This special issue brings together seven articles and two book reviews comprising theoretical comparisons, historical perspectives, and contemporary issues, providing new perspectives on Israel-Diaspora relations. We hope this issue will stimulate further study and scholarship.
In recent years the term diaspora has been re-defined. A capitalized "Diaspora" is defined as the dispersion of the Jews from Palestine and Jewish communities living outside Israel. A non-capitalized diaspora, on the other hand, is defined as dispersion of a people, language, or culture that was formerly concentrated in one place. The first definition is used exclusively for Jewish dispersed persons, scattered all around the world. The second definition is used for people of any ethno-national or cultural origins who have, with their own cultures and languages, dispersed from a former territorial location.
Despite the paradigmatic existence of the Jewish people in the Diaspora where a people—which had lost its sovereignty, was subjected to exile from its land, and dispersed in different countries—retained in most part its faith and national consciousness, as well as its hope to return and renew its historic past in its own land, it has clear similarities to other diasporas. The identification of the People of Israel with their historical homeland was a focal point throughout Jewish existence in the Diaspora. Thus, in prayer and custom, in observances and behavior, the Land of Israel has held a central position in the life of the Diaspora. The sense of longing for the return to Zion continued from generation to generation even after the reconstitution of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel.
The first section is devoted to theoretical aspects and comparisons between the "generic" diaspora and the "classic" Jewish Diaspora. In the opening paper, Gabriel Sheffer breaks new ground in analyzing the Jewish Diaspora in the context of other ethno-national diasporas. Contrary to many Diaspora-Israel scholars, he maintains that Israeli-Jewish Diaspora relations are not unique. The Jewish Diaspora has experienced certain processes that have enhanced its "normalcy," namely its similarity to other ethno-national diasporas. Sheffer maintains that a revival and further [End Page v] development of the Diaspora—preferring to remain in the host countries while maintaining connections with the homeland—is highly likely and that contrary to pessimistic predictions, it is probable that the Jewish core will not diminish, but may even grow. It is hoped that Israelis and Diaspora Jews will address themselves to eight major issues between them, so as to resolve their present chaotic and ambiguous situation.
William Safran also offers a unique comparison between the Jewish Diaspora and other diasporas. He maintains that the Jewish Diaspora continues to be used as prototype for defining a diaspora because it combines such features as ethnicity, religion, minority status, a consciousness of peoplehood, a long history of migration, expulsion, adaptation to a variety of hostlands whose welcome was conditional and unreliable, and a continuing orientation to a homeland and to a narrative and the ethnosymbols related to it. He observes that until 1948, because there was no nation-state to which to return, there was no alternative to being a diaspora, thus Jewish existence, culture, and identity, in contrast to those of other expatriated communities, were for nearly two millennia defined exclusively by their diasporic condition.
The second section is devoted to historical aspects of Israel-Diaspora relations. Binyamin Pinkus was one of the first scholars to have access to primary Soviet documents. He focuses on the period, May-December 1948, which reflected the dilemmas and inconsistencies of Soviet policy toward Israel and Jewish issues. He accounts for and analyzes the Jewish national awakening among Soviet and East European Jewry and the first signs of official Soviet policy on the Jewish Question. He concludes that the phenomenon of Jewish national awakening was one of the determining factors that influenced the Soviet Union's foreign policy on the Middle East.
Natan Aridan's study on the impact of the State of Israel on Anglo-Jewry and its relationship with Israeli diplomats sheds new light on a subject which has been inexplicably conspicuously terra incognita. Anglo-Jewish leaders and institutions...