Abstract

This article seeks to demonstrate that during the brief but crucial period in the mid- to late 1930s, culture came to matter more in the Zionist movement than it had since it the "golden age" of spiritual Zionism during the late nineteenth century, playing a critical role in defining the Jewish community in Palestine and consolidating its national identity. The leadership of the movement viewed the creation of a shared culture during this period—Hebrew language, common customs, beliefs, and traditions—as the means to an essential political end: the construction of a unified, homogeneous political community in the Land of Israel out of a fractious and diverse population. This goal became particularly important as the Jewish community in Palestine struggled to integrate large numbers of immigrants. Indeed, anxiety about the increasing diversity of the Yishuv grew to the extent that some activists in the movement were willing to make use of semi-coercive means to impose Zionist-Jewish consciousness upon those immigrants who lacked sufficient enthusiasm for the national project in Palestine.

The essay's second claim is that in light of the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Jewish society taking shape in Palestine in the 1930s, the leaders of the Yishuv were willing to put aside Zionism's rejection of traditional Jewish life in the Diaspora as passive and unproductive, believing that it was necessary to deploy all aspects of Jewish life, including the most traditional and "exilic," for the sake of achieving a unified national community.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 71-96
Launched on MUSE
2011-02-10
Open Access
No
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