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  • From Mishmar Haʿemek to Elon Moreh: Moshe Shamir and the Socialist Roots of Gush Emunim
  • Noam Zadoff (bio)

And again I sit, looking at the ladder standing here next to one of the trees, and I ponder: How wonderful and deep are the emotions of each rung in this ladder. There you are: Apparently – the piece of wood that is fixed with two nails. But in a matter of fact: a rung! Its essence is not derived from its own being by itself alone, but from its place between its other siblings, the lower and upper ones. And this rung has in it some kind of a sentiment, wouldn’t you agree, some kind of a ladderish sentiment of responsibility. Some feeling that it has to be – and to be strong! Because without it the ladder is not a ladder.

Moshe Shamir, 19461


In an interview published in 1980, Gershom Scholem defined the period of time following the Six-Day War as “a plastic hour of history”.2 According to him, in the wake of the war, a period of time was created in which the future of the region could have been reshaped and changed. Indeed, most scholars consider the Six-Day War to be a major turning point in the history of Israel and of the Middle East. The radical geopolitical changes caused by the war influenced Israeli society and politics and are responsible for many of the transformations in the 21st century. But what kind of a turning point was it for the people who were living through these changes? Was it a straightforward break, in which an entirely new constellation led to a reevaluation of the Zionist enterprise and opened new possibilities? Or were, perhaps, the forces of continuity stronger then they might seem at first glance, and the changes following the war just part of an existing logic that was rooted in the Israeli and Zionist past? From a historical perspective of more than fifty years it is possible to claim, as Meron Benvenisty did, that the nineteen years between 1948 and 1967, when the State of Israel existed only on parts of the historic Land of Israel, can be seen as marginal [End Page 326] compared to the territorial imagination of the central streams within the Zionist Movement before 1948, and the political reality that followed the Six-Day War.3

In this article I argue that the Six-Day War was not only “a plastic hour of history” as Scholem claimed, but also a moment when forces of continuity within central parts of Israeli society were reiterated. It was a moment when ideologies, which until then were able to exist in relative concealment, suddenly became sources of conflict due to the situation created by the war, and were thus forced into the open. The 1948 War of Independence can be described as the hour when the building of the stage for the fulfillment of the Jewish national dream was completed, yet large parts of the newly born Israeli society, on both the left and the right, saw the borders of their young state as a compromise. For them, the War of 1967 was the moment when the curtain was raised and the first act of the full realization of Zionism began.

This article concentrates on a central example of this process by analyzing the development of the idea of a Greater Land of Israel on the Zionist left. This will be done by discussing the work and life of one of the most prominent and influential Israeli writers of the time, Moshe Shamir. Using Shamir, I wish to trace one line of development of the idea of a Greater Land of Israel within the intellectual world of the Israeli left. This stretches from the early Kibbutz Movement—with its two central organizations, Hakibbutz Hameʾuhad and Hakibbutz Haʾartzi—and the youth movement Hashomer Hatzaʿir, continuing to the socialist Mapam party, then through the Movement for a Greater Israel, down to the post-1967 right-wing religious settler movement, Gush Emunim, in the twenty-first century.4 In this progression, Moshe Shamir was an individualist whose ideological development and...


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pp. 326-346
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