A Secular Return to the Bible? Reflections on Israeli Society, National Memory, and the Politics of the Past

By Yael Zerubavel

Association for Jewish Studies (AJS), Spring 2011

The significance of the Hebrew Bible for the Zionist Yishuv and for Israeli society in its early post-independence years is well known. Hebrew, the language of the Bible, emerged as the national tongue, and biblical themes and images inspired poetry and fiction, songs, plays, and visual arts. For the largely secular, Zionist immigrants that established the foundations of the national Hebrew culture, the significance of the Bible was defined primarily in national terms as the cherished repository of Jews' historical roots and ancient heritage. Since the 1970s, however, the special status of the Bible has weakened considerably in Israeli culture. The changing status of the Bible may be in part an expression of a post-nationalist phase of a society that is more strongly rooted in its land and no longer feels the urgent need to rely on the ancient past to forge its national identity and culture. Yet the decline of the Bible is to a large extent linked to its politicization in conflicts that continue to divide Israeli society and that impact Israelis' perceptions not only of the present and the future but also of the past.

Topic: Political Behavior, History, Narrative, Hebrew, Jewish Text, Communal Memory, Religion, Politics, Zionism, Secularism

Name of Publication: AJS Perspectives: The Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies

Editor: Bunzl, Matti , Havrelock, Rachel

Volume/Issue: Spring 2011

Page Number(s): 30-31

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Genre: Article

Coverage: Israel

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Zerubavel, Yael. A Secular Return to the Bible? Reflections on Israeli Society, National Memory, and the Politics of the Past. AJS Perspectives: The Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies. Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Spring 2011: 30-31. http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=12013


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