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Recovered Roots

Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition

Because new nations need new pasts, they create new ways of commemorating and recasting select historic events. In Recovered Roots, Yael Zerubavel illuminates this dynamic process by examining the construction of Israeli national tradition.

In the years leading to the birth of Israel, Zerubavel shows, Zionist settlers in Palestine consciously sought to rewrite Jewish history by reshaping Jewish memory. Zerubavel focuses on the nationalist reinterpretation of the defense of Masada against the Romans in 73 C.E. and the Bar Kokhba revolt of 133-135; and on the transformation of the 1920 defense of a new Jewish settlement in Tel Hai into a national myth. Zerubavel demonstrates how, in each case, Israeli memory transforms events that ended in death and defeat into heroic myths and symbols of national revival.

Drawing on a broad range of official and popular sources and original interviews, Zerubavel shows that the construction of a new national tradition is not necessarily the product of government policy but a creative collaboration between politicans, writers, and educators. Her discussion of the politics of commemoration demonstrates how rival groups can turn the past into an arena of conflict as they posit competing interpretations of history and opposing moral claims on the use of the past. Zerubavel analyzes the emergence of counter-memories within the reality of Israel’s frequent wars, the ensuing debates about the future of the occupied territories, and the embattled relations with Palestinians.

A fascinating examination of the interplay between history and memory, this book will appeal to historians, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and folklorists, as well as to scholars of cultural studies, literature, and communication.

360 pages | 17 halftones, 6 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1995

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Culture Studies

Folklore and Mythology

History: General History

Middle Eastern Studies

Religion: Judaism

Rhetoric and Communication

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Pt. 1: History, Collective Memory, and Countermemory
Ch. 1: The Dynamics of Collective Remembering
Ch. 2: The Zionist Reconstruction of the Past
The Zionist Periodization of Jewish History
Exile: Suppressed Nationhood, Discredited Past
Locating the Nation: Antiquity and the National Revival
Historical Continuity/Symbolic Discontinuities
Historical Turning Points: Liminality and Transitions
Pt. 2: The Birth of National Myths
Ch. 3: The Battle of Tel Hai
A New Commemorative Tradition
A Myth of New Beginning
Ch. 4: The Bar Kokhba Revolt
Dual Image and Transformed Memory
Archeological Findings and Symbolic Roots
Ch. 5: The Fall of Masada
The Rediscovery of Masada
A Myth of Fighting to the Bitter End
Masada and the Holocaust as Countermetaphors
Pt. 3: Literature, Ritual, and the Invention of Tradition
Hebrew Literature and Education
Ch. 6: The Arm, the Plow, and the Gun
Tel Hai: From "History" to "Legend"
The Rebirth of the Native Hebrew
The Patriotic Legacy of Heroic Death
Ch. 7: Bar Kokhba, the Bonfire, and the Lion
From Mourning to Celebration
The Lag ba-Omer Bonfires
Bar Kokhba and the Lion
Invented Tradition: The Old and the New
Ch. 8: The Rock and the Vow
"Never Again Shall Masada Fall!"
A New Hebrew Pilgrimage
Climbing Up as a Patriotic Ritual
Between Ruins and Texts
The State’s Sponsorship of Memory
The Tourist Consumption of a Folk Tradition
Calendars and Sites as Commemorative Loci
Pt. 4: Politics of Commemoration
Ch. 9: Tel Hai and the Meaning of Pioneering
The Plow versus the Gun
A Patriot’s Legacy or a Victim’s Curse?
Jewish Settlements and the Politics of Withdrawal
Jokes and the Subversion of Myth
Humor, Wars, and Political Protest
Ch. 10: The Bar Kokhba Revolt and the Meaning of Defeat
Patriotic Dreams and Political Reality
Archeology, Religion, and the War of the Bones
State Commemoration and Political Frictions
Ch. 11: Masada and the Meaning of Death
The Tragic Commemorative Narrative
The Historical Debate: Between Facts and Fiction
The Traditionalist Debate: Masada versus Yavne
The Legal Debate: Suicide or Martyrdom?
The Activist Critique: Heroism or Escapism?
The Political Debate: Realism or a "Complex"
Conclusion: History, Memory, and Invented Tradition
Memory, Myth Plot Structures, and the Holiday Cycle
The Construction of Narrative Boundaries
Turning Points and Multiple Meanings
The Frailty of Invented Tradition
From Collective Memory to Multiple Memories

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