CELEBRARE LA NAZIONE Grandi anniversari e politiche della memoria nel mondo contemporaneo

Convegno internazionale di studi nei
 150 anni dell’Italia unita VITERBO, 10-12 MARZO 2011

Abstract Marcella Simoni

Festeggiare l’unificazione: Gerusalemme 1968-1998.

di Marcella Simoni (Un. Cà Foscari, Venezia)

This paper is divided in two parts. The first considers how Israeli institutions and society celebrated the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the State in 1968; the second looks at the celebrations for the 50th anniversary in 1998. In conclusion, I make brief reference to the counter-celebrations and protests of the Israeli left and peace-oriented groups, with special emphasis on the case of 1998. Drawing on the analysis of Trevisan Semi (2005), I also discuss some of the ways in which the Jewish Diaspora – and the Italian Jewish Diaspora in particular – has placed itself vis-à-vis the official national celebrations of the State of Israel.

1968: As it is well known, the Six Day War (1967) tripled Israel’s territory, led to the annexation/unification of Jerusalem and represented the starting point of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights. Among certain sectors of Israeli institutions and society – for example the military and the religious orthodox establishment – the conquests of 1967 were seen as a completion of the process of national unification, left unfinished in the 1948 War. The beginning of this new era was symbolized by the annexation/unification of Jerusalem, a city that shifted from the margins to the centre of the Zionist political discourse (Katz, 1998). Several means were employed to give practical effect to this shift: laws, urban planning, engineering a Jewish majority (Misselwitz e Rieniets, 2006), popular culture, songs, posters and so on; among them one should also consider a national rhetoric that flanked the traditional national theme of Israel as a melting pot for Jewish immigrants with the ‘new’ theme of Jerusalem as the ‘eternal capital of the Jewish people’. To this effect, in 1968 the Israeli Government established a new holiday – Jerusalem Day (28 Iyaar – the Hebrew date for the conquest of the city – that was placed at the end of the well-known ‘calendar of memory’. This calendar connects – in a teleological sequence – a number of other national holidays so as to establish a continuity between the destruction of European Jewry, the revolts in the Warsaw Ghetto, the commemoration of those Israeli soldiers fallen in Israel’s wars and Independence Day (Liebman e Don-Yehiya, 1983). In this context, I also consider the very peculiar story of the song “Jerusalem of Gold”, a nostalgic text over the lack of Jewish/Zionist life in Jerusalem accompanied by a sentimental melody which had been written by Naomi Shemer in May 1967 (just before the outbreak of the war) and which has become the Israeli popular national anthem since, as opposed to the official one (Gavriely-Nuri, 2007).

1998: Thirty years after the Six Day War and fifty after its foundation, the State of Israel embarked in a new round of celebrations for its own jubilee. On March 23, 1998 the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) passed the second and third readings of the “Jerusalem Day Law” which turned ‘Jerusalem Day’ into a national holiday by law. The theme of Jerusalem had in the meantime outgrown most other topoi recurring in national celebrations, i.e. the agricultural-socialist rhetoric, as seen in the iconography of the 1950s and 1960s, and that of the melting pot, the latter topic still being very much insisted upon for the arrival of the last two immigration waves, the one from Ethiopia and that from the former USSR in the late 1980s (Shafir and Peled, 2002; Shamir 1998; Gabay 1998). The theme of peace also made a few appearances, in 1979, in correspondence with the peace treaty with Egypt, and in 1994, following the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Accords, 1993) and the peace treaty with Jordan (1994). However, even in 1993, when the status of Jerusalem was left to be decided within five years (as stated in the Oslo Accords), it still appeared solidly embedded in the celebrations for national unity. By 1998, the choreography of the fiftieth national anniversary celebrated Jerusalem as the ancestral capital of the Jews, thereby extending the calendar of memory to a faraway past that carried strong political implications in the present.

1998 represented the 50th anniversary of the establishment of a State which had survived seven wars – which in itself constitute a remarkable achievement; it is studied here also because these celebrations fell in the midst of a process of historical and political revision started in the late 1980s with the ‘new historians’ and ‘critical sociologists’ (Shlaim, 1995; Ram, 1995; Pappé, 1997). By the end of the 1990s, this thread of thought had permeated some sectors of journalism (Gideon Levy), tv production (the documentary series Tkuma (Pappé 1998), civil society (Zochrot and others), and popular culture (for example the movie Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi by the homonymous filmmaker, released in 2000). Despite these attempts, the political discourse and the general mood did not leave much space to those addressing some of the darkest moments in Zionist history. By marginalizing them, the classic themes of pioneering, Jerusalem, the melting pot, peace etc., emerged as tools adopted by settlers and right-wing groups to further their nationalist agenda.

Bibliografia essenziale :

Gabay Zvi, “Israel’s 50 Years of Independence: Struggles and Achievements”, An Irish Quarterly Review, 87 (348), 1998: 415-421

Gavriely-Nuri Dalia, “The Social Construction of “Jerusalem of Gold” as Israel’s Unofficial National Anthem”, Israel Studies, 12 (2), 2007: 104-120

Katz Yossi, “The Marginal Role of Jerusalem in Zionist Settlement Activity Prior to the Founding of the State of Israel”, Middle Eastern Studies, 34 (3), 1998: 121-145.

Liebman Charles S., Don-Yehia Eliezer, Civil Religion in Israel. Traditional Judaism and Political Culture in the Jewish state, University of California Press, Berkeley 1983.

Misselwitz Philipp, Rieniets Tim (eds.), City of Collision. Jerusalem and the Priniciples of Conflict Urbanism, Birkäuser, Basel, Boston, Berlin, 2006

Pappé Ilan, “Post-Zionist Critique on Israel and the Palestinians. Part I: The Academic Debate”, Journal of Palestine Studies, 26 (2), 1997: 29-41.

Pappé, Ilan “Review Essay, Israeli Television’s Fiftieth Anniversary Series: A Post-Zionist View?” Journal of Palestine Studies 27 (4), 1998: 99–105.

Ram Uri, The Changing Agenda of Israeli Sociology: Theory, Ideology and Identity, SUNY Press, New York, 1995

Shafir Gershon, Peled Yoav, Being Israeli: the Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002.

Shamir Yitzhak, “Israel at 40: Looking Back, Looking Ahead”, Foreign Affairs, 66 (3), 1987/1988: 574-590.

Shlaim Avi, The Debate About 1948, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 27 (3), 1995: 287-30

Trevisan Semi E., “La ‘patria virtuale’ nella diaspora ebraica italiana: la celebrazione delle giornate di memoria israeliane in Italia”, Religioni e Società, (53) 2005: 76-89



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