What is Israeliness and what is the Jewishness of the Jews in Israel? Where do the philosophical,
literary, and historical roots of Israeli secularism stem from? What is Zionism and what is post-Zionism? Is there any connection between these questions and the perception of history and historical research? These are some of the central questions that concern the Institute’s
Studies currently underway at the Institute are breaking new ground on questions such as these and on Israel’s political culture, issues concerning the intersections of sociology and history, the nature of Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora and the Arab world, Israel and the Holocaust, and other core topics. Below is a small sampling of these studies.
Political Culture, Past and Present
A number of current studies on Israel’s political culture are exploring the political culture of Mapai, the dominant party in the period of the Yishuv (the pre-State Jewish community) and during the first thirty years of Israel’s statehood. Another is focusing on the role political movements such as Gush Emunim and Peace Now have played in shaping the public discourse in Israel.
Public Discourse in Israel
Studies of a sociological/historical nature are examining ways of shaping collective memory and public discourse in Israel through ceremonies, memorialization, scientific studies, and images of the Other. They are exploring, for example, the privileged status of archeology in the public discourse in Israel, the relationship between science and nationalism, the connection between research and faith, and the affinities between the past and the present.
Israel and the Jewish World: Movements, People, and Communities
With the creation of the State of Israel, changes occurred in the relationship between communities in the Jewish world and Israeli Jews. Current studies at the Institute are exploring movements, such as the Reform Movement in the United States and its affinities with the State of Israel; people, such as Abba Hillel Silver, his thought and political status in his community, and entire communities, such as the Jews of Iraq and Great Britain. Our researchers are interrogating the complex and intertwined nature of Israel/Jewish world relations, guided by such questions as: Does the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in Israel mean the end of the Zionist revolution? After the Holocaust and the establishment of the State, can Jews living outside Israel justify, in religious and ideological terms, living outside of the Jewish national home? What role does the State of Israel assign them, and what role do they wish to play?
Israel, the Zionist Movement, and the Arab World
The State of Israel was born into conflict, and has, since 1948, been swinging between periods of calm and periods of military confrontation, between participating in processes that work towards peace agreements and planning for war. These key issues are being studied extensively at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism. Some of the central questions being explored include: How was Israel’s national security outlook formed? What was Ben-Gurion’s impact on the relationship of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel with the Arab world? What role did the State of Israel play in the establishment and development of the Palestinian national movement? What attempts have been made in Israel to reach a peace settlement with the Arabs? In what ways did the Yom Kippur War influence Israeli society?
Society, Education, and Economy in Israel
In order to comprehend the Israel phenomenon, we must have a clear understanding of the history of Israeli society. A number of studies being conducted at the Institute are addressing the social and socioeconomic history of Israel both before and after the establishment of the State. These include studies
on the history of education and civil society as well as a series of studies that address minority groups in Israel. Such studies assess the roles of different communities and social groups in the shaping of Israel and its democratic nature.
Israel’s social history cannot be separated from questions of Israeli and Jewish identity. Thus, one of our current studies addresses the integration of Jews from Arab countries in Israel. This topic touches upon fundamental tensions that have accompanied Israel from its inception: those between the melting pot ideal and the more recent concept of multiculturalism, those stemming from internal rivalries between political and ideological camps, as well as those between socio-economic classes, religious and secular, different communities, generations, and genders. The story of immigrants and immigration serves as a prism for many of these issues and holds within it the story of the integration of Israeli society.
Israel and the Holocaust
Israel and the Holocaust is one of the central areas of research at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism. The study of topics in this field takes place across many disciplines, among
them history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and theology. Researchers are examining what happened to the Yishuv and to other centers of the Zionist movement around the world upon learning of the events in Europe. Did Jews from the Yishuv in Eretz Israel come to the aid of the Jews of Europe? Our researchers are attempting to clarify whether the negative image of the members of the Yishuv as not having done anything to help save their brethren in Europe is justified or not. They are exploring the plans that the Yishuv initiated to aid and save the Jews of Europe, determining which of these plans were realized, what their place was in the overall agenda of the Yishuv and its leadership, what kind of intelligence system was available to the leadership in Eretz Israel in its efforts to save Jews from Europe, and more.