TRANSFORMING MYTHS, CONTESTED NARRATIVES The reshaping of mnemonic traditions in Israeli culture Yael Zerubavel

pg 173 – In spite of the argument
that grand-narratives have disappeared and are being replaced by multiple memories
and hybrid identities, the impact of nationalism and the ability to mobilize
the public to defend “a national cause” continues to exert itself in world politics.

pg 174 -Emerging at the end of the nineteenth century as a political movement, Zionism
– like other national movements – promoted a revisionist view of the past
which favored those dimensions of history that supported its nationalist ideology
and goals. Given the importance of memory in traditional Jewish culture,1 the
Zionist movement drew heavily on the Jewish past in shaping its national symbols,
myths, and practices. But it also introduced significant changes into Jewish memory
by replacing its primarily religious framework with a political-historical framework
that highlighted Jews’ experience as a nation. The secularist orientation implied in
this ideological shift became more pronounced in the early decades of the twentieth
century, under the impact of socialist ideologies predominant among Eastern
European Zionist immigrants who played a leading role in establishing the cultural
and political foundations of the new Jewish society in Palestine.

pg 174 – Unlike revolutionary movements, it did not seek a total break with the past. Rather, it introduced a renewal paradigm that preserved a sense of historical continuity with a selected past and
incorporated it into a broader vision of the future.

pg 174 – The discussion of the rise of the Holocaust as a key symbolic event during the same decades provides a further context to evaluate their different trajectories as well as
the intertextuality of their commemorative narratives. This transformation illuminates
the powerful interplay between memory, ideology, and politics in the
development of these myths.

pg 181,182- But the difficulties of confronting the
horrors of the Holocaust and its traumatic impact, combined with doubts about the
appropriate forms to commemorate the magnitude of the trauma, delayed the assimilation of its memories and the development of a new mnemonic tradition…. Although some testimonies of war experiences were published in the early postwar years, many survivors were unable or unwilling to tell their stories to those who did not share their past. The predominant national heroic ethos of Israeli society, too, was not conducive to providing a listening audience for the war experiences of those Jews who came from “there” – the dark world of the Diaspora and the camps – while Israelis were,
by and large, engaged in the immediate challenges of “here and now.”

pg 182 – Only in 1953 did the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, pass the “Law of Remembrance of Holocaust and Heroism – Yad Vashem,” designating an official time
and space for the memory of the Holocaust, and establishing Yad Vashem as the
national authority in charge of this remembrance. This formulation articulated a
conceptual distinction between “Holocaust” and “heroism,” which could be interpreted
as separating the murder of six million Jews from heroic armed resistance to
the Nazis. The temporal link between the selected memorial date and the Warsaw
Ghetto uprising nonetheless indicated the tendency to enhance the heroic dimension
over the experience of victimhood.31 A major change in this public attitude
occurred when Holocaust survivors provided public testimonies that were broadcast
live on Israeli national radio, the Voice of Israel, during the Eichmann trial in
1961. The wide exposure to survivors’ experiences marked a turning point in the
interface of public and personal memories.

pg 182 – Underlying the process of embracing the memory of the Holocaust was a shift
from “there” (Europe) to “here” (Israel), from “they” (the exilic Jews) to “us”
(Israelis), and the blurring of the earlier distinction between “victims” and “heroes.”

pg 183 – VIPs on official tours to the state
are taken to Yad Vashem and their pictures there are often featured in the media as
an important aspect of their experiences in Israel, and seen as a public statement of
their readiness to embrace the Jewish past of victimhood.

pg 184 – (different than others in the sense israel enforece remembrance before the myth took hold, and pushed it upon the people) By contrast, the Holocaust represents a recent historical event and its evolution in Israeli memory follows a different trajectory: During its first two decades, the state slowly developed the commemorative framework for the official remembrance of the Holocaust, yet public memory took longer to face the highly traumatic memories of these events and to process the broader impact of the Holocaust.


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