Israeliness in No Man’s Land

Citizenship in the West Bank of Israel/Palestine

by Yarden Enav (Author)
©2014 Monographs XX, 218 Pages


This book is the result of ethnographic research carried out in the Academic College of Judea & Samaria (ACJS), located in the West Bank of Israel/Palestine. The book deals with Israeli citizenship and identity, and examines the ways in which it is being understood and imagined by ACJS students and teachers. The book also analyzes the Orange Zionist organizational culture of the ACJS. In the end, a new socio-political model of Israel/Palestine is offered: Israel as a Zionist Democracy.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Note on Hebrew Transliteration and on Abbreviations
  • List of Tables and Appendices
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Anthropology and Citizenship
  • The Anthropology of Citizenship
  • A Genealogy of Citizenship
  • Ethnographies of Citizenship
  • Citizenship in Israel/Palestine
  • Israeliness
  • Anthropology of the Everyday
  • Citizenship in No Man’s Land
  • Chapter 2: Settling the Land
  • Political Zionism
  • Gush Emunim and the West-Bank Settlement Project
  • The ‘Disengagement Plan’
  • Mitnahalim or Mityashvim? A Zionist Discussion
  • Chapter 3: Into the West Bank of Israel/Palestine
  • Ariel Settlementown
  • Road 5: What’s in a Name?
  • The IDF Checkpoint
  • The West Bank Barrier
  • Arriving to Ariel
  • The Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the People of Israel
  • The ‘Russian Settlers’
  • The Wild West (Bank)
  • In the Land of the Settlers
  • Chapter 4: Studying the ACJS
  • What is the ACJS?
  • The ACJS: An Orange Zionist Academic community
  • Chapter 5: Israeliness in No Man’s Land
  • Ariel College as an Israeli ‘cultural text’
  • Hebrew Language
  • ‘Jewishness’
  • The Arab-Palestinian ‘Other’
  • The Academic Occupation – The British Boycott of Israeli Academia
  • The Palestinian Intifada: A View from the ACJS
  • Chapter 6: Faces of Israel
  • The Anthropology of Israeliness
  • Doing Fieldwork ‘at home’ in Israel/Palestine
  • Being Israeli the Jewish way
  • Aviad
  • Yoav
  • Liron
  • Drorit
  • Nurit
  • Rumours of the Death of Zionism Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.
  • Mulu’alem
  • Natasha
  • The ‘non-Jewish Jews’ – Secular Jewish-Israelis
  • Yair
  • Viki
  • The ‘Reluctant Settlers’
  • Ali
  • Riad
  • Mahmud
  • Summary – Israeliness in the ACJS
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Online (internet and other electronic) Resources
  • Other Sources
  • Appendices

Note on Hebrew Transliteration and on Abbreviations

This book follows the Jerusalem Post style of Hebrew Transliteration. This mode of rendering Hebrew into Latin characters aims for simplicity: it takes into account the English-speaker’s ear and does not differentiate among certain sounds which are more clearly distinguishable in a particular certain Hebrew dialect (Arabic-style of speech). Thus, the letter ‘h’ represents both hey and het, ‘t’ is used both for taf and tet, and so on.

Some of the names which are mentioned frequently in the thesis have been changed into acronyms. That is especially true for the West-Bank (WB) and the Academic College of Judea & Samaria (ACJS or sometimes CJS). Other commonly used acronyms are also included, such as the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces). ← XI | XII →


← XII | XIII →

List of Tables, Maps and Illustrations

ACJS logo
Ariel/Israel map
A Table of ACJS Interviewees
Illustration – A Socio-Political Model of Israel/Palestine
Illustration – A hierarchical view of Israeli society

Appendix 1 – Questionnaire used in interviews with students (translated into English)
Map 1 – Map of the ACJS (the Academic College of Judea & Samaria)
Map 2 – Map of Ariel Settlement-Town
Map 3 – Map of the Israel, Jordan and the West Bank
Map 4 – Map of Biblical Israelite Kingdom ← XIII | XIV →


← XIV | XV →


First of all, I would like to thank all my students and colleagues in the ACJS, and especially those students who kindly spent time with me to talk about different issues related to their life in Israel, their studies in the ACJS and their Israeli identity. Thanks also to Prof. Nissim Dana, Prof. Udi Lebel, Prof. Michael Zinigrad, Prof. Israel Nebenzahl, and Dr. Moti Gad-El Nassi from the ACJS. Special thanks are due to Professor Dan Soen of the ACJS, who guided me during almost all parts of the research and made the writing of this book possible.

Also, I would like to thank the following institutions and their staff: the U.N Library in Geneva, the University of Edinburgh library, the University of Malta library, the University of Utrecht library, Tel-Aviv University Main library, Tel Aviv Social Sciences library, and Ariel University library. Most importantly, thanks to Ute Winkelkotter from Peter Land GmbH.

I am obliged to all the people who read and commented on parts of the text and gave their perceptive insights and helpful comments: Professor Moshe Shokeid, Dr. Efrat Ben-Ze’ev, Dr. Maya Kagan, Orna Rozenblum, and my supervisors in Edinburgh University, Dr Iris Jean-Klein and Dr Neil Thin, whose comments made a world of difference to me. Thanks are also due to my examiners, Dr. Tobias Kelly and Dr. Michal Nahman, for their important remarks regarding citizenship in the age of globalization. In the University of Edinburgh I would also like to thank Professor Jonathan Spencer, Professor Janet Carsten, and Dr. Jennifer Speirs. Thanks are also due to Prof. Israel Idalovochi for his guidance.

I learned much from people with whom I worked in the ACJS, such as Nitza, Rina, Mina, Talya, Ya’arit, Merav, Roni, Moshe, Shlomi and Mal’achi. Special thanks are due to Batel Shar’abi. Finally, my family, an endless source of warmth, love and caring, was always there for me during the last few years of (re)search: Hadassa, Avi, Guy, Lia, Yariv and Eti. ← XV | XVI →


← XVI | XVII →


The invitation to introduce Dr. Yarden Enav’s book engaged me in a sensitive ethical dilemma. Anthropologists usually avoid fieldwork projects among societies and cultures towards which they harbor antagonistic sentiments due to personal or socio-cultural-political prejudgments. Yet, the research subject and the location chosen by Enav represent a highly contested issue in Israeli life. Ariel, a town and the site of an academic college located in the “West Bank” of the river Jordan held under Israeli military occupation since 1967, in the eyes of many Israelis sustains and even escalates the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians over a territory both nations hold sacred. Enav’s study thus can not find the fellow researcher and reader in a neutral state of mind. It is an endeavor reminiscent in its ambition of another ethnographic project conducted by Vincent Crapanzano in apartheid era South Africa, that produced an extremely unsympathetic picture of his white subjects (Waiting: The Whites of South Africa 1986).

Hence I commend Enav who took it upon himself to conduct a challenging study I could not have carried out myself. For many years Israeli social scientists have mostly refused to acknowledge the occupied territories as a legitimate site for research. Many Israeli academics, myself included, demonstrated against the government’s intention to upgrade the college located in the town of Ariel to the status of a university. The majority of Israeli scholars who shared that resentment seem to have erased from their professional consciousness the city hosting that institution as well as the other surrounding Jewish settlements imagined as located beyond the borders of civilization.

I started my own career studying the new farming villages (moshavim) in the post 1948 Israeli geographical periphery populated by Jewish immigrants from North Africa and other Third World countries. I have always been curious about the social composition and cultural construction of the new movement of Jewish settlements in the Arab territories Israel took over in 1967. But I feared I would never be able to repress potential feelings of emotional resentment and ethical doubts conducting a seemingly value-free study among my compatriots in the West Bank whom I consider the source of an omnipresent catastrophe for both Israelis and Palestinians. I could not also press on my students the idea of conducting ← XVII | 1 → research projects in the emerging West Bank settlers’ (mitnahalim) communities (hitnahaluiot).

Enav’s work is successful in overcoming many of these obstacles that have given me pause. The presentation of his subjects– mostly Jewish students many among them settlers in the West Bank, but also other residents and visitors– maintains a somewhat detached tone. He narrates their personal stories and political opinions along with his own experiences avoiding expressing explicit moral judgment (compared with Crapanzano’s Waiting). It is not an ethnographic study executed in the standard manner. The research strategy reflects a mix of qualitative methods: observations, interviews and the ‘sensed’ atmosphere as a resident in town and teacher at the college.

It opens with a theoretical exploration of the meaning of national citizenship and of Israeliness in the context of a liminal political entity, a sub-national community located on contested land that is unrecognized legally at home and abroad as forming part of the national boundaries. Enav coins the term Orange Zionism to contrast the settlers’ project with the Blue and White Zionism of pre-1967 and current mainstream Israel (these titles are not arbitrary: the settlers’ political movement appropriated the color orange to identify its campaigns and supporters; the blue and white are of course, the colors of the Israeli flag). Enav suggests that the differences between these two variants of Zionism can easily be detected even in the basic terms and symbols employed to identify the Zionist settlement projects before and after 1967. The early Zionists immigrants, the halutzim (pioneers) and those arriving later during the mass immigration waves of the 1950/60s were called mityashvim – a neutral term applied to settlers who take residence anywhere. Conversely, the term mitnahalim, used to identify post 1967 settlers in the West Bank communities is associated with the word ‘colonizers’ which naturally connotes a political subversive subtext.

Enav employs concepts and interpretations developed by leading anthropologists elsewhere, such as the existential conditions of liminality and taboo, to understand the position of the West Bank settlers living within undefined political borders, in “no man’s land”. Vilified by many among their own compatriots but also strongly supported by many others, they remain convinced about a divine right to the land they came to redeem after 2000 years of historical neglect. This exercise leads to one inevitable question which hovers over the book and the lives of its subjects. Regardless of the amount of political support they are afforded by Israelis residing in Israel proper, the settlers represent a separate group. But how separate?

Enav wrestles with the key issue of “Israeliness”. Is there a different composition of a personal and a collective social-cultural national identity among settlers in the West Bank as compared to mainstream national character? Anthropologists gave up long ago the effort of studying and defining “national characters”. The settlers add one more color (also employing Enav’s term “orange”) to the multi-faceted image of Israeli social-cultural national representation. Israeli society today is composed of secular Jews, orthodox Jews, ultra-orthodox Jews, Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, recent newcomers from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, Leftists and Right-wingers; furthermore, like any other Western society it is also cleaved along socio-economic-educational lines, to this heterogeneous mix one must add the very substantial minority of Arab citizens. The settlers “orange” identity adds still one more ingredient to this national blend. However, not a few among the students and settlers Enav encounters attribute their choice of home and school not to ideology, but to the more lenient academic requirements and economic options.

I first met Yarden Enav when he was a student at the department of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University. Later he left for the United Kingdom to embark on his graduate studies. Had he stayed in Israel, I assume that like most of his local counterparts in the field, he would not have conducted this research. I congratulate him for taking on a difficult task culminating in this book reporting on a major missing link in the sociology and anthropology of Israeli society.

Moshe Shokeid
Tel Aviv University
← XIX | XX →


← XX | 1 →


XX, 218
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
Zionismus Staatsbürgerschaft Niemandsland Siedler
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. XX, 216 pp., 3 coloured fig.

Biographical notes

Yarden Enav (Author)

Yarden Enav earned his PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom). Today he teaches in the department of Sociology & Anthropology at Ariel University (Israel) and the Open University of Israel.


Title: Israeliness in No Man’s Land
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240 pages