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Secularism, Education, and Emotions

Cultural Tensions in Hebrew Palestine (1882–1926)

Yair Seltenreich

Secularism, Education, and Emotions: Cultural Tensions in Hebrew Palestine (1882–1926) aims to explore the sources of secularism, its social and emotional significances, its various expressions, and its thorny frictions with different religious environments during the first decades of modern settlement of Jews in Eretz-Israel (Palestine). Accordingly, this book develops four main concepts about secularism in Eretz-Israel: (1) Secularism was, in large part, a reaction against religion; (2) Secularism was not an isolated local occurrence but rather a product of the wider European cultural stage, influenced by ideas of contestation against religious dominance and nascent nationalism; (3) Secularism was essentially an emotional phenomenon in Europe and in Eretz-Israel likewise; (4) In the struggle between religious and secularists in Eretz-Israel, education occupied a major place as the main vehicle for the promotion of ideas.
Utilizing these four main concepts, Yair Seltenreich analyzes the general European frameworks of secularism. His studies illuminate secularist features within European Jewry and its subsequent translation into the Zionist movement and the Eretz-Israeli arena. Lastly, he examines the specific struggles between religious and secularist teachers in Galilee, where the culmination of tensions and of emotional expression allows a deeper understanding of secularism as a cultural issue.
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Chapter One: Religion in European culture



Religion in European culture

Cultures and emotions

Cultures and emotions must be considered here mainly through two prisms. The first one concerns influences of the environment on the individual. Such influences are reflected in material experiences like home routines and street atmosphere but also in commonly shared concepts which are transferred through daily repeated locutions. I prefer to use ‘concepts’ rather than ‘ideas’ as ‘ideas’ tend to lose most of their intellectual components on popular level and preserve mainly their moral significances in the form of ‘culturally’ defined values and proper manners. Childhood is essential to such processes, as its sets the leading cultural directions for the individual, but later years of life are also highly contributive for their preservation.

The other prism concerns the reactive part of the individual to the pre-absorbed cultural features. In other words, if culture is expressed by significances, this prism reflects the responses of individual, their elaboration, changes they try to create. This fascinating set of possible attitudes stands, in fact, at the base of the whole book. Such attitudes might largely vary from total acceptance to critical view, from inertia to moderate change or sheer revolt. It might be rational in its essence or rather emotional (but usually a combination of both).

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