Cultural Tensions in Hebrew Palestine (1882–1926)
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.
Chapter Three: Jewish secularism
The eighteenth century: A prelude
European Jewish societies were distinct yet not detached from Christian environments. Power relations within religious Jewish communities were similar in many aspects, in patterns if not in appearances, to Christian ones. In Eastern European Jewish societies, from which originated the majority of future immigration to Eretz-Israel, secularism became a major factor towards the end of nineteenth century and as such had a dominant influence on the Zionist movement. Yet, the appearance of secular Judaism as a significant cultural phenomenon had its roots a century earlier, and mostly in German cultural spheres. Although those two waves of secularism differ in period, in space and in social and cultural contexts, a brief inspection of the former is necessary for better understanding of the later, as it provoked at the time noticeable emotional reactions in Eastern European communities. Many features of that earlier secularism became well apparent in the later period. The Jewish secular eighteenth-century Jewish secularism was studied by Shmuel Feiner,1 who extensively investigated its resurgence and its consequences. Many secularists at that period were part of the economic and intellectual Jewish urban elite, rightly named Maskilim, the learned ones. Unlike non-Jewish scholars of the Enlightenment period, who gave new emphasis and alternative interpretations to cosmic notions such as nature, rationalism or humanism, the task of the ← 45 | 46 → Maskilim became much more intricate, as they needed, in addition, to re-define anew their identities in accordance...
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