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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 Six: Secularists and religious in Yishuv society



Secularists and religious in Yishuv society

Cultural contestations between secularists and religious

The measure of openness, understanding and empathy that secularists and religious felt towards each other constitutes a basic issue for analyzing the nature and dynamics of encounters between the sides. Three preliminary remarks are needed here. The first is about the parties concerned, which in fact were three and not two, as a clear distinction existed between religious Zionists and the orthodox. This first group, as was already discussed in chapter 4, sought to reform Zionism from within and bring it back to traditional creeds. As a consequence religious Zionism was viewed suspiciously by orthodox and secular Zionists alike. Secular Zionists and orthodox held opposite positions concerning the objective of Judaism in the twentieth century. For the orthodox the ultimate goal was the preservation of unquestioned religious predominant guidance in matters of creed and belief, while the Zionists the goal was the establishment of a free Jewish national state. The orthodox goal was unique in its essence while Zionists struggled also for secondary aims which evolved from the nationalist idea, concerning the future spiritual and social shape of the Jewish state. So, while the orthodox logic easily turned its thoughts from the national issue, secularists could not have remained indifferent to the place and the character Jewish religion would occupy in the future nation. That situation has determined the impossible role of religious Zionism. While ← 103 | 104 → orthodoxy tended to...

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