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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 Nine: Religion in the Galilee moshavot



Religion in the Galilee moshavot

JCA and the educational system in Galilee moshavot

It would be impossible to understand the human setting of the moshavot without considering the major influence of JCA on local existence and mentalities. JCA, which dominantly administered Galilee moshavot, clearly represented the European philanthropic concept at the close of the nineteenth century, which was founded on two concepts. The first one presumed that one’s economical welfare and social position were the result and the attestation of the righteousness of his way of life, reflected in a bourgeois style. The other called for the enlightened bourgeoisie to be morally responsible for less favored social strata, for altruist reasons but also in order to avoid social unrest which could endanger bourgeois social foundations. That need was seen urgent than ever as the rise of modernity contributed to the concern of European conservative environments, bringing new, changing and radical worldviews which threatened the peace of mind of bourgeois societies.1 In that context, a significant philanthropic activity was led also by Jewish bourgeois society in Western European countries, mainly through l’Alliance israélite universelle which since 1860 bequeathed a mix of Jewish and European civilization, mainly in the Mediterranean sphere.2

JCA was founded by the Jewish baron Maurice de Hirsch in 1891 after he has lost his only son. Its board of directors was composed mainly by French (and later ← 161 | 162 → British) moderate liberal Jews. It was implied that...

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