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Identity, Heroism and Religion in the Lives of Contemporary Jewish Women

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz

What makes us what we are? How does our gender affect our identity? Who are our heroes and heroines and how do they mould the decisions we make and the way we live our lives? In what ways does our connection – or lack there of – to our birth religion shape our adult selves? These are just some of the questions which Identity, Heroism and Religion in the Lives of Contemporary Jewish Women addresses. In examining the lives and deaths of various Jewish women during the 20 th and 21 st centuries this study focuses on the dynamic by which they formed their identities at times of crisis, whether in pre-State Israel, during and after the Holocaust in liberated Europe, or throughout Israel’s formative years. As refugees, survivors, new immigrants or veteran citizens of a country these women’s lives are probed and analyzed in terms of their relationship to each other, to their surroundings, their past, their future, their ideologies, and their geographic and virtual communities, presenting us with a mosaic of contemporary Jewish women’s lives.


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Heroism 129


Heroism 130 131 Chapter 4 Teacher, Tiller, Soldier, Spy: Women’s Representation in Israeli Military Memorials Introduction They dot the landscape almost wherever one looks. One finds them at roadsides, in the middle of barren fields, inside public parks, at cross- roads, and even under densely foliated overgrowth. They are almost always stark in color and texture, tending towards black, white or gray; on a rare occasion they express themselves in unusual bursts of color, usually variations of metallic blue, brick-red, or silver. Ranging in height from ground level slabs to towering obelisks they may in- clude abstract or figurative images. There is no exact count as to their number; experts estimate that several thousand are found throughout the country. They are memorials for Israelis who have lost their lives since the beginning of Jewish settlement in the country: war monu- ments, memorials for civilians killed in terrorist attacks, and more re- cently, markers noting the death of the “scourge of modernity”, road- accident victims. Israel is a commemorating nation, noted the late historian George Mosse on one of his last trips to the country.1 Unlike its European or American counterparts which tend towards more centralized forms of commemoration, this State of soldiers-citizens in which “every man has a name” proliferates with individual memorials as well as group monuments for both civilian and military casualties. Whether this is a product of the Jewish dictum to “remember” (Zachor) or the result of a socialized attitude toward various groups within Israeli society, one...

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