FromZeroToHero - SYFIIA JORDAN LEBANON 0 km 50 Golan...

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Unformatted text preview: SYFIIA JORDAN LEBANON 0 km 50 - Golan Naharlyya . Heights // . Haifa Sea of Games Haifa | S H A Hadera , Netanya . Nablus ‘ ‘ f Herzlwya . : Mediterranean Sea Tel-Avlv Yale . West TeIAvlv Bank Ramla -__ Ashdod . uJarusalam rm Ashqalon . “mam”? -Belhlaham .H-b 5 Gaza I FUN m; Fialah Gaza :5: Slrlp - Dead Sea Beershena a: - Dimona Oron' Negev Mlzpe Ramon EGYPT ' Yuluaia Elal Gulf of Aqaba - lsrael 12 From zero to hero Masculinity in IeWish nationalism Tamar Mayer in late 1994, a year after the signing of the Oslo Accords, one of ISrael’s major newspapers, Tedior Adamant, carried a lead stow entitled “[W]e used to be men, now we are zero” (November 11, 1994). This story concerned members of an elite military rrnit who had deserted their post because they were so disappointed by the turn that their military service had taken, once Israel began training soldiers for peacekeeping missions after pulling out of 1he Gaza Strip and beginning its withdrawal from the West Bank. No longer were these young men able to perform the tasks which had motivated them to join this elite unit, during the days of the Intifada, and for which they had trained to be, in their own words, “killers” who enforced Israeli mili- tary rule among Palestinians (Shachor I994: 6).I Now instead, as a result of the Oslo Accords, the soldier's said, they were being assigned to guard daycare centers in Iewish settlements, “What started as an attempt ‘to be a man,’ turned into an addiction for ‘action’” (Shachor 1994:: 6), said one of the ileserting soldiers in an attempt to justify his unit’s act. These soldiers ran from duty, as they said in the article, because in peace missions there is no “action,” no glory, no “rush.” In short, several of them said in their testimony, they had wanted to join the elite unit because they believed that in the Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.) they would get. a chance to become “real men,” they would be ttansformed "from nerds, from zero” into units of a “mighty machine” that would enable 1hem to give everything, even their blood, “for the country, for the flag” (ibid.). In 1994 — just as peace seemed a real possibility - those young men actually claimed to feel cheated by the military: instead of becoming real "men,” they now felt they were zero. While this story of desertion may be uncommon among Israeli soldiers, it provides nevertheless a rare inside look at the way many young Israeli men have come to feel about volunteer service in elite military units. The strong relationship between masculinity, militarism and Iewish nationalism2 articulated by these men has its origins in the early days of Zionism when Jews, first in Europe and later in Palestine, felt forced to defend themselves against the Other (first European nationalists whose anti-Semitism was already well r-srahiishe-tl by the early days of Zionism, and then the indigenous Arab 284: Tamar Mayer population of Palestine who resented attempts by Zionist immigrants to take over and “Judaize” Arab lands). Over the course of the twentieth century the constant threat (real or imagined) of annihilation has made Israeli Jews rely heavily on military and physical strength; in turn, militarism has become intimately connected to the construction of both Jewish nationalism and Israeli Jewish masculinity. Although both Jewish men and wotnen in Israel are conscripted into the Israeli Defense Forces, it is men who “do the real defense work” (lzraeli 1994): they are the ones who actually serve in combat and eventually risk their lives for Israel’s survival. Especially in the most deco- rated units, as a result, a cult of heroism has developed among young Jewish men. And the continuous sense of threat from the Arab world to Israel’s existence has further sanctified the I.D.F. as a major institution in Israeli society — justifying, reinforcing and even sharpening the image of the Jewish warrior, whose masculine identity has become intertwined with Israel’s secu— rity. For many Israeli Jewish men, in fact, the military has become the only rite of passage into manhood. As long as Israelis believe that they have enemies who remain committed to Israel’s annihilation, the priority of defense will continue to shape Jewish nationalism in Israel, and the military will- continue to prevail as one of the major institutions in the lives of Israeli Jews-' and an important arena of masculinity. In this chapter 1 shall examine the close relationship between nationalism.- and masculinity in Zionism during the first several decades of the twentieth century. I focus here on the foreign, specifically German, influence on th construction of the masculine New Jew, and on the subsequent developmcn of the Jewish warrior ideal in Palestine. The central role that Zionist youth. movements, the new Hebrew education and paramilitary activities played i this construction are also discussed here, because they too have been instru mental in the construction of the New few, the mythological symbol of Jewis nationalism. Although it is well established by now that gender identities are general]; constructed in opposition to one another and that we cannot understand th construction of the “masculine” without understanding the constmction o_ the “feminine,” in Israel and in other societies that have perceived thei selves to be “under siege,” militarism continues to be instrumental in th- construction of gender identities. I focus here, therefore, on the interrcla tionship in Israel between militarism and masculinity, and leave a thorough analysis of masculinity in opposition to femininity to others.3 The relation:- ship between masculinity and militarism has had a profound effect on 111! kind of nationalism that was born with Zionism and which later ha been refined in Jewish lsrael. The almost intimate relationship helm-Elli, masculinity and Jewish nationalism is, I believe, a product of the initial; Zionist project, which assigned men and women different positions in HH'lL‘ty-I: and an outcome of modern Jewish history’s survivalist orientatiou, which Iii-1|} led to a prioritizing of national security needs that has constructed men all superior to women. This notion of male super-iumy is further auchnu-d li‘lE From zero to learn in Jewish nationalism 285 Jewish religious tradition, especially as there is no constitutional separation in model-nuday Israel between “church” and “state.” Jewish nationalism and masculinity Almost from its inception, Jewish nationalism has been closely intertwined with masculinity. The transformation of “the political status, the socio- economic profile, and the psychological self-image of the Jews” in Europe (Shimoni 1995: 3) — central to Zionism — was based (in large part) on the construction of the New Jew, the Muscle few. Most of the gender references to the Muscle Jaw are to men, illuminating the connection between masculinity and Zionism and the invisibility of women in Zionism. Although Zionist writings appear as early as the mid—nineteenth ecntnry, Zionism became an organized movement only in the late 18905, as Theodor Herzl — the father of modern Zionism — organized the first Zionist Conference in Basel (in 1897). At a time when many people in Europe perceived nation as the legitimate foundation of the state, Herzl appreciated Bismarck’s success in mobilizing the German masses around the nationalist banner and dreamed of a similar future for the Jewish nation? He dreamed that nationalism would free the Jews from problems caused by 2,000 years of living in exile. Significantly, as also in the German case, Herzl’s quest for freedom was asso» ciated with a complete transformation of the national as well as the individual charactcr 7 both of which, in his view, involved notions of manliness. Herzl’s explicitly gendered contempt for European Jewry is captured well in his diary when on June 8, 1895, after visiting with some well-to-do and educated friends, he wrote: “they are thtto creatures, quiet, decent, timorous. Most of our people are like that. Will they understand the call to freedom and manliness?” (Herzl 1956: 39). Clearly for Herzl manliness and freedom were closely tied together, and both directly connected to militarism and patrio— tism. Herzl planned to call up historical events of mythical proportions, such as the legendary Maccabee fighters (almost all men), as a way to set the stage for and to mobilize the nation and the actors of Zionism. On June 7, 1895 he wrote: I must train the youth to be soldiers. But only a professional army. Strength: one tenth of the male population, less would not suffice inter- nally. However, I educate one and all to be free and rrrorpy mm, ready to serve as volunteers if necessary. Education by means of patriotic songs, the Maccabean tradition, religion, heroic stage-plays, honor, etc. (Herzl 1956: 37, added emphasis) l-‘nr l-lerzl the most important idea of Zionism was to teach Jewish men — the principal figures of Zionism — to be free and to reclaim the masculine past of the nation. This was necessary, he believed, because years of life in the Diaspora h.nl given Icws many feminine characteristics and made them, 286 Tamar Mayer as a result, easy targets for anti—Semitism. As Zionism would free the Je _' of Europe from their constant battles with anti-Semitism, create a Jewia national culture, “normalize” Jewish national life and offer Jews the too _ with which to negotiate with both modernity and anti—Semitism, Herzl hoped.! it would also free them from their “feminine” nature. Although women, too, were ghetto dwellers and were integral to the make; over of the Jewish people that Herzl hoped, women were clearly not essential to Herzl’s program for national change. In Herzl’s vision women did not need to be transformed in the way men did because there was no real disso- nance between their behavior and their gender iden tity. As a result, women were not as central to Zionism as men as a diary entry (June 11, 1895) makes clear: “[N]o women or children shall work in our factories. We want a vigorous race. The state takes care of needy women and children. ‘Old maids’ will be employed in kindergarteus and in mothering the orphans oi' the working class. I will organize these spinsters into a corps of governesses for the poor” (Herzl 1956: 41). As Herzl saw Zionism, women’s impor- tance seems limited to their role in reproducing and sustaining the Jewish nation. Women did not feel in the early days of Jewish nationalism that they occupied secondary roles. They rather believed that Zionism offered them a new kind of equality: the right to vote and to be elected to office. But once they actually emigrated to Palestine to create the new society women began to realize that their dream of equality between the sexes was not likely to be achieved, that in fact their position in the “new” society and in the “new” land of Israel was not much different than it had been in Europe (Bernstein 1987). Zionism and the New Jew Thus the national project of Zionism was to transform Jewish life in the Diaspora — and this was possible, many believed, only by creating a new person, the New jaw, the New Hebrew, The New few was to be the antithes1s of the “ghetto Jew” whom Herzl and other Zionist thinkers saw as help— less, passive and feminine and thus in need of major transformation. Ironically, early Zionists’ notion of the Jews’ passivity and femininity was actually in many ways an internalized version of the prevailing antiSemin'e view of the time. The impulse to femiuize the Other was not new in the late nine- teenth century:5 it had enabled modern society to build cohesiveness (Mosse 1996) and influenced much of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the time. The‘ Jewish man’s passivity was often caricatured and ridiculed on the streets of Europe and in European newspapers.6 Even more, the Jewish man’s body was seen as “aged, Weak or efieininatc,” calling up yet another countertype to modern masculinity: homosexuality (Mossc I996: 70). The Jewish iuale’s stereotyped body was “given specific lit-dilly fealures and measurements to demonstrate [his] difference from the norm” libid). like the homosexual, the Jewish man was semi an llmp and slim, and both the. [cwlsh man and From zero to hero in Jewish nationwiirm 287 the homosexual were condemned as transgressors of a masculine standard of beauty (ibid.). Given the prevalent anti—Semitic discourse in Germany during the late 18905, it is no surprise that the fathers of Zionism dreamed that national liberation would bring “freedom and manliness” to the Jews of Europe. And because most of the Zionist writings in the late nineteenth and early twen- tieth centuries focus on the Jewish man’s body, it seems that the Jewish woman and her body remained invisible: “In the collapse of Jewish masculinity into an abject femininity, the Jewish female seems to disappear” (Pellegrini 1997: 109). Therefore, even as Jewish women escaped the anti—Semitic ridicule to which Jewish men were subjected, they also were left out of the body and chzu'acter reform advocated by Zionist thinkers such as Herzl and his close associate and second in command Dr. Max Nordau. A major element of the Zionist reform agenda involved social engineering that intended to create a dignified, masculine Maids Jew. Nordau called the Jews to reconnect with their Jewish past and with ancient Jewish heroes like Bar Kochba, “to again become deep chested, strong limbed, and fierce looking man” (Nordau 1900: 10). The New Jew’s characteristics were to mimic those of the gentiles: tall, vitile, close to nature and physically productive. The New few was to become in some sense an Ulrrrmemcbf a superhuman, whose fit body would help his Jewish mind to excel and who would thus be able to stand up to anti-Semites. The transformation of the Jewish man’s body would best be accomplished, Dr. Nordau believed, through involvement in gymnastics. As a psychiatrist, Nordau believed that he saw many physical and mental similarities between Jews and “degenerates,” who in his view were “not [just] criminals, prosti- tutes, anarchists, and pronounced lunatics [but also] authors, and artists” (Nordau 1895: vii).8 Because of physical and mental similarities that the two groups exhibited — physical frailty and a tendency toward nervousness - Nordau prescribed gymnastics as a healing regimen for both Jews and “degen— erates.” Gymnastics, Nordau believed, would be the most effective way for Jews to develop their bodies — “[S]olid stomachs and hard muscles would allow Jews to overcome their stereotype . . i to compete in the world . .. and to recapture [their] dignity” (quotes from Nordau’s essays in Mosse l993: 164) ~ and to calm what he observed as both groups’ nervousness. Specifically, a physically fit body, according to Nordau, would lead to creating a masculine identity (Mosse 1993: 165) and to what later would be referred to as the Muscle jaw? Given the historical events of the twentieth century, it seems ironic as well that much of the Zionist ideology of nation and masculinity was derived from the German experience. Nordau’s and Herzl’s commitment to gymnasi [its as a way to achieve the desired transformed body was in fact greatly influenced by the German philosophy and practice of the day. Gymnastics hail lie-en essential both to the eonstruciicm of masculinity and to national ideology throughout iiui'opt‘ liu! mun .spi-i'ilii ally in Germany Since the early 2 8 8 Tamar Mayer nineteenth century (Kruger 1996, Mosse 1996, 1993, 1985, Hoberman 1984). In Germany gymnasts became the “national stereotype in the making” (Mosse 1985: 50) and gymnastics festivals became such an important way to organize the crowds and mobilize the masses that they became “a part of the national liturgy” (Mosse 1975: 132). For gymnastics was uniquely suited both to enabling the individual to develop his own body and, at the same time, to building the group solidarity which nationalism requires. The nineteentbicentuiy gymnastics society in Germany, better known as the German Turner Movement, became crucial to the development of the German nation-state, the Dcsatsctitr: Reich.” Practiced in schools, clubs and in the army, and as an expression of order and discipline (Kroger 1996), Turner; (gymnastics) became “a system of rationalized and formalized exerr cises” (Kriiger 1996: 413) which helped develop a specific culture of the male body connected to a specific Dream-he Kolcm: (German culture). The development of gymnastics in clubs and of regional and national gymnastics festivals which used flags, ribbons, uniforms and songs helped to create and sustain the usethern distincrion so essential to nationalism (Krt'tger 1996). Over the years, as they drew more and more people, these festivals became a way to pioneer the ideals of German national selfurepresentation (Mosse 1975), by demonstrating the benefits of controlling mind and body as well as loyalty to the Reich (Kriiger I996). Significandy, the Turner Movement of Germany was exclusively male and thus helped to build a connection between the development of male culture and bonding and the development of German nationalism (Reulecke 1990). Herzl, Nordau and other Zionist leaders who were influenced by German culture and impressed by German nation-building achievements advocated similar programs for Jewish nationhuilding.” Nordau called on the dele- gates to the second Zionist Congress of 1898 to establish and join gymnastics clubs. The establishment of new Jewish gymnastics clnbs and their spread throughout Western and Central Europe testifies to the importance of Nordau’s plan for the Musiecifucicotum (Muscle Jewry). Although some of these clubs predated Nordau, their numbers were small and no national ideology was associated with them. After Nordau, almost all of the pre-existing Jewish sports clubs joined the Zionist movement, and many of the newly established ones were given the names of ancient Jewish male heroes like Bar Kochba and the Maccabees. The New few, the Muscle Jew, was to take as role models Jewish heroes of the past, especially those whose battles with the Romans and the Greeks dramatized their willingness to fight for the land and to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, for their belief in the national cause (Shapira 1992). Nineteenth—century Jewish athletes ~ exclusively men — trained in the explicit spirit of nat‘ionibuilding: mimicking the German gymnastic model of order and discipline, performing as a group with banners and ribbons, using Hebrew in their drill exercises and singing Hebrew songs (Berkowitz 1993: 108']. The motto of these Jewish .ttltlt'tes reflected the its-them requirement of nationalism, the lighting spirit and the From zcro r0 facro in 1mm nationalism 289 idealized masculinity of the gymnastic clubs: “We fight for Judah’s honor/ Full strength in youth/ So when we reach manhood/Still fighting ten times better” (quoted in Berkowitz 1993: 109).” Jewish youth movements, especially the ones that developed in Germany and in Central Europe, also borrowed their format A and their emphasis on masculinity —— from their German counterparts. Like the Turner Movement, nineteenth-century German fraternities and youth movements advocated a return to pre-industrial nature through hiking — enabling them at once to spread their ideology throughout Germany and, at the same time, to connect the German landscape with the spirit of the nation (Mosse 1975) — and through songs, dances and plays, which helped reinforce the love of both physical movement and the nation.13 As in the German case, Jewish youth movements rejected family traditions, revolted against bourgeois values, and emphasized instead a return to nature, simplicity and tnale comradeship (Reinharz 1996: 279). Emerging Zionist youth movements were influenced as well by Lord Baden—Powell’s Scouting movement in Britain,14 some of the Slavic youth movements also emphasized a return to nature and a rejec- ti...
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