Re-Masculinizing the Jew: Gender and Zionism Until the First World War
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Zionism emerged not only as a political and colonial mission to create the Jewish state of Israel as a safe-haven from anti-Semitism, but also as a means to address the very anti-Semitic stereotypes attributed to the European Jewish population. Especially, Zionism sought to replace the effeminacy attributed to Jewish men with a masculinity defined by European gentiles, thus avoiding assimilation into their diasporic countries (and thus losing culture and religion), while actually assimilating into the colonial world order as a means to gain legitimacy from the very European nation-states that drove Jewish people out through anti-Semitic discrimination. The vehicles used to re-masculinize Jewish men include: socialism as seen with the kibbutzim, settler colonialism thereafter, re-embodiment through gymnastics and agriculture, and the induction of Jewish men into violent European culture through dueling and militarism. These venues used an Orientalist framework, abjecting anti-Semitic stereotypes while at the same time projecting similar or identical versions of these stereotypes onto the native Arab population in Palestine. Thus, Zionism not only pushed to build a colonial state, but also to build the future subjects of this state as re-embodied, re-masculinized Jewish men.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the increased visibility of women’s liberation movements, along with the emergence of homosexuality as an expression of erotic desire, posed a threat to Central and Western European hegemonic masculinity. Indeed, constructions of gender, and with it masculinity, not only came to the forefront of science by means of psychology and sexology throughout Western society, but also played a role in colonialism, imperialism, and militarism through the creation and reiteration of the Other.1
This Other, of course, encompassed the usual oppressed populations: women, natives, homosexual people, Black people, and Jewish people, to name a few.
Often, as the case with Jewish people, normative masculinity located the Other within its own nation-state; we can see this in the deployment of gendered language in anti-Semitic rhetoric. Often “co-opted by modern nationalism” (Mosse 77), this reestablishment of masculinity sought to create a pure nation for the state, one rid of tarnish from other national and religious peoples. Using this nationalist framework, the majority often “likened women to Jews in their supposed adaptability, forwardness, and absence of reason” (Mosse 104), both emasculating Jewish men and reestablishing their inferiority as a race. Sometimes, even, political Right European men attributed the rise in homosexuality to a “Jewish conspiracy” (Mosse 91), as if Jewish people and homosexual people collaborated to create one threatening, effeminate category. Likening Jewish people to women and homosexuals, European nationalists asserted that, “the true conception of the State is foreign to the Jew, because he, like the woman, is wanting in personality, his failure to grasp the idea of a true society is due to his lack of a free intelligible ego” (Otto Weininger qtd. in Daniel Boyarin, 284). This anti-Semitic language pushed Jewish men farther into a new theoretical ghetto, one where they still maintained their rights as citizens, in most cases, but had to surrender their pride, their solidarity, their nation, and indeed, their gender.
One could clearly understand, then, that out of these repressive European nationalisms blossomed a new Jewish nationalism, or Zionism. Through a dialogical process between established European nations and their Others, Jewish men sought to regain their masculinity by means of a sort of assimilation into the Aryan race, creating “a nation like all other nations” through the creation of “men like all other men” (Boyarin 277). Mimicry became a venue for Jewish men to assert their identities not only as men, but as one nation. To be sure, Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, executed an “internal and external disavowal of the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jewish men as un-manly [by affirming] the European-wide equation of manliness and rightful membership in the nation” (Berkowitz, Zionist Culture 19). Zionism deployed this sort of manliness not only through the desire to build a state, but through the re-embodiment of the Jewish man through the making of the New Jewish Muscle (Musklejud) via athleticism and militarism. As a reaction to the anti-Semitic effeminacy of the Jewish man, “the Musklejud plays out his greatest triumph as an endlessly repeatable drama: overcoming the sissy within” (Soloman 158). And thus Zionism and masculinity became intimately intertwined.
Zionism, therefore, not only sought to create a Jewish state, but also sought to establish the Jewish nation as “a nation like all other nations”(Boyarin 277), with citizens like all other citizens, and men like all other (European) men. Consequently, Zionism paralleled the expressions of masculinity found in Central and Western Europe at the time. Fusing a post-colonial and poststructuralist feminist framework, I argue that Zionism not only pushed to build a colonial state, but also to build the future subjects of this state as re-embodied, re-masculinized Jewish men. Although colonialism and politics provided a concrete mission for Zionist thinkers, Zionism also called for the creation of a Musklejud through athleticism, agriculture, and militarism. Thus, gender politics played a significant role in the construction of both the Zionist subject and Eretz Yisrael.
Zionism, Colonialism, and Politics
In the beginning of the twentieth century, socialist thought emerged as a means for liberation and emancipation in many parts of Europe. Early Zionists, in trying to negotiate their demands as Diasporic Jews in search of a state, often adopted a socialist framework when discussing the Jewish National Home. Indeed, the second Aliyah (the immigration of Jewish people to Palestine in the early twentieth century prior to the First World War) was mainly composed of socialist Jews escaping violent anti-Semitism and pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia. These Jewish migrants established the first kibbutzim (similar to agricultural communes) in Israel, a socialist movement in Zionism that became very popular in the 20th century.
This socialist Zionism “promised an erotic revolution for the Jews: the creation of a virile New Hebrew Man but also the rejection of the inequality of women found in traditional Judaism in favor of full equality between the sexes in all spheres of life” (Biale 176). Thus, while masculinist in nature, this sort of secular, socialist Zionism sought to actively include women in the building of the Jewish state. Their roles shifted from housewife and mother to fieldworker and socialist, although motherhood remained a necessity in nation building (Biale 188). However, as seen by this change in roles, masculinity and femininity were not disregarded, and instead of women and men renegotiating and redistributing traditional gender roles, women adopted traditionally masculine roles in addition to traditionally feminine roles. Therefore, socialist Zionism sought to transform the Jewish people, both men and women, into more masculine subjects, rather than creating an organic equality through compromising both masculine and feminine gendered roles.
While socialist politics prove useful in regarding gender in relation to Zionism, Herzl himself did not commit to socialism as the singular option for the state of Israel. Rather, Herzl found that the act of differentiating the Jewish people politically from their Diasporic nations, whether or not through socialism, would establish the legitimacy of Zionism as politics, and more so as masculine. Thus, since Zionist politics found meaning in
“the masculinity that it conferred, it hardly mattered at all whether it was socialism, anarchism, or finally colonialism that composed the content, for it was the violence that was pivotal. Almost any ‘respectable’ violence that Jews would turn to would restore their dignity and honor, their masculinity, an almost ideal type of goyim naches” (Boyarin 288).
Indeed, Zionism set forth its pathway as a colonialism instead of a socialism or an anarchism, and used this representation to inscribe whiteness onto the Jewish body and white masculinity onto the “white” Jewish man (Boyarin 302).
The deployment of colonial discourse through Zionist rhetoric established Zionism as a legitimate European power in the minds of the Western and Central European Jews, if not also their gentile nations. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, physicians defined an “outsider” or Other as anything or anyone that challenged the norm, including “the so-called racially inferior, emancipated women, Jews, [and] homosexuals” and since “modern masculinity symbolized the norm, [its] enemies were assumed to be the enemies of established society” (Mosse 80). According to Mosse, then, Jewishness opposed society and civilization, and thus also opposed masculinity. In order to assert the civilized nature of Jewish people, Zionism adopted a colonialist framework similar to those of their Diasporic countries. Through this colonial discourse, Zionism replaced the Jewish Other with the Arab or Palestinian Other, stripping Jewish men of their a priori Otherness by substituting it with colonial masculinity. Parallel to this substitution, through Zionism, Palestinians came to substitute the effeminacy that the Jews once represented in Europe: “the image of the impotent Diaspora Jew was now projected onto the Palestinian, who, like the exilic Jew, refused to free himself from medieval traditions” (Biale 183). In other words, colonialism served to civilize and masculinize the Jew, while at the same time projecting the representation of the exilic Jew onto the Palestinian Other as traditional and effeminate.
Although Orientalist rhetoric often already described Arabs and Palestinians in Othering ways, since Jewish people were also thought of in Orientalist terms compared to Europeans, Zionists had to distinguish themselves as less Oriental than Palestinians. In order to do so, Zionists sought to construct an oppositional representation of Palestinian natives. Erasure became a technique used in Zionist language, selling Palestine to the Jewish people as “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Zionists saw Palestine, “as an empty territory paradoxically “filled” with ignoble or perhaps even dispensable natives “who were passively supposed to accept the plans made for their land” (Said 81, emphasis mine). The erasure can be seen in the recognition of an “empty” land, one that suffers neglect by “dispensable natives” who, “[are ignored] for the most part as not entitled to serious consideration” (Said 82). This Othering technique of erasure reasserts the colonial power of the Zionist through masculinist domination and elimination (whether figuratively, as seen from Zionist texts, or literally, as seen in the 1948 Nakba) of native Palestinians. Furthermore, in calling for a return to the Promised Land, or the original home of the Jews, “Zionism aimed to create a society that could never be anything but ‘native’s’ at the same time that it determined not to come to terms with the very natives it was replacing with new (but essentially European) natives'” (Said 88). Again, we see the erasure of the Palestinian ÒnativeÓ and the replacement of this “native” with the civilized Jewish “native.” This sort of disavowal is somewhat unique to Zionism as a colonialist power; most other forms of colonialism did not claim nativity to their colonies. Thus, Zionism not only employed a colonialist framework to establish the state of Israel, but attempted to one-up their Diasporic nation-states by reforming colonialism as a return home instead of solely a land grab.
We can see, then, that both political differentiation and colonialism served to further Zionist goals before the First World War. Zionism attempted to execute a socialist framework in order to establish itself as a legitimate and masculine power, and when this failed in asserting hegemonic masculinity, ceded to a masculine colonialist agenda instead. While Aliyot after the First World War also created kibbutzim and pushed for socialism, the colonizing mission became the primary goal for Zionists, both in order to prove to Europeans that Jewish men were men after all, and that Zionism could compete with these European powers by building the colony and home of Eretz Yisrael.
Gymnastics, Agriculture, and Zionism
Anti-Semitic rhetoric in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often depicted the Diasporic Jewish character as nervous and weak, both physically and mentally. Along with the emergence of psychoanalysis during this time came the diagnosis of hysteria and nervous conditions, often assigned solely to middle or upper class women. Thus, the assignment of nervousness to Jewish people, whether men or women, translated to an emasculation of Judaism as a whole.
Even Jewish and Zionist leaders conceded to these nervous Jewish stereotypes: Herzl prescribed political Zionism as a cure, and his disciple Max Nordau went a step further to recommend a metamorphosis of nervous Jewish men to Musklejudentum (Muscular Jew, from Musklejud described above) in order to re-masculinize them. Nordau attributed this Jewish nervousness to anti-Semitic persecution and “former ghettoization: “In the narrowness of the Jewish streets our poor limbs forgot how to move joyfully; in the dimness of our sunless homes our eyes developed a nervous blink'” (Nordau qtd. in Berkowitz, Zionist Culture 107). The metamorphosis of the Diasporic Jew to Musklejudentum, then, “attempt[ed] to mitigate the alleged Jewish characteristics that spurred anti-Semitism [by] calm[ing] the nerves of Jewish youth through sport, Lose Weight Exercise, and hygiene” (Berkowitz, Zionist Culture 107). Gymnastics, which often accompanied nationalistic ideologies of the time, was thought to foster courage and willpower in its participants, characteristics that distinguished “the proper male ideal as opposed to so-called weak and womanly men” (Mosse 100). Thus, Jewish nationalism mimicked other nationalisms once again by developing gymnastics and physical Lose Weight Exercise as foundations of Jewish masculinity and, therefore, Zionism. This re-embodiment of the Jewish man as Musklejudentum recreated “the image of the Jewish body” and “became a symbol for creating a new Jewish nation” (Biale 178). In other words, gymnastics built the New Jewish Muscle which would then build (or inhabit and settle) the New Jewish Nation figuratively through masculine embodiment, and also literally through the use of this New Jewish Muscle on the land of Palestine.
Masculinity at the turn of the twentieth century in Western and Central Europe implemented a return to nature and agriculture as a means of building the masculine body (Mosse 96).2 A popular image of masculinity at the time portrayed a muscular, soiled, and hard-working man in the fields, farming the land. By building the land of Palestine, which Zionists, as Edward Said described above, saw as neglected and devoid of people, the Jewish man became “built by it’s chang[ing] one’s values and practices and, above all, chang[ing] one’s very body and psyche by agriculture” (Biale 182-3). Thus, the land and the man entered a dialogical process in which the subject built the land, which in turn built the subject, and so forth. This further masculine embodiment of the Jewish man not only reestablished the lost masculinity of his identity, but also executed the colonial process of working the land, as described in the previous section.
Furthermore, the newly established connection of the Jewish people to the Promised Land built upon this notion of working the land to re-masculinize the Jew. “In its peculiar admixture of blood-and-soil ardor dressed in messianic armor, of the despised diasporic ‘degenerate’ pumping up into the robust promised land pioneer, Zionism exaggerated the tendency” (Soloman 157), of linking nationalism to masculinity. Indeed, Zionism sought to establish a new, superior form of righteous colonialism, as described in the previous section, which defined Jewish people as the rightful natives of Palestine. Moreover, the socialist ideology brought by the founders of the kibbutzim added to this righteousness of the Zionist colony; the Jews sought to rebuild themselves and rebuild their Promised Land in order to build the supposedly egalitarian politics of the Jewish National Home.
Gymnastics and agriculture introduced the embodiment of the New Man, both Jewish and gentile, at the turn of the century by sculpting the body and, therefore, sculpting the mind. Zionism used this principle both in the Diaspora through gymnastics clubs and in Palestine through working the land. As the First World War neared, this “neoclassical ideal of the male body as formed” translated to “the kind of discipline the military needed” (Mosse 109). The theoretical and literal re-embodiment of Western men of the time, whether Jewish or Aryan, used militarism as an outlet for this newfound masculinity.
Honor and Militarism
It should be said that Herzlian Zionism arose from a certain self-hatred towards the Jewish people (himself), just as anti-Semitism encapsulated a hatred or aversion towards its Other, the Jews. As described in the previous section, even Jewish and Zionist leaders bought into the anti-Semitic inscriptions on the Jewish body, constructing the Jewish subject (the Other) as weak and nervous. In fact, Herzl himself often attempted to reject his Jewish heritage before he invented Zionism. When analyzing Herzlian Zionism, Boyarin recognizes the anti-Semitic nature of much of Herzl’s assertions: “Herzl’s most stirring statement: ‘We are one people,’ carries its immediate disavowal: ‘Our enemies have made us one whether we will or not'” (282). Therefore, while initially dis-identifying with his Jewish heritage, Herzl realizes that, as the Jewish Other, he cannot escape the dominant essentializing and stereotyping of the Jewish man, of himself.
From his texts, we can see that Herzlian Zionism concentrated mostly on disproving anti-Semitic stereotypes through mimicking hegemonic masculinity. Honor and pride, as characteristics of normative turn of the century masculinity, became two of the main objectives of the assimilative goals prescribed by Zionism. Thus, the ways in which Herzl attempted to gain acceptance of Jewish people, and of course, Jewish men, in European society “involve[d] mimesis of gentile patterns of honor, that is, masculinity” (Boyarin 294). Indeed, these “patterns of honor” did mimic violent forms of hegemonic masculinity, whether through dueling before the First World War or militarism as the War approached.
In his Zionist texts, his plays, and even his diary, Herzl displays a type of obsession with the duel as a means of acquiring honor for Jewish men. Dueling required willpower and courage, “knowing how to face danger and pain” (Mosse 100), which encompassed much of the definition of hegemonic masculinity at the time. The violence and injury inflicted by the duel became fetishized to the Jewish man: “to achieve the honor of the dueling scar, the Schmisse, the notorious Mensur, is, in this sense, a mimicry of inscription of active, phallic, violent, gentile masculinity on the literal body, to replace the inscription of passive Jewish femininity on that same body” (Boyarin 307). This abjection of the anti-Semitic construction of the Jewish self in favor of an introjection of hegemonic, gentile masculinity took physical form, by means of a dueling scar. Not only did this scar have a literal translation of courage, the ability to handle pain, but it also had a metaphoric translation as the Jewish subject became the gentile through the inscription of hegemonic masculinity onto his body. This physical and metaphysical subject formation of the New Jewish Man, therefore, occurred by even considering entering violent, masculine acts such as dueling, as only ‘men of honor can fight a duel’ (Herzl qtd. in Boyarin 295, emphasis mine).
Herzl died well before the onset of the First World War, although already he had linked dueling to masculine missions equivalent in danger to soldiering. Again, from his diary, Herzl calls for all able-bodied men to defend Eretz Yisrael by going on “dangerous missions which the state happens to require. It may be cholera vaccination or at other times the fighting of a national enemy. In this way the risk of death from the duel will be retained” (Boyarin 295-6, emphasis not mine). Here, dueling is equated to militarism (“fighting of a national enemy”), which both pose dangers requiring masculine courage and willpower. Furthermore, Herzl hints at nationalist ideologies by calling for the sacrifice of the male subject to the stateÕs whims (whatever it “happens to require”), a purely militaristic and nationalist, and for that matter masculine, appeal which drew no distinctions between Jewish and gentilic masculinity. Again, Herzl attempted to disprove anti-Semitic allegations, which described Jewish men as weak and effeminate.
Indeed, according to normative masculinity of the time, “the warrior provides a climax to a concept of manliness inherent in much of the construction of modern masculinity, adding important features to a stereotype strengthened by the First World War” (Mosse 107). The courage and willpower achieved by dueling before the war became translated into militaristic deployments of masculinity; pain required courage, “men were taught to deal with bodily pain, and service in war provided a glorious opportunity to put theory into practice” (Mosse 100-101). This sort of praxis of masculinity through militarism stormed Europe during the war as young men signed up to serve their nation-states.
Even Jewish men, who did not necessarily feel solidarity to their Diasporic nation-states, sought to:
“put theory into practice in order to prove themselves as men both to themselves and to their gentile countries. Indeed, military service became a solution to the Jewish problem, requiring Jews to give up their primitive, Oriental distinctiveness and become civilized. Then they would show manly virtues and engage in such manly practices as dueling and soldiering, the civic duties and privileges of every citizen” (Boyarin 279).
Thus, soldiering marked civilization and citizenship, just as cowardice marked “Orientality” or tradition.3 Similarly, soldiering as civilized denoted masculinity, as cowardice and tradition denoted femininity. Therefore, militarism at the onset of the First World War did not necessarily denote masculinity in the violence and musculature required, but instead linked itself first to civilization, and then to masculinity.4
However, the violence and muscle associated with militarism cannot be dismissed either, especially when considering the mission of Zionism to re-masculinize the Jewish man. Nordau’s idea of the Muskeljudentum evolved into a new, militaristic form as Jewish men “seized what they saw as an opportunity to prove themselves” (Berkowitz, Western Jewry 10), as manly soldiers. Indeed, “Zionists attempted to use the war to fight the stereotype of Jews as unfit for the manly art of warfare and unworthy of nationhood” (Berkowitz, Western Jewry 24). Thus, not only did Jewish men enlist in order to prove their civilized nature, but also to prove themselves as courageous, manly, muscular soldiers.
In the quotation above, Berkowitz links “the manly art of warfare” with worthiness of “nationhood.” In considering the political scene at the beginning of the First World War, the solidarity experienced by the gentile soldiers often accompanied nationalistic tendencies, making “man as warrior the center of [his] search for national character” (Mosse 110). However, Jewish people did not yet have a nation-state, therefore “as members of an embryonic nation, as Zionists, they could show their worth as a fighting force, deserving their own nation and Jewish national honor” (Berkowitz, Western Jewry 10). In order to combat the growing nationalisms of the warring countries, Jewish soldiers not only sought to prove themselves as men, but as men “deserving their own nation,” a backlash against the anti-Semitism rampant in the countries for which they fought.
Because of these growing European nationalisms, Jewish men, who did not necessarily identify with their Diasporic countries, gained room to develop transnational connections to Jewish people on both sides of the war. Indeed, not only did Jewish and Christian religious holidays provide space for Jewish soldiers to foster solidarity (Berkowitz, Western Jewry 16), but the exposure of Central and Western European Jewish soldiers to Eastern European anti-Semitism built empathetic ties between Jews in East and West (Berkowitz, Western Jewry 13). While Western European Jews often Othered Eastern European Jews as “goys,” and especially Eastern European “Jewesses” as alluring and seductive, the pervasive Jewish prostitution found in Eastern Europe still shocked the Western Jewish soldiers, who pitied the degenerative nature of Jewish culture in the East (Berkowitz, Western Jewry 14). These empathetic ties cultivated a nationalism that directly fed into Zionist masculinity, as men deployed masculinity both through the courage of the soldier and through the protectiveness of their women and their people.
Overall, honor, dueling, and militarism provided a progression for Jewish men to prove their manliness before and during the First World War. While these endeavors often accompanied hegemonic masculinity, Jewish men transcoded their meanings to construct a more relevant masculinity in the name of Zionism. Therefore, while still ascribing to such masculine roles as warrior or soldier, Jewish men used these roles to negotiate a space for a Jewish nationalism and a Jewish state.
As a response to the anti-Semitic Othering of the Jewish people throughout Europe, Zionism emerged as a means to reclaim the honor and legitimacy of the Jewish nation. Using strategies which all incorporated the building of a New Jewish Muscle, Zionism sought not only acceptance and recognition from the Diaspora, but also sought to create a New Jewish Man and a New Jewish State by taking modern European hegemonic masculinity to a new, hypermasculine level. Indeed, the Musklejudentum, “was the ‘new man’ on steroids” (Soloman 157).
Zionism as politics created a new, morally upright version of colonialism by claiming Palestine as the Jewish homeland, Eretz Yisrael. This sort of colonialism at first deployed a socialist framework, especially in the second Aliyah, that brought egalitarian politics to the colony, while also describing Palestine as paradoxically uninhabited and neglected by its inhabitants. This sort of paradoxical representation of Palestine allowed Jewish people to redefine themselves as native to the land, since Palestine, at once, both had no natives and neglectful natives. Also, the language used in Zionism posed the land of Palestine as in need of a savior, a messiah, and a lover for the motherland, and what better lover than he who seeks to save her from a neglectful, primitive unrightful native.
The Jew as the rightful “native” of Palestine sought to save the land from Palestinian neglect through rebuilding the land. In fact, this building of the land served two purposes: colonialism and masculinization. The flexing of the Musklejud through gymnastics and agriculture rebuilt the Jewish subject as masculine, and indeed stretched this masculinity beyond European hegemonic masculinity by also obliterating the Jewish nervousness represented in anti-Semitic rhetoric. Thus, the Jewish man inscribed hegemonic, Aryan masculinity onto his body by building his masculinity through building his body.
Along with this, dueling and militarism allowed for this inscription of hegemonic masculinity onto the Jewish body. Honor and courage, and ergo dueling and militarism further worked out the Musklejud by providing a means and a stage for the execution of masculinity. Because hegemonic masculinity linked honor with violence, nationalist ideologies, including Zionism, embraced the new role of citizen as soldier as a civilizing mission to combat both Oriental primitiveness and, in the case of the Other, effeminate stereotypes. By taking up arms for their Diasporic nation-states, Jewish men disproved their Oriental stereotype in favor of a civilized, masculine, albeit Aryan identity.
The dialogic involved between militarism, colonialism, and agriculture set up a space where the Musklejud affirmed not only the masculinity of Jewish men, but also sought to prove state-worthiness of the Jewish people as a whole. Indeed, this interrelated network set up a second dialogic between state-worthiness and masculinity for Zionists. Thus, the Musklejud, as an attempted representational prototype of Jewish masculinity, created Jewish militarism, colonialism, and agriculture, which then reconstructed the Musklejud, and so forth. This gender construction and reconstruction upheld the need for assimilation into Aryan masculinity, but also upheld an idea of difference. Jews were the chosen people, and especially the rightful natives of Palestine, and thus sought to return to Palestine through ascribing to the white masculinity of their Diasporic nation-states.
Hence, the Musklejud as created by Zionist ideology served three interlinked missions: to colonize Palestine, to build its land, and to protect the nation. These missions all upheld each other’s goals of civilizing and assimilating the Jewish population into a European hegemonic power by proposing the creation of a new state power, Israel, rather than negotiating their gender identities within the Diaspora. By doing so, Zionism adopted an Othering framework towards Orientals, or the Palestinians, while transplanting a Jewish whiteness as native to Palestine. The Musklejud not only civilized Jewish men, but also civilized the land of Palestine, and put militarism into a civilizing context as well. All three of these civilizing processes sought not only to establish the state of Israel as the Jewish National Home, but also work to construct gender, to inscribe masculinity on the people of Israel, B’nei Yisrael.
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1 I use the term “Other” here in accordance with post-colonial theory. This epistemology interrogates colonial and imperial relationships between colonizer and colonized, stressing the dialogical and oppositional construction of the European or colonial Self against the Oriental Other. Thus, scholarly fields which studied colonized peoples (such as classical anthropology), while at face value drew conclusions about these Others, did so in hopes of defining the Self as everything the Other was not. For further discussion, see Edward SaidÕs Orientalism. The use of capitalization of the words Other, Otherness, and Othering is used to denote the ideological construction of the Other as a category in scholarship, as a group of objects, rather than subjects, of study.
2This renaissance of masculinity at the turn of the century occurred not only for Jewish men in Western and Central Europe, but also for white men in Europe and in the United States. As mentioned briefly in the introduction, this reconstruction had much to do with a changing political, social, and economic climate, especially in accordance with the women’s movement, the rise of homosexuality, and in the United States the emancipation of slaves after the Civil War. For a discussion of this changed masculinity within the United States, see Gail Bederman’s Manliness and Civilization, especially “Remaking Manhood through Race and ‘Civilization’.”
3An interesting connection could be made here to the compulsory military service in Israel today, for both men and women. The link of civilization, and thus the ability to civilize, to that of the current Occupation remains clear, especially considering the Orientalist discourse still present in Israeli society. While this paper focuses specifically on the turn of the twentieth century, forthcoming papers seek to address the link between Zionism, gender, sexuality, and militarism in Israel today.
4Again, for an interesting connection to the United States, see Gail Bederman’s discussion of “primal virility” in Manliness and Civilization.