“Rozin makes an important contribution to understanding how Israel moved from a society that emphasized national and communal needs first, to one that gradually allowed average Israelis to seek—and... [continued in Reviews below]”—Choice
A provocative history of Israeli society in the 1950s that demonstrates how a voluntarist collectivism gave way to an individualist ethos
In this sharply argued volume, Orit Rozin reveals the flaws in the conventional account of Israeli society in the 1950s, which portrayed the Israeli public as committed to a collectivist ideology. In fact, major sectors of Israeli society espoused individualism and rejected the state-imposed collectivist ideology. Rozin draws on archival, legal, and media sources to analyze the attitudes of black-market profiteers, politicians and judges, middle-class homemakers, and immigrants living in transit camps and rural settlements.
Part of a refreshing trend in recent Israeli historiography to study the voices, emotions, and ideas of ordinary people, Rozin’s book provides an important corrective to much extant scholarly literature on Israel’s early years.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“Rozin makes an important contribution to understanding how Israel moved from a society that emphasized national and communal needs first, to one that gradually allowed average Israelis to seek—and expect the state to grant—individual freedoms that steadily led to a rising standard of living and personal fulfillment. . . . A major contribution to Israeli social history. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice
“[A] work of a cultural, social, and to an extent, political history, which shines methodologically in its critical discourse analysis. . . As much as it is a book about the rise of the individual in 1950s Israel, it is also a revisionist study of an era commonly remembered (and arguably mystified) by Israelis as extremely collectivist in ethos.”—H-JUDAIC
“Rozin’s book is a very useful source of well-collected information on the culture of austerity in early Israel, drawn from the period’s newspapers, speeches, testimonies, and government records.”—Israel Studies Review
“The numerous primary sources that this book includes, showing the stereotyping and racism employed by the elite in Israel against the immigrants, makes this book a major asset and important work for understanding Israeli society.”—Middle East Media and Book Reviews Online
“An important contribution . . . to the study of Israeli society and culture during the state’s first decade. . . . [Rozin] presents a profound and comprehensive historical analysis of the struggle for rights, and skillfully connects this theme to the creation of Israeli civil and national identity.”
—Studies in Contemporary Jewry
“A pioneering work of revisionist history that records and explains the change of consciousness of Israeli society in the 1950s, as voluntarist collectivism gave way to an individualist ethos. Rozin draws aside the veil of state-sponsored rhetoric that concealed the deep divisions within Israeli society, exposes the unspoken realities of quotidian existence, and demonstrates how new immigrants and housewives were agents of change. Rozin traces the process by which liberal values acted as a ‘thought virus’ that infected and eventually undermined Zionist ideology. This is a major contribution to Israeli social history, to ‘the history of emotions’ and to the necessary rewriting of the received narrative of Israel's founding years.”—Bernard Wasserstein, University of Chicago
“An engaging and innovative study that offers new insights into the transformed social landscape and changing values of post-independence Israel. Exploring social practices and cultural attitudes, Rozin highlights the seeds of a social rift that would come to haunt Israeli society in the following decades . . . a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the intricacy of a critical period in Israeli history.”—Yael Zerubavel, Rutgers University
“In addition to its importance for Israeli and Zionist history, this volume is also a solid contribution to the literature on democracies in transition, nation and state building, and the challenges of immigration and multiculturalism.”—Pnina Lahav, Boston University
ORIT ROZIN is a lecturer in the department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University.