Culture, Religionization and the Ex-Religious

By Tsvi Sadan |
Photo: Shira Edri Elitzur, “Wishes”

“Culture is the memory of a nation, its shared consciousness, historical continuity and the way it thinks and lives.” (Milan Kundera)

It is not military or economy, but culture first and foremost that defines the character of a nation. As such, the fuss over religionization that is now inundating the media strikes at the heart of Israeli identity. Even more than debates over faith and secularism, liberalism and conservatism, Judaism and democracy – religionization goes to the very cultural character of Israel.

The Zionist project–having focused on founding a state, army and economy– not only neglected the establishment of a new Israeli culture, it systematically erased the existing Jewish culture in an effort to shake off the legacy of Jewish victimhood. But eschewing the historical Jewish cultural legacy in favor of forging a “new Jew” in this Middle East melting-pot failed miserably, ushering in a serious cultural crisis the effects of which we are now living with.

At the heart of what it means to be Israeli lies a cultural void bounded by two...

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