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Center for Jewish Studies Presents

Shaul Shenhav: "A Narrative Perspective on Israeli Social and Political Rifts"

5/2/17, 11:45 AM

About this event

In June 2015, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin gave the “Four Tribes” speech, which received much scholarly and public attention. Reviewing the transformations that Israeli society has undergone in recent decades, The Israeli president portrayed a new reality, in which there is no longer a clear and firm secular Zionist majority, but rather four "tribes": secular Jews, religious Jews (national religious Jews), Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews), and Arabs. This new reality, he claimed, calls for a 'new Israeli order'. President Rivlin's analysis of the dividing lines of Israeli society joins a long tradition of scholarly analyses of the social rifts, or cleavages, in Israel. One major contribution in this context is Horowitz and Lissak's (1989) seminal book, Trouble in Utopia: the Overburdened Polity of Israel. The book discusses five major cleavages that represent the polarization and tensions in Israeli society: national, ideological, ethnic, religious, and status and class. In my talk, I shall offer another dimension to this ongoing discussion. Built upon the idea of "narrative identity", I shall present findings of an in-progress study conducted with Professor Tamir Sheafer and Ms. Yael Rivka Kaplan from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, designed to capture the role national stories play within Israel's cleavage structure. Based on survey data we evaluate the national stories embraced by citizens and analyze the interrelations between these stories and groups aligned with main cleavages in Israeli society. This analysis shows that national stories can be seen as a "bridge" between some groups and a "wall" between others; and that this duality can be found both in terms of the people embrace the stories and their content.

Event Location
  • 135 Nicholson Hall, UMN East Bank
  • Minneapolis MN
  • USA