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«Thesis submitted for the degree of “Doctor of Philosophy” by Minna F. Wolf Submitted to the Senate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem July ...»

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NEGOTIATING THE BOUNDARY:

EXPLORING IDENTITIES DURING ISRAEL

EXPERIENCE MIFGASHIM

INTERCULTURAL ENCOUNTERS ON

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS IN ISRAEL

Thesis submitted for the degree of

“Doctor of Philosophy”

by

Minna F. Wolf

Submitted to the Senate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem July 2007

NEGOTIATING THE BOUNDARY:

EXPLORING IDENTITIES DURING ISRAEL

EXPERIENCE MIFGASHIM

INTERCULTURAL ENCOUNTERS ON

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS IN ISRAEL

Thesis submitted for the degree of “Doctor of Philosophy” by Minna F. Wolf Submitted to the Senate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem July 2007

This work was carried out under the supervision of:

Prof Steven M. Cohen Prof Barry Chazan

CONTENTS

Chapter 1: Introduction

I. Does the Israel experience mifgash create a sense of Jewish belonging and peoplehood among Israeli and Diaspora Jews, tying participants to one another and to Israel?

A. The Concept of Diaspora B. The Concept of Jewish Peoplehood

1. Biblical Roots

2. An Historical Framing of Peoplehood a. The Enlightenment and Emancipation b. Jewish Nationalism and Zionism c. Mordechai Kaplan and the American Jewish Context d. The Influence of Peoplehood on Israel - Diaspora Relations

3. Contemporary Notions of Jewish Peoplehood C. Jewish Peoplehood Education II. As a result of the mifgash experience, do participants have a better understanding of the other group? What approaches to intergroup interaction are used to promote understanding about self and other and create a sense of Jewish belonging?

A. Intergroup Relations and the Contact Hypothesis B. Social Identity Theory and Social Categorization C. Desired Outcomes and Approaches to Structured Contact III. Are there particular aspects of youth identity or culture that facilitate understanding about the other and build Jewish belonging?

A. Conceptualizing Youth B. Contemporary Youth Culture and Music as Microcosm IV. Does age of participants make a difference?

V. Contributions to the Literature: Encounters between Non-Conflicting Groups VI. Structure of the Dissertation Chapter 2: Research Methods

I. Setting and Sample A. Setting B. Sample II. Selecting a Setting and Sample III. Ethnographic Inquiry IV. Grounded Theory V. Data Collection A. Stages and Professional Roles B. Personal Roles

1. Friend

2. The American Living in Israel C. The Security Situation in Israel VI. Validity and Methodological Limitations Chapter 3: How American Jews Learn about Israelis

Introduction I. The Army in Israeli Society II. Encountering the Army during the Israel Experience III. Extreme Experiences with the Israeli Army: Bereaved Parents Seminar, Gadna, Har Herzl A. Bereaved Parents Seminar B. Gadna: Shooting a Gun C. Har Herzl Military Cemetery IV. The Extreme Experience - General Interpretations A. Social Drama Shifts Intergroup Boundaries B. A Significant Window for Making Sense of Israelis C. Israelis as Educational Tools D. Israelis Think about their Identity vis-à-vis the Outgroup

1. Rejection by High School Israelis

2. Acceptance by College-Age Israelis V. Summary of Findings VI. Implications for Research Questions Chapter 4: How Israelis Learn about American Jews

Introduction I. Exposures to American Society and Culture II. Perceptions of Americans and American Jews A. Wealthy and Powerful B. Idealistic about Israel C. Liberal versus Right-Wing D. Naïve and Individualistic III. Conversations that Reveal Perceptions of American Jews: Zionism, Intermarriage, the Peace Process, Discursive Comments A. Who is a Zionist?

B. Intermarriage and American Jews C. Land for Peace D. Discursive Comments IV. Group Discussions and Discursive Talk – General Interpretations A. Varying Reactions to Revealed Perceptions B. Thin Data as Finding V. Summary of Findings VI. Implications for Research Questions Chapter 5: Israelis and Americans Learn about Belonging to the Jewish People..

Introduction I. Victimization and Vulnerability in Jewish Consciousness II. Rituals that Build Peoplehood III. Constructing Peoplehood: The Holocaust, Group Discussions, Debriefing Experiences, Hebrew Rituals A. Visiting Holocaust Sites

1. Eastern Europe

2. Yad Vashem B. Substantive Discussions

1. Conversations with Palestinians

2. The Israeli National Anthem C. Debriefing Meaningful Experiences

1. The Western Wall

2. Home Hospitality

3. The Intercultural Travel Experience D. Using Hebrew to Create Ritual IV. Building Jewish Peoplehood - General Interpretations A. Vilification of Non-Jews Generates Superordinate Jewish Group Identity B. Social Rituals Create Positive Experiences Linking Jews C. Intense Emotional Highs Build Peoplehood D. Discussion Leads to Emotional - Cognitive Links in Constructing Peoplehood V. Summary of Findings VI. Implications for Research Questions Chapter 6: Discussion and Conclusion





I. Summary of Findings II. Implications for the Literature A. Diaspora B. Jewish Peoplehood and Belonging C. The Contact Hypothesis D. Desired Outcomes E. A Range of Approaches Available during Extended Encounters F. Youth and Youth Culture G. The Age Factor III. Some Educational Considerations Based on the Findings A. Exploring Jewish Belonging and Building Jewish Peoplehood

1. Building Positive and Negative Belonging

2. Further Emotional - Cognitive Links during Extreme Encounters B. Gaining a Better Understanding of the Other: Exploring American Jewish Identity in a Complex Manner C. Youth Culture in the Mifgash IV. Limitations and Remaining Questions Bibliography

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1: Setting and Sample

Table 2: Professional Roles

Dedication To my parents, Jennylynn and David Wolf, for their unwavering belief in me and their constant support of the choices I make, no matter how far it takes me from them.

–  –  –

This dissertation is a long time in the making. There are many people to thank and acknowledge for their support throughout the process.

I want first to thank my academic advisors, Professors Steven M. Cohen and Barry Chazan. Throughout the doctorate, they each provided help, advice, and encouragement in their own unique ways and with immense patience. Through them, I learned to appreciate both the process and the need to complete it. I especially want to thank Steven for his commitment to pushing me to deepen the analysis, and for commenting on several “final” drafts in order to ensure that I submitted the best work possible.

Throughout the process, several friends and colleagues took the time to discuss aspects of the data analysis and read through sections of the dissertation.

These individuals offered constructive suggestions that were both enlightening and fruitful. Namely, I am indebted to Dr. Sharon Kangisser-Cohen, Clare Goldwater, Dasee Berkowitz, and Brittany Browning for reading sections of the work in progress, and offering both editing and content-related comments. I am also grateful to Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz and Dr. Jackie Feldman for sharing their knowledge on the subject matter.

Dr. Tanya Gottlieb deserves a special thank you for her patience and encouragement as she read through full drafts and offered crucial editing help in the final stages.

I want to acknowledge Tal Nitzan and Elisheva Hoffman who both worked as research assistants during the summer of 2004. Their data collection and analysis was extremely helpful in supplementing and supporting my earlier findings and theories, as were several rich discussions with each of them.

I am truly grateful to the many people who played a role in the data collection process over the years. Foremost, I wish to thank Anne Lanski, director of Shorashim, for her openness in allowing me to join many groups, both as researcher and as staff member. I also wish to thank the Shorashim staff, Ezra Korman and Da’at, and the Hillel staff who permitted me to participate in their groups. Perhaps most importantly, I am sincerely indebted to the participants from the various high school and Birthright Israel groups that I studied. Their openness, insights, and ability to share even their most private moments are the heart and soul of this dissertation. I owe a special thank you to the first group studied in the summer of 1999, for helping me build comfort and develop my role as ethnographer over the years.

A strong and supportive network is a necessity for completing a doctorate. In addition to those already mentioned, I would like to express my extensive gratitude to the Hoffman, Katz, Gibli, and Browning families, Rachel Ackerman, Dr. Eli Gottlieb, Kylie Eisman-Lifschitz, Leah Reuven, Udi Cohen, Jennifer Wilham, Dr. Henry Stott, and Iva Bosiljevac. These families and individuals looked out for my well-being with a brilliant mix of kindness, humor, encouragement, and support.

I also want to thank Hinda Hoffman and the staff of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education, along with Elka Tirnover from The Authority for Research Students, for their warmth and kindness, and for their help in maneuvering the bureaucracy of an academic institution.

Finally, I am grateful to the Mandel Institute for their generous doctoral fellowship that helped me concentrate on the doctorate in the preliminary years of the process.

Chapter 1: Introduction With the vast majority of world Jewry residing in Israel and the United States, Jewish leaders and policy makers maintain a concern about the relationship between Israel and American Jewry. Over the years, educational programs in Israel have been one means of addressing this concern. Lately, the widening gap between Israelis and American Jews has driven community leaders, philanthropists, and the Israeli government to join forces in launching more expansive and inclusive Israel experience programs, namely Birthright Israel (Taglit), a program designed to bring young adults (ages eighteen to twenty-six) on educational peer programs to Israel.

Mifgashim, intercultural encounters between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, are a key component of Birthright and other Israel experience programs, especially those designed for high school youth. The primary educational goal of the mifgash (the singular form of the Hebrew word for encounter), is to create a sense of Jewish peoplehood and belonging, and a commitment to the Jewish people, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the other national group.

This dissertation focuses on intercultural encounters during the Israel experience. Data analysis is based on ethnographic fieldwork with several groups of high school and Birthright Israel programs. The analysis concentrates on ways in which young American and Israeli Jews explore their own Jewish identity and the identity of the other national group while also creating a sense of Jewish belonging and peoplehood together. It also focuses on how participants create connections between each other and to Israel. The current work looks at boundary negotiations between national groups, and the different approaches or behavioral strategies that

–  –  –

understanding the self and other.

I. Does the Israel experience mifgash create a sense of Jewish belonging and peoplehood among Israeli and Diaspora Jews, tying participants to one another and to Israel?

A. The Concept of Diaspora Israel experience mifgashim participants comprise young Jews living in Israel, the symbolic Jewish homeland, and young Jews living in the Jewish Diaspora.

Consequently, this encounter can be framed in the wider context of homeland diaspora relations as well as in the more specific context of Israel - Diaspora relations.

The term diaspora is defined as a scattering or dispersion of language, culture, or people that were formerly concentrated in one place (Sahoo 2002). Alternatively, it is defined as a worldwide migration of a people who form transnational communities or global networks while maintaining economic, political, social, and emotional contact with their homeland and other scattered communities with the same origin (Harzig 1999; Gabaccia 1999; Sahoo 2002).

Transnational relations with the homeland include economic and professional ties, whereby the diaspora community provides support to the home country, family members, or other individuals residing in the home country. They also include social and cultural exchanges between homeland and diaspora communities (Sahoo 2002).

Such exchanges provide the diaspora with a means for maintaining identity and identification, and provide the homeland with a means for maintaining contact and understanding of the diaspora community. Social and cultural exchanges are

–  –  –

from the homeland, younger generations (especially those who have never lived in or visited the homeland) tend to experience a less profound personal tie, commitment, or sense of identity associated with the homeland (Bardach 2002).

The term “Diaspora,” when used in a Jewish context and capitalized, refers to “Jewish communities living outside either the present-day state of Israel or the ancient Biblical kingdom of Israel” (Sahoo 2002). The term Diaspora (in Hebrew, Tefutzah, translating as “scattered” or “dispersed,” or, Golah or Galut, meaning physical or psychological “exile”) is defined uniquely in this way because prior to the founding of the State of Israel, contact with the Jewish homeland was symbolic, in the form of longing for a return to Zion. Even since the state’s founding, the term is used “to characterize the experience of Jews throughout history in the context of exile, homelessness and dispersion from the historical homeland” (Ezrachi 2004: 12).

Notably, the original home country of Jewish immigrants or their ancestors (i.e., the “old country”), is not Israel, but countries where Jews resided and experienced trauma, victimization, and persecution (Ezrachi 2001).



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