A Small Place in Galilee: Religion and Social Conflict in an Israeli Village
Situated in a fertile valley overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Yavneel is one of the oldest farming communities in modern Israel, founded at the turn of the century by settlers from Eastern Europe. Dedicated to the early Zionist ideal of pioneering labor and reclamation of the land, the old settler families evolved into a unique new Jewish yeomanry with deep ties to agriculture and a strong sense of relatedness to place alien to their Diaspora past. Today, however, this rural village has become a microcosm of Israeli society at large, reflecting its social, religious, economic, ethnic, and ideological conflicts as well as the competing claims to its national history, memory, identity, and founding myths. The dynamic interaction of the diverse components of this complex society is brought into bold relief in this lively and illuminating book.
The decision of a group of Bratslav Hasidim to settle in Yavneel in 1986 is the focal point around which Zvi Sobel examines the role and practice of religion in the village, exploring in vivid detail the social, ethnic, and ideological tensions among its diverse inhabitants and communities - the established core of settler-farmers; "newcomers" such as the edot, Jewish immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East; and the Bratslav Hasidim - all of whom are viewed in contrast to the surrounding Arabs and urban Israelis. A Small Place in Galilee brings to light the conflict between the "popular" religion of place emerging in Yavneel, informal in observance but strongly linked to Jewish identity and spirituality, and the strict ultra-Orthodoxy and special history of Bratslav Hasidism. Ultra-Orthodox attempts to assert political and religious power in this center of Zionist pioneering values are shown to highlight not only the fears and longstanding resentments of various community groups but the competing worldviews of secular Zionism and religious traditionalism.
Giving us the voices, ideals, hopes, and fears of its farmers, workers, housewives, and "returnees to faith," this timely and engaging book takes us into the world of Yavneel and demonstrates how intimately religion is bound to Israeli identity, national legitimacy, and the collective need for shared memory and social continuity.
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