Between East and West: controversies over the modernization of Hebrew culture in the works of Shaul Abdallah Yosef and Ariel Bension

Yuval Evri, Almog Behar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A tendency exists in Jewish historiography to associate Jewish modernization and Hebrew renaissance with Europe and Western culture. Europeanization and Westernization are emphasized as the focal points for Jewish cultural transformation. We take a different approach by shedding light on a number of centres where modern Jewish and Hebrew culture was created. This approach allows us to expand the perspective beyond the Eurocentric prism and instead emphasize movement–of people, knowledge, goods and capital–in real or symbolic spaces as key drivers for processes of transformation. We accordingly examine different pathways to the renewal of Hebrew and Jewish cultures at the turn of the twentieth century. We re-asses the research and literary work of Shaul Abdallah Yosef (1849–1906) and Ariel Bension (1880–1933) and their contesting interpretations of the modernization of Hebrew culture. Driven by both real and symbolic return to the “East,” the two formulated different political and cultural models for the modernization of Jewish and Hebrew culture. By doing so they challenged mainstream trends concerning modern European Jewish discourse that prevailed during the nineteenth century in the work of the Wissenschaft des Judentums (science of Judaism) movement, in Europe’s Hebrew Haskalah circles and later on in Palestine/Land of Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-311
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 May 2017
Externally publishedYes

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