War commemoration and the formation of Israeli national identity

Avner Ben-Amos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


One of the main components of national identity is the memory of courageous deeds and heroic sacrifices of the soldiers of a nation. The cult of fallen soldiers thus often becomes a key activity through which citizens can identify with the abstract entity of the fatherland. This is especially true in the case of Israel, whose collective identity can be said to have been formed through the figure of the dead Hebrew soldier. This figure came into being after the 1948 War of Independence, in which about one percent of the Jewish population died on the battlefield, and the numerous victims of subsequent wars ensured the figure's central role in the national imagination. War commemoration had diverse aspects: commemoration in time, through Remembrance Day and various anniversaries; spatial commemoration, through monuments and war cemeteries; printed commemoration, through special brochures and memorial books; and utilitarian commemoration, such as the dedication of fellowships and of public gardens in honor of the fallen soldiers. Yet, in spite of the diversity of the means of commemoration, and of the social groups that were involved in it, the death of the soldiers acquired the same national meaning - as a sad, but necessary sacrifice for the resurrection of the Jewish people. It also presented a rather narrow vision of Israeli national identity, from which Arabs, "oriental" Jews, and women were absent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-195
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Political and Military Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2003


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