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Israel’s National Identity: The Changing Ethos of Conflict, Neta Oren

Reviewed by Alberto Spektorowski

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The debate on Israel’s ethos of conflict in shaping its national identity is never-ending. To be precise, there is nothing odd in the fact that national identities evolve out of an ethos of conflict in most countries. However, the persistence and intensity of the ethos of conflict in determining Israel’s political life makes Israel an interesting case study—thus Neta Oren’s discussion in this book is of theoretical relevance.

An ethos can be defined as a configuration of central societal beliefs, not limited to a collective memory, but also a factor in determining political actions in the future. If a social belief is recognized as important for all during a long period of time, if political actions are justified through it, and if new generations are educated though them, then we may be talking about an ethos.

Neta Oren makes use of D. Bar Tal’s definition of the central elements composing Israel’s ethos, namely, security beliefs, victimization, and siege beliefs; the perception of Israel as a villa in a jungle; the necessity of maintaining national unity; and the idea that at the end of the day, Israel needs peace. However, what Oren adds in this interesting and well-written book is an analysis of how the central ethos of conflict in Israel has changed and evolved during different periods of time. This analysis o

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