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By David Ohana (auth.)

Part of Palgrave's Modernism and ... sequence, Modernism and Zionism explores the connection among modernism and the Jewish nationwide ideology, the Zionist move, which was once operative in all parts of Jewish paintings and culture.

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Modernism and Zionism

A part of Palgrave's Modernism and . .. sequence, Modernism and Zionism explores the connection among modernism and the Jewish nationwide ideology, the Zionist move, which used to be operative in all components of Jewish paintings and tradition.

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For it came over me like a gigantic chaos illuminated by flashes of uncreated light, a Dyonisian dithyramblike laughter, a childlike euphoria, a sublime joy, a first ‘yes’. An intimation of dancing overcame me which pulled me upward into the deep black abysses (Buber, 1898–1900). This was an ecstatic experience that according to him, transferred him from the world of philosophical systems to a state of poetic freedom. It was a liberation from the stranglehold of theory that stifles free self-expression.

In addition to the artists of Bezalel and the Canaanite artists who favoured the East, a prominent representative of the Eastern orientation was the sculptor Avraham Melnikoff, who created the heroic monument at Tel Hai. The sculptor depicted a lion as the heroic–aesthetic symbol commemorating eight watchmen killed in the Galilee. Melnikoff was the first of the Jewish–Hebrew sculptors to think of turning to the East as a means of modern expression. In 1954, he wrote in a letter to a friend: We must not forget the East.

This decade witnessed the switch from the stylish and elitist ‘white architecture’ for the urban bourgeoisie to massive building for the flood of immigrants and nationwide planning and rapid modernisation that were also characteristic of post-war Europe. The combination of the power of execution of the political establishment and the audacity of the avant-garde ideas gave the architects around Sharon an unprecedented drive. All the internal contradictions that arose in the realisation of Zionism – the demographic struggle between the Jews and Arabs, the interests of the individual immigrant versus the national vision, the traditions and customs of the Jewish Diaspora communities versus the revolutionary Zionist demands, the needs of modern life versus preservation of the past – were reflected in architectural modernism.

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