Israel in the Making

Israel in the Making: Stickers, Stitches, and Other Critical Practices

Hagar Salamon
Copyright Date: 2017
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Israel in the Making
    Book Description:

    The brilliant kaleidoscope of everyday creativity in Israel is thrown into relief in this study, which teases out the abiding national tensions and contradictions at work in the expressive acts of ordinary people. Hagar Salamon examines creativity in Israel's public sphere through the lively discourse of bumper stickers, which have become a potent medium for identity and commentary on national and religious issues. Exploring the more private expressive sphere of women's embroidery, she profiles a group of Jerusalem women who meet regularly and create "folk embroidery." Salamon also considers the significance of folk expressions at the intersections of the public and private that rework change and embrace transformation. Far ranging and insightful, Israel in the Making captures the complex creative essence of a nation state and vividly demonstrates how its citizens go about defining themselves, others, and their country every day.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-02328-5
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.1
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.2
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.3
  4. Introduction: Studying Israeli Folklore
    (pp. 1-12)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.4

    This book was born out of research undertaken over a period beginning in 1993–94 and continuing up to the present day. Taken together, it offers the reader views of life in Israel, while illustrating the critical and reflective insights that folk creativity treasures. The subtitle, “Stitches, Stickers, and Other Critical Practices,” stressing creativity and critique, alludes to the totality of ethnographic encounters, engaging both social dialogue and private experiences (Markowitz 2013). Through conversations with producers and consumers of folkloric materials, the evolving discourses of a changing society take on new life. I invite you to witness this alchemy with...

  5. Part I. Folklore in the Israeli Public Arena
    • Part I Invitation: Bumper Stickers as a Podium in Motion
      (pp. 15-18)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.5

      My daily journey to campus on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem is more than a routine act of commuting. I usually follow a route that crosses the borderline, officially obliterated but socially still very much in existence, between West Jerusalem (which was under Israeli sovereignty prior to the 1967 war) and East Jerusalem (under Jordanian rule until that war). Sometimes the way is blocked as a result of political tension, demonstrations, or visits by foreign dignitaries. Then I take an alternate route, crossing a second dividing line within Jerusalem, between the neighborhoods inhabited by secular or moderately religious Jews, and those...

    • 1 Folklore as an Emotional Battleground: Political Bumper Stickers
      (pp. 19-54)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.6

      In the postmodern world, of which Israel and Jerusalem form an idiosyncratic but integral part, bumper stickers are an increasingly common expressive medium.¹ The Israeli variant of this iconic phenomenon illustrates the rapid growth of the medium since the early 1990s, reaching new peaks of folk innovation and creativity in the context of the peace process, and above all following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitsẖak Rabin in November 1995. These stickers are predominantly political in nature.² This lively and animated folkloristic political discourse offers an alternative perspective on major political developments, which occur at a dizzying pace in Israel,...

    • 2 “We the People”: Ha‘Am in the Turbulent Sphere of Israeli Roads
      (pp. 55-86)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.7

      This chapter is concerned with expressions of identity and boundaries of the wordHa‘Am(the people, or the nation), which is articulated in the popular discourse of bumper stickers on Israeli roads.

      Chapter 1 explicated the unique experience of a popular hermeneutics produced within the discourse of bumper stickers. This was found to represent a folkloric voice, which addresses itself to the “big” political events taking place in Israel and to the hegemonic discourse surrounding them. The Israeli public was found to be involved, either as producer or consumer, at various levels of the discourse. This involvement included diverse and...

    • 3 Kinetic Cosmologies: Sovereign and Sovereignty
      (pp. 87-111)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.8

      As we have seen in chapters 1 and 2, Israeli stickers create an unstable medium that expresses deeply rooted shared assumptions about the world, while enabling individuals to proclaim their po liti cal and religious identities. These often appear in terms that challenge onlookers to formulate their own views and counterarguments. At the end of chapter 2, we noted the appearance of religious stickers that linked political discussions to scriptural or divine authority.¹ Yet several years after the assassination of Yitsẖak Rabin, it seemed as if the curtain had descended on sticker discourse. Even if some new stickers occasionally emerged...

    • Part I Recapitulation: Public Interaction on the Move
      (pp. 112-116)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.9

      Israel’s roads and highways have turned into a public, open, and permanent sphere for discursive political and religious dialogues that give rise to strong feelings of identification and conflict. The private car has become a site in which the complex communication of schism and unity play out. Far more than an idiosyncratic advertisement of personal tastes and opinions, sticker slogans are formulated in a condensed poetics that refers to a common world of images and associations. Complex social, political, and religious realities are recapped as pithy slogans and, more recently, citations from sacred texts; the attribution of meanings to these...

  6. Part II. Expressions in the Intimate Arena of Embroidery
    • Part II Invitation: Embroidering Identity—Needlework and Needle-Talk
      (pp. 119-121)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.10

      We now shift to folk expressions of a very different nature. If the first part dealt with the public sphere, the second part of the book invites the reader into the private sphere. It focuses on an eminently interior feminine expression: women’s embroidery. The venue shifts from the cacophony of the road to the intimacy of living rooms and house holds, where women meet to embroider, study, and place the fruits of their labors on their walls or in their closets. Embroidery is most closely identified with intensive, solitary, domestic women’s work. The embroiderer was understood as focusing her glance...

    • 4 Embroidering Their Selves: Femininity and Embroidery in a Jerusalem Women’s Group
      (pp. 122-144)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.11

      Once a week, for more than fifteen years, a group of ten to twelve women has been meeting in one of Jerusalem’s relatively well-to-do neighborhoods to embroider together. Each woman works on her own piece of embroidery, but the group as a whole operates as a single working unit, engaging in “folk embroidery,” “ethnic embroidery,” or “world embroidery” (rikmat ‛ammim), as the partners to this enterprise call it.¹ “Folk embroidery” refers to the samples of traditional embroidery by ethnic groups from all over the world. Among them are pieces from neighboring cultural and geographical regions, ranging from the local Palestinians,...

    • 5 Life Story as a Foundation Legend of Local Identity
      (pp. 145-165)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.12

      A participant in a Jerusalem women’s embroidery group emotionally described her meeting with Zohar Wilbush, whom the embroiderers consider the “founding mother” of a female dynasty organized into embroidery groups in various places in Israel (see chapter 4). The centrality of the figure of Zohar Wilbush, the conundrum of her age, and the mythological characteristics relating to her past stood out starkly in the embroidery group’s discourse. The women in the embroidery group drew a connection between her and the heroic past and struggle for in dependence in the pre-state period. This stemmed from her family tree bearing famous figures...

    • 6 The Intimate Career of a Transitional Object: Needlepoint Embroideries
      (pp. 166-191)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.13

      This chapter grew out of an intimate setting of women in discomfort. The decoding of this discomfort engendered interpretations in dialogue with thinkers like Julia Kristeva, Michelle Foucault, Violette Morin, and Donald Winnicott.

      Several years ago I opened my house to an exhibition of textiles, including wall hangings in which the designer integrated old and sometimes worn-out pieces of ethnic weaving and embroidery into a con temporary oeuvre. Some of the wall hangings integrated needlework embroidery, known in Israel asgobelins, a designation of a once-popular female practice.Gobelinsare industrial prints of well-known paintings, which were precision embroidered stitch...

    • Part II Recapitulation: Needle Texts—Knowledge, Passion, and Empowerment
      (pp. 192-194)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.14

      Chapters 4, 5, and 6 manifest how embroidery is indeed stitched—or perhaps saturated—with a wealth of understandings and depth of feeling. A completed project becomes progeny, a sign of motherly toil, a marker of cultural capital, or a backwater of antiquated tradition. Embroidering is a foundational act of a community, a quasi-sacred study of a text, a link to a communal past, or a way of exploring the world. While their makers may consider them as evidence of their accomplishments and precious heirlooms to be passed on, their children often recoil from markers of a femininity and domesticity...

  7. Part III. Between the Public and the Private—the Mirrors of Ambivalence
    • Part III Invitation: Emplacing Israeliness—Shifting Performances of Belonging and Otherness
      (pp. 197-199)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.15

      We started our presentation of Israeli folk culture with a performance occurring on a platform accessible to all: bumper stickers on Israel’s roads. Although the participants each travel in their own trajectories, the voices of the stickers broadcast in a common language and created a single chorus, now joyous, now discordant. We then turned to the practices of needlework, exploring positions and commentaries rooted in intimate experiences and discourses projected in both domestic work and in expanding contexts.

      In this part of the book, we introduce the notion of an “intermediate sphere” and turn our gaze to varied but vital...

    • 7 The Floor Falling Away: Dislocated Space and Body in the Humor of Ethiopian Immigrants in Israel
      (pp. 200-220)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.16

      This chapter focuses on humorous stories that circulate among Ethiopian immigrants now living in Israel.¹ Highly popular in the community, these reflexive narratives address the unfathomable shock experienced by Ethiopian Jews when relocating. The stories articulate their traumatic encounter with life in Israel by targeting specific characters as the butt of Ethiopian humor—the elders, newcomers, or, as in many personal anecdotes and memorates, the newly arrived self. This corpus of humorous narrative is thus characterized by the embarrassing clash of the quintessential “traditional” Ethiopian, with a new landscape, time-scape, and body-scape.

      Through these humorous stories—with their repetitive evocation...

    • 8 What Goes Around, Comes Around: Rotating Credit Associations among Ethiopian Women in Israel
      (pp. 221-240)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.17

      One of the characteristic sites for the performance of humoristic tales among Ethiopian women is their periodic gatherings in rotating credit associations. This chapter, which depicts the organization and the symbolic dimensions of these meetings, shifts our attention from the lack of orientation, vicissitudes of immigration, and powerlessness in the face of radical life changes to instances of ritual behavior that point to the establishment of agency and security among Ethiopian immigrants.

      Once a month, on or around the twentieth, a group of Ethiopian Israeli women meet in their neighborhood in Israel. They are members of aniqqub, spending an...

    • 9 “David Levi” Jokes: The Ambivalence over the Levantinization of Israel
      (pp. 241-262)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.18

      Chapters 7 and 8 emphasized how recent immigrants have creatively expressed uncertainty and vulnerability in the face of their new lives in Israel. The present chapter, following an insight formulated at an earlier period of immigration, shifts perspective and presents an instance of “reciprocal change” (Weingrod 1962), where vulnerability and uncertainty are articulated in the folklore of “established” Israelis. We have identified such processing in what Israelis have come to call “David Levi jokes.” The following leads us into this humorous cycle. “During one of (then Israeli foreign minister) David Levi’s visits to the White House, the guards are surprised...

    • Part III Recapitulation: Between Longing and Belonging—the Folkloric Expressions of Ambivalence
      (pp. 263-265)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.19

      We have seen the vital cultural charge borne by everyday and seemingly insignificant metaphors and objects, such as elevators, lottery monies, and hairdos. In the context of the jokes, stories, and credit institutions discussed, these items mediate ambivalences between tradition and Israeli modernity, East and West, the individual and the wider society. They become vehicles of negotiation, reflexivity, and empowerment. The discussions in the preceding part reiterate the strong ties between folkloric genres, daily life, and the alleged common ground of Israeliness.

      In each of the cases discussed, the expressive forms tell us much about the in-group and the Israeli...

  8. Closing Words: The Birth of Public Enunciation from the Spirit of Everyday Life
    (pp. 266-268)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.20

    Completing the present book marks the end of a research chapter, which obviously is not concluded nor ever will be. This kind of research journey cannot have a uniform sequence or a prescheduled destination. What guided its itinerary was a deep and powerful intuition regarding the significance of the creativity bubbling in front of my very eyes. With time I discovered that this folk energy is a perpetual spring of inspiration and strength in the lives of many Israelis, who attempt to cope and make sense of life in a country full of complexities and paradoxes, an immigrant country in...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-284)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.21
  10. Index
    (pp. 285-292)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.22
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-294)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt2005tps.23