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The Rise of the Individual in 1950s Israel: A Challenge to Collectivism

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272 pp. 6x9"

Paper, 978-1-61168-081-2
Hardcover, 978-1-58465-892-4
E-Book, 978-1-61168-082-9


Review in Journal of Middle East Studies v. 46.

Orit Rozin is interviewed by TLV1, an Internet news channel, March 11, 2014.

Two reviews in Israel Studies Review 28:2 (Winter 2013). By Ronald W. Zweig, New York University and Yaron Ezrahi, Hebrew University

CHOICE Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
"... A major contribution to Israeli social history." J Fischel, emeritus, Messiah College

H-Judaic review by Adi Gordon, University of Cincinnati
"... shines methodologically in its critical discourse analysis."

Rozin cited in Jerusalem Post online "Whose Israel Is It?" Jan 6, 2013

The Rise of the Individual in 1950's Israel: A Challenge to Collectivism

Orit RozinThe Rise of the Individual - Orit Rozin

A provocative history of Israeli society in the 1950s that demonstrates how a voluntarist collectivism gave way to an individualist ethos

In this sharply argued volume, Orit Rozin shows that the conventional account of Israeli society in the 1950s, which portrayed the Israeli public as committed to a collectivist ideology, is flawed. In fact, major sectors of Israeli society espoused individualism and rejected the state-imposed collectivist ideology. Rozin draws on archival, legal and media  sources to analyze black-market profiteers,  politicians and judges, middle-class homemakers, and immigrants living in transit camps and rural settlements. Part of a refreshing trend in recent Israeli historiography to study the voices, emotions, and ideas of ordinary people, Rozin’s book provides an important corrective to much extant scholarly literature on Israel’s early years.

“Orit Rozin’s book is a pioneering work of revisionist history that records and explains the change of consciousness of Israeli society in the 1950s, as voluntarist collectivism gave way to an individualist ethos. Alighting with a magpie eye on glittering items of evidence hitherto ignored by historians, Rozin shows the disparities between public discourse and private conduct. She draws aside the veil of state-sponsored rhetoric that concealed the deep divisions within Israeli society, exposes the unspoken realities of quotidian existence in the newborn state, and demonstrates how new immigrants and housewives were agents of change. Writing with originality, insight, and sympathetic understanding, Rozin traces the process by which liberal values acted as a ‘thought virus’ that infected and eventually undermined Zionist ideology. This is a major contribution to Israeli social history, to ‘the history of emotions’ and to the necessary rewriting of the received narrative of Israel's founding years.”—Bernard Wasserstein, University of Chicago

The Rise of the Individual in 1950s Israel is an engaging and innovative study that offers new insights into the transformed social landscape and changing values of post-independence Israel. Drawing on a diversity of archival, legal, and media sources, it examines the growing tensions between government economic policies and citizens’ behavior in the privacy of their homes and in the public sphere, challenging scholars of Israeli society to identify the beginning of the shift from collectivism to individualism earlier than is often assumed. Exploring social practices and cultural attitudes in such little-studied areas as parenting, hygiene, and nutrition, Rozin highlights the seeds of a social rift that would come to haunt Israeli society in the following decades. The Rise of the Individual in 1950s Israell is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the intricacy of a critical period in Israeli history.”—Yael Zerubavel, Rutgers University

“An eloquent and soaring panorama of Israel’s first years of statehood. Historian Orit Rozin displays both empathy and a critical eye as she masterfully dissects the various factors that transformed Israeli society from a collectivist (gemeinschaft) entity into one built upon individualism (gesselschaft). A must read for anyone interested in Israeli and Zionist history, this volume is also a solid contribution to the literature on democracies in transition, nation and state building and the challenges of immigration and multiculturalism.”—Pnina Lahav, Boston University

ORIT ROZIN is a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, Department of Jewish History.

This book was published by Brandeis University Press as part of the Schusterman Series in Israel Studies.