Eros and Tragedy: Jewish Male Fantasies and the Masculine Revolution of Zionism

Eros and Tragedy: Jewish Male Fantasies and the Masculine Revolution of Zionism


Ofer Nordheimer Nur

Series: Israel: Society, Culture, and History
ISBN: 9781936235858 (hardcover)
Pages: 224 pp.
Publication Date: March 2014

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Between 1920 and 1922, hundreds of members of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement left the defunct Habsburg Monarchy and sailed to Palestine, where a small group of members of the movement established Upper Bitania, one of the communities that laid the foundation for Israel’s kibbutz movement. Their social experiment lasted only eight months, but it gave birth to a powerful myth among Jewish youth which combined a story about a heroic Zionist deed, based on the trope of tragedy, with a model for a new type of community that promised no less than a total, absolute elimination of all physical and mental barriers between isolated individuals and their fusion into one entity. This entity was named “the erotic community.” In its quest for human regeneration, Upper Bitania embarked on a journey into a highly specific variant of modern life that, at its core, tried to combine the most profound Nietzscheanism with the insights of Sigmund Freud, all in an anti-capitalist quest for an organic community of “new men.” The quest for a “new man” was to compensate for a crisis of manliness and betrays an obsession with masculinity and male bonding, and their effects on the ideal man and woman.

Ofer Nordheimer Nur is a Teaching Fellow at the Department of General and Interdisciplinary Studies and the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at Tel Aviv University. He received his PhD in history at UCLA in 2004, won a postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre d'Etudes Juives at the EHESS in Paris and a second post-doctoral fellowship at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

This riveting and thought provoking study refreshingly challenges the conventional wisdom on the origins of Zionism. Meticulously researched and forcefully argued, Israel’s self-image as a country of the ‘new man’ reflected in the image of Paul Newman, emerges to be deeply rooted in the inner need of Zionist pioneers to reinvent themselves as ‘real men.’ Many Israelis still do that.
— Tom Segev, author of 1949: The First Israelis

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter I. Eastern Galicia and Vienna: Hashomer, Tse’irei Tsiyon, and the Origins of Hashomer Hatzair
Chapter II. The “Sexual Problem” in the Youth Movement: From Denial, to Love, to Eros
Chapter III. Tragic Man: An Aesthetic of Anarchism
Chapter IV. Eros and Tragedy: Dionysos in the Galilee
Chapter V. Martin Buber and Gustav Landauer: Gemeinschaft and Subterranean Judaism
Chapter VI. Dancing, Working, and Public Confessions: The Eda Takes Its Form
Chapter VII. The Eda of Hashomer Hatzair as Männerbund: A Jewish Male Fantasy Comes Full Central European Circle 150
Chapter VIII. The Tragic Hero Metamorphoses into a Sensitive Man