Dissertation: Levinson, The End of the Founding Zionist Dream

Levinson, Rose L. The End of the Founding Zionist Dream: Reflections in Contemporary Israeli Fiction. Cincinnati: Union Institute and University, 2009.



This dissertation explores dilemmas of contemporary Israeli culture through the work of four Israeli novelists: Yoram Kaniuk, Orley Castel-Bloom, Michal Govrin and Zeruya Shalev. The focus is on how these artists provide insight into vexing political, communal and individual situations in Israeli society. Using literature as cultural artifacts through which Israeli life is revealed, the research focuses on key aspects in which modern-day Israel is radically different from the state envisioned by its founding pioneers just over sixty years ago. The eight novels of the study–two by each author–are the basis for considering such issues as the role of religion and biblical text in contemporary Israeli life, particularly as they impact women; the nature of Israeli domestic life as it reflects larger issues of social unrest; the ongoing influence of the Holocaust in determining political and personal responses to perceived danger; and the use of satire as a means of examining dysfunction in Israeli institutions. The fictive worlds of the novels reveal a society deeply fragmented, one in which once familiar structures are breaking apart under the stresses and confusion of newly emerging challenges.

Autoethnography is included in the methodology. The inclusion of an autobiographical element draws attention to the impact Israeli issues have on a non-Israeli Jew for whom this country remains a strong embodiment of core aspects of Jewish identity. This Cultural Study of Jewish Israel links questions of Israeli Jewish identity to issues of Jewish identity in general. The autobiographical elements are used as a bridge between the novelists’ insights and the preoccupations of individuals seeking to grapple with perplexities around identity by studying Israeli cultural maladies through its storytellers.

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