The article asks why the Israeli theatre’s ‘voicing hegemony’ practices endure despite a critical public debate that favors cultural pluralism. Ethnographies at two central repertory theatres elicit the meanings of the theatre’s ‘back-to-the past’ institutional habitus, as revealed in observations and in-depth interviews with actors, and disclose artistic dispositions that bolster veteran actors’ stature in the theatre and Israeli art generally. Analysis of the findings links professional capital with the twilight of an artist’s theatrical career. One conclusion connects the theatrical habitus with justification of Israel’s Zionist ideology. Theoretically, the article illuminates the historical component of the Bourdieuian concept of habitus. The duplication of this component in the back-to-the-past habitus inheres to mythification processes and makes the theatrical habitus relatively resilient to social changes.
This article reports results from a qualitative study of Israelis living in Germany, focusing on their traumatized national habitus. The study is based on 80 in-depth interviews and on replies of more than 100 respondents to an online questionnaire. The present article focuses on one specific aspect of the Israeli traumatized habitus: ‘the wounded eye and the scratched ear’. Specifically, it explores the ways by which the trauma of the Holocaust is inscribed in Israeli senses. It details how respondents’ eyes, ears and thoughts are activated by German mundane episodes, linking day-to-day experiences to the trauma of the Holocaust. Trains, suspect on-boarding Israelis, might end up in Auschwitz; snow brings up associations of the death marches; old people are perceived as Gestapo officers; and contemporary child-rearing practices ‘explain’ to Israelis the obedience and collaboration of ordinary Germans with the Third Reich. Using thick description from the interviews I expose the suspicious Israeli habitus – which always looks for ‘signs’ that might explain what happened in Germany 80 years ago.
The present paper extends recent studies of national character – suggesting that the Israeli case revolves around a set of deep cultural codes which constitute various empirical manifestations. Broadening on this re-emerging paradigm, the study provides a specific case study of a major trait of Israeli national character, namely existential anxiety and fear of annihilation. It does so while advancing the idea that cultural trauma sets a context for Israeli national character. The analysis shows that Israelis constantly reference persistent and endemic existential fears of annihilation. They do so while tying together four levels: the mythological predicament, historical evidence, contemporary threats and future risks.