Bar-Yosef, Eitan. “New Cities for New Jews: Haifa as Futuristic Urban Fantasy in Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland and Violet Guttenberg’s A Modern Exodus.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 12.2 (2013): 162-83.
This essay explores the representation of the modern Jewish city in Palestine, envisioned in two fin-de-siècle futuristic tales: Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland (1902) and Violet Guttenberg’s A Modern Exodus (1904). Focusing on the northern port city of Haifa, transformed by the Jews from a poor Oriental town into a thriving Europeanized metropolis, both novelists employ the city’s spatial, cultural, and human features to present radically different views concerning the national Jewish rejuvenation: for Herzl, it becomes a utopian triumph; for Guttenberg, a deplorable failure. Notwithstanding their different assessments of the Zionist vision, both authors share certain antisemitic assumptions about the nature of “the Jew” (greedy, intolerant, vulgar), which are inscribed into the urban space. Herzl’s ideal Haifa is designed precisely to reform the diaspora Jew by introducing such modern urban measures that would render these detestable Jewish traits obsolete. Guttenberg’s disordered city, in comparison, reflects an inability to alter the Jewish character: no wonder that London, not Haifa, becomes the final destination of her “Modern Exodus.”
The display of unity in protest however was semiotically and politically
unstable, inviting moments of radical intervention (like the
Guillotine) only to disavow them as moments of transgression,
inappropriate for a “responsible” leadership. This fluctuating process,
which we term situational radicalism, was the outcome of an indecisive
play of boundaries, of presence and absence, inside and outside. The
double meaning of the concept of situational radicalism reflects the modus operandi
of the summer protests first as a performance of radicalism divorced
from a revolutionary constitution; and secondly, as a protest held
hostage by the ‘situation’ (ha-matzav) – a phenomenological
emic term Israelis use to collapse the temporality and spatiality of the
politics of permanent conflict onto the lived present.