Tuesday, 18 Jun 2024
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From the Editors

As we assume our responsibility as the new editors of the Journal of Israeli History, this seems a good moment to pause and take stock of the accomplishments and shortcomings of the Journal in the past, and the aspirations for the future. It is also the right time to pay tribute to the former editors of the Journal who were responsible for its success: the late Prof. Gedalia Yogev, Mrs. Haya Amir and especially Prof. Ron Zweig, who edited the Journal for many years, giving it its distinctive character and direction.We would also like to thank the former members of the Editorial Board for their advice and cooperation.

When the Journal appeared in 1980 (first under the title Zionism and a year later under the title Studies in Zionism), the study of Zionist history was rather young: it was about a decade since the first scholarly works on this topic had been published. The history of the new Jewish community in Palestine during Turkish rule, then under the British mandate, was just beginning to be considered appropriate for academic research. The idea of publishing a journal in English stemmed from the need to bridge the language barrier that separated the scholarly community in this area in Israel from their counterparts abroad. The Journal was conceived as a clearing-house, providing space for an ongoing dialogue between the emerging Israeli and non-Israeli scholarship in this area.

The area of study covered by the Journal included the history of Zionism and the Jewish community in Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel. Given the fact that the State Archives at that time were just beginning to release documents pertaining to the first decade of statehood, it is not surprising that the period covered by the Journal was so limited. The Journal published mostly works in history. Only seldom did articles dealing with issues of Jewish thought and culture make their appearance in the Journal. This was a limitation that reflected the predominantly Israeli character of the Journal. This notwithstanding, the Journal served as platform to scholars from all over the world, presenting diverse viewpoints and schools of thought. For many years, it was the only journal in English dedicated to these subjects. The proliferation of such journals in recent years is evidence of the growing interest and the growing body of research that is done in this area.

The last decade saw the blurring of the boundaries between history, literature, political science, sociology, and cultural studies. Anthropologists, students of legal history and gender studies, literary critics, geographers, all joined hands to present a complex and changing picture not only of the political upheavals Israel has experienced but also of the vast changes in its cultural climate and cultural scene. Social history has become an integral part of the broader canvas that is being drawn. The changes in self-perception, in the collective identity, in memory; the growing interest in the geographic and social periphery as against the predominant interest in the political and economic center, questions of methodology, source material, representation, and a constant dialogue between the various disciplines, are today of the essence in any attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the intricate nature of contemporary history. These dramatic changes are reflected in contemporary research done in Israel. and abroad.

The scholarly focus of interest has moved from the study of Zionism and the pre-state period to the multifaceted study of the State of Israel, its internal chasms and the conflicts with the Palestinians, and the complex mutual relations between Jews in Israel and in the diaspora. A new crop of scholars outside Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish, show growing interest in this expanding field of study. These changes in the area of study engendered the need to update the Journal's foci of interest and to open it to the new trends and directions. The Journal has thus broadened its scope to include every topic that has to do with the State of Israel, reflected in the new subtitle: Politics, Society, Culture. The ongoing dialogue between scholars from Israel and from other countries, espousing different world views and beliefs, new methodologies and diverse fields of interest, is what we hope will make this Journal a vibrant, lively periodical, which will host ongoing discussions in the Jewish world and beyond: on identity and memory, State and diaspora, tradition and change, state-building, ethnicity and nationalism, women and gender, Middle Eastern politics, culture and society.

The Journal will appear twice yearly. Forthcoming special issues, with guest editors, will be devoted to subjects such as revisionism in Zionist historiography, women and gender in Zionism and Israel, and the question of Jerusalem in Jewish-Arab relations. In between, "eclectic" issues will be published. We hope that this formula will enable us to present the results of new works in the relevant fields as well as focusing on topics which are in the eye of public and scholarly debate. Having editors on both sides of the ocean is evidence of our intention to make this Journal a meeting ground of scholars from all schools and denominations, and to be sensitive and open to trends, discussions and debates relating to our ever-broadening field of study.

Professor Derek J. Penslar, University of Toronto

Professor Anita Shapira, Tel Aviv University