“The Chain of Hebrew Soldiers”

Reconsidering “Religionization” within an IDF Bible Seminar

in Israel Studies Review
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Nehemia SternAriel University of Samaria, Israel nastern26@gmail.com

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Uzi Ben-ShalomAriel University, Israel uzibs@ariel.ac.il

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Udi LebelBar Ilan University, Israel ulebel@gmail.com

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Batia Ben-HadorAriel University, Israel batiabh@ariel.ac.il

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Abstract

This article presents an ethnographic analysis of the educational and religious tensions that emerged during a five-day biblical seminar run by the Israel Defense Forces’ Identity and Jewish Consciousness Unit. We argue that despite the official focus on professionalization as a pedagogical parameter, the seminar participants themselves reacted to biblical narratives in ways that indicate a distinct kind of personal and individualized discourse. By focusing on this disjuncture, we highlight the very real limitations larger (governmental or civilian) institutional entities face as they attempt to shape religious attitudes within the Israeli public arena. Examining how seminar participants interpret biblical narratives can enable scholars to portray a more nuanced account of how religion and “religionization” function within the Israel Defense Forces.

Contributor Notes

NEHEMIA STERN is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ariel University of Samaria. His primary research field focuses on the various aspects of everyday military life to include religion, social media, and heroism. His current writing projects focus on the experience of temporality within reserve military service, as well as the relationship between ‘gun culture’ and shifting understandings of the ‘warrior ethos’ within the IDF. E-mail: nastern26@gmail.com

UZI BEN-SHALOM received his Ph.D. From The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Uzi is a military sociologist and psychologist and an active reservist in the Israel Defense Forces. Uzi is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Ariel University. His areas of interest and research are the military profession and civil-military relations in Israel. He is the chair of the Association of Civil-Military Studies in Israel http://www.civil-military-studies.org.il E-mail: uzibs@ariel.ac.il

UDI LEBEL is Associate Professor, the School of Communication; Director of the Center of International Communication (CIC); Senior Research Fellow, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), Bar Ilan University, Israel. His research interests are Discourse and Policy Communities; Communities of Bereavement, Trauma and Victimization; Military and Security Communities; Disenfranchised Grief. His recently published books are Politics of Memory (Routledge, 2013); Yom Kippur War and the Reshaping of Israeli Civil-Military Relations (co-editor with Eyal Lewin, Lexington, 2015), Mothers, Military and Society (co-editor with Sara Cote-Hampson and Nancy Taber, Demeter Press, 2018). E-mail: ulebel@gmail.com

BATIA BEN-HADOR is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics and Business Administration at Ariel University. Batia specializes in organizational behavior and her research focuses on Social Capital, Human Resource Management, Organizational Development, and Gender. E-mail: batiabh@ariel.ac.il

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