Identity, Ethnicity, and Nationalism

The Rabban Yochanan Ben-Zakai Synagogue and the Sephardi Community of Jerusalem, 1900–1948

in Israel Studies Review
Author:
Reuven Gafni Department of Land of Israel Studies, Kinneret College, Israel gafni.reuven@gmail.com

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Abstract

This article focuses on the changing cultural, social, and ideological characteristics of the central Sephardi Rabban Yochanan Ben-Zakai synagogue in Jerusalem, as a lens reflecting social and ideological processes of the local Sephardi community during the first half of the twentieth century. These included the community's attempts to consolidate its cultural uniqueness and civic identity vis-à-vis the surrounding and evolving spirits—within the Jewish community and outside it; its struggles with the local Ashkenazi community over historical and legal hegemony; its changing and evolving attitude toward the Ottoman and British Empires; and its gradual yet distinct adoption of the Jewish national framework. The article is based on an in-depth study of the archives of the Sephardi Commission (Va'ad Ha'eda HaSepharadit) in Jerusalem, as well as literary and scholarly sources and the local Jewish press of the time.

Contributor Notes

REUVEN GAFNI is the Head of the Department of Land of Israel Studies at Kinneret College. A Historian and Historical-Geographer, his main areas of research include the development of Jerusalem in modern times; the design and development of the Jewish settlement map in modern Eretz Israel/Palestine; and connections between Judaism, nationalism, and statehood in Eretz Israel/Palestine and early Israel. His book Synagogues and Jewish Nationalism in the Yishuv during the British Madate was published by Ben-Gurion University Press (2017), and his book A Jewish Community in an Arab Town: Beit She'an 1890–1936, was published by Magness Press (2018). E-mail: gafni.reuven@gmail.com

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