|"Mediterraneanism", is an
abstract, and yet pervasive, geo-cultural idea present in
many texts about "Israeliness", i.e. the
cultural identity of the Israeli nation-state (see Shavit
1988). Israeliness is a 20th century
phenomenon. It stems from the idea that Jewishness is not
only a religious but also a national identity in the vein
of the 19th century romantic concept of "nation".
The political fulfillment of this secular idea, i.e. the
establishment of a nation-state, triggered the Zionist
From its inception, Zionism was plagued by internal contradictions. On the one hand, it attempted to create a "new Hebrew person" and to offer a narrative linking this new identity to the "normal", biblical Israelites. By defining the Jewish existence in the Diaspora as "abnormal", secular Zionism demanded from its followers to cut off their ties with their immediate, traditional culture and religious Jewish legacy. On the other hand, Zionism had to forge an alternative cultural identity for the "new Hebrew person" (this issue is treated in a seminal article by Even-Zohar 1984; see also Shavit 1990 and 1996). This search for identity was carried by addressing, among many other issues, the location of a European-oriented Jewish secular nation-state in the midst of the Islamic Arab Middle East and the eventually with the fact that half of the Jewish population of Israel originates in Islamic countries. Mediterraneanism refers to one of the escaping routes from these inherent contradictions of the Zionist enterprise.
After achieving its "classic" form during the first decade and a half of the Jewish states existence (roughly 1948-1965), Israeliness has been contested. Besides the external Palestinian Arab and Islamic resistance to the very idea of a Jewish nation-state in the Middle East, diverse centrifugal forces from within the Jewish society have been gradually challenging classic Israeliness. Among these forces we can mention Jewish ultra-orthodoxy, the Jews from Islamic countries (called sometimes "Second Israel") and, more recently, the massive wave of immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the adjective "Mediterranean" has been applied to diverse fields and layers of musical activity in Israel, such as art music in the 1950s and popular music in the 1990s. This musical Mediterraneanism has a deeper meaning than the surface characteristics attached to it by historians, critics and journalists. A clarification of the various uses and connotations of the concept of the Mediterranean in Israeli music within a broad theoretical perspective is the goal of this paper.
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