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Marking the Boundaries of the Enclave: Defining the Israeli Collective Through the Poland 'Experience'


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THE 2001 HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY SPEECH delivered by Israel's Minister of Education, Limor Livnat, is not so much a description of the current Israeli situation, as a prescription for Israeli Holocaust memory in general, and for the visits by Israeli youth to the death camps in Poland, in particular. The objective of these visits is to imbue students with experiences that will make this view of the world plausible: that the Holocaust never really ended, and that, but for the State and its defense forces, the Jews in Israel would today be on their way to the gas chambers.

This essay aims to illustrate how the Israeli Ministry of Education has built its world view—sometimes unconsciously—into the framework of the ritual visits to Poland. It will show how these visits draw a clear, but constantly threatened, boundary around the Jewish-Israeli collective, and present that boundary in such a way as to appear to those participating in the visits as natural. I will examine this process in light of Mary Douglas's characterization of the practices of the enclave. I will conclude with some reflections on the broader societal effects of the visits, and offer some suggestions for alternative pilgrimages commemorating the Holocaust.

Research data has been gleaned mainly from Israel's Education Ministry's pre-visit instruction course and six trips (between 1992 and 1997) as part of Ministry-organized delegations to Poland, of which five were with state secular schools and the last with a National Religious group.



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Feldman, Jackie Marking the Boundaries of the Enclave: Defining the Israeli Collective Through the Poland 'Experience'. Israel Studies. 2002: 84-114.  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/object-pol26