Dancing Between Old Worlds and New: Max Nordau's New Jew Idea and its Manifestation in Pre-State Israeli Folk Dance

Gdalit Neuman


Muscular Judaism, a concept presented by Zionist leader Max Nordau at the Second Zionist Congress of 1898, had far reaching ramifications. One of these was the construction of a new human type; the blond haired, blue eyed, masculine and muscular indigenous/authentic Hebrew person, termed Sabra. The Sabra, born in and to his homeland, would be superior to his Diasporic ancestors in body and spirit. Through a combination of archival work, media analysis and interviews, the present study traces the New Muscle Jew ideology from turn of the century Central Europe to the Land of Israel through the dance realm. In so doing it serves to demonstrate dance’s importance as a medium by which Land of Israel Sabra youth were taught hegemonic characteristics of the ideal New Jew image. Finally, interviews with first generation Sabra dancers (now in their 80s) were conducted regarding their self-image in order to analyze further the relationship between on verses off-stage performances of Sabra identity. 

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