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Review: Jasmin Habib, Israel, Diaspora, and the Routes of National Belonging

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Publication Date: December 2006

Publisher(s): Association for Israel Studies

Author(s): Theodore Sasson

Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)

Keywords: Zionism; Identity Formation; Israel Attachment

Type: Book review

Coverage: Canada United States


Why, in spite of the conflicts and disagreements, do so many North American Jews continue to express strong attachment to Israel? Anthropologist Jasmin Habib’s Israel, Diaspora, and the Routes of National Belonging seeks to answer this question. The research for the book, spanning several years in the late 1990s, entailed participant observation on three Israel Experience tours, participation in roughly 200 Israel-related events (lectures, films, celebrations, etc.) in two Canadian cities, and interviews with the Israel Experience trip participants and other members of the Canadian Jewish community. Habib’s analytical goal was to learn how tour guides, lecturers, and community leaders represented Israel to North American Jews, both in Israel and in their diaspora communities, and how North American Jews responded to these representations. The book reads very much like a doctoral dissertation—it is overly long and detailed for any but the most motivated readers. It also suffers from rather serious methodological and interpretive errors. Still, the importance of the topic and the paucity of alternative treatments justify a careful assessment.

In Israel Studies, Summer 2006, 11:2, pp. 162-167