From Shrine to Forum: Masada and the Politics of Jewish Extremism

Publication Date: May 2008

Publisher: Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies; Steinhardt Social Research Institute

Author(s): Theodore Sasson; Shaul Kelner

Research Area: Culture and religion; Politics

Keywords: Zionism; History; Culture

Type: Report

Coverage: Israel


Zionist collective memory has long associated Masada with the struggle to secure Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel. This article examines the effects of the political upheavals of the Oslo and post-Oslo periods on the meanings ascribed to Masada. It documents the popularity of a critical counter-narrative in tour guides’ presentations of Masada to diaspora Jewish tourists. Directly informed by memories of the Rabin assassination, this critical counter-narrative emphasizes the dangers posed by Jewish extremists adhering to messianic religious ideologies. The focus on internal rather than external threats to Jewish sovereignty represents a sharp break with past framings of Masada’s meaning. The paper discusses the implications for the study of political culture and collective memory.

In Israel Studies, 13:12