The Impact of Israel Experience Programs on Israel's Symbolic Meaning

Publication Date: January 2004

Publisher: Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry

Author(s): Shaul Kelner

Research Area: Culture and religion; Education

Keywords: American Jews; Israel experience

Type: Report

Coverage: United States Israel


The author argues that the conceptions of Israel typically produced by educational pilgrimage tours can be understood in Durkheim's classic theory of religion, whereby feelings of fulfillment and empowerment created by an intense group experience are preserved in symbolic residue that revokes these feelings. Seeing Israel as emblematic of the Israel experience programs helps explain how such programs can influence people who are not predisposed to care about the country. For American Jews "Israel" is a "summarizing symbol," integrating a multitude of normative and non-normative meanings allowing for a variability and idiosyncrasy.