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The search for a common identity. Is it possible in a territory in continuous conflict?

What does it mean to be Isreali? Looking at Israeli society from Tel Aviv, where I am, it is difficult to answer this question. Obviously, every nationality has its internal divisions, its individual particularities, but we are all able to think of a common imagination (at least historical) of our national collective. For example, when we think about what it means to be Italian we can associate it with a territory with clear borders, a culture and some traditions that bring us together (such as gastronomy). But on the other side of the Mediterranean, I find myself in a country where this question generates many tensions, and most of the time it never leads to a single and satisfactory answer.

Kibbutz, a lost union?

In the period of the first migrations, which however were much smaller than those after the Second World War, in which an idea of "Israeli society" began to form, the ideology of Zionism had created a sense of belonging and shared ideology that represented the main sources of attraction of migration in Palestine.

The first communities of Jewish people in Israel in the 20th century were the kibbutz: agricultural colonies arose around 1910 where a number of members shared ownership of land, structures and goods through labor, but without exchange of money.

Behind the organization of the kibbutz there was a series of values of solidarity and a common country project that therefore identifies each person as a member of the community, facilitating the creation of a single identity.

An identity fractured by time and history?

Nowadays there are few kibbutz, and the majority have been privatized, losing their essence of unique intrapersonal network, becoming land of building speculation in many cases.

With the liberalization of the state and its consecutive "secularization" in a formal plan, being an Israeli (citizen of Israel) is no longer synonymous with being a Jew. This makes it even more difficult to identify a vision of the state shared by all citizens.

The circular economy of the kibbutz, which in the past was predominant in the economic models of the country, has now left room for a type of economy centered on growth, development, free competition and the world of startups (new enterprises that are born and grow exponentially).

Jaffa Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel. October 2021. Photo by: Berta Flores Aricò

The problem of identity becomes a problem of inequality. Who is not considered Israeli?

The consequences of this tension or uncertainty faced with the concept of identity are the discriminations and inequalities that are created around and it goes without saying that the underlying question of identity tensions is the issue of territory. Those who are not considered Israel, even if this is already difficult to define, become an outsider and remain cut off from the economic and energy resources of the territory, necessary to survive.

Therefore, the problem of identity is not just a matter of social diversity, but a political and national divide that can also become a situation of unsustainability and economic inequality, because it takes place in a scenario of conflict, where understanding one’s own identity is a social act, which determines a series of opportunities and contexts, and it is above all a political act (which for now remains uncertain).

Is there a way to relive the essence of kibbutz and Israeli society? Where would this lead? Could it solve inequalities?

Three Israelis taking different roads in the district of Florentin. Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by: Berta Flores Aricò


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