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Editorial notices


journal for qualitative research

ISSN 1211-5770
Registration code MK ČR: E 8364
Published by the civil association Casopis Biograf
Krompach 26, 47157
ICO: 27003213
Two issues per year.
Editor-in-chief: Barbora Spalová (

Text detail

Biograf 2019/69

How the Jews gained a homeland and what they lost in the process

Pavel Barša

How the Jews gained a homeland and what they lost in the process

The transformation of the Jewry in the last two hundred years from a dispersed religious people speaking many mother-tongues into a people endowed with a territorial homeland and one language is presented here through the lenses of concepts and dilemmas that have been formulated in the debate of historians and social scientists about the nature of mod-ern nations and in the debate of Jewish intellectuals about an appropriate form of the Jew-ish identity in the age of emancipation. The two debates intersected in the work of Shlomo Sand who applied the modernist account of the birth of nations, as elaborated by Ernest Gellner, Benedict Anderson or Eric Hobsbawm, to the “nationalization” of the modern Jewry. The article corrects this account and its application by Sand in two interrelated as-pects. Taking into account the works of Liah Greenfeld and Adrian Hastings, it rejects the modernist assumption that modern national identities filled a void left by waning religious identities. It assumes, on the contrary, that the emergence and development of the former took place hand in hand with the reconstruction and inner differentiation of the latter. It also claims, following Yuri Slezkine, that modern nations are not based on the negation of the Biblical concept of a people chosen by God but, rather – at least in part – on its appropriation. These two corrections of the modernist paradigm force us to understand the discontinuity between pre-modern and modern ways of collective self-understanding otherwise than through the opposition between religious universalism and national particu-larism. They throw a new light both on the general question of the relation between a col-lective identity defined theologically or religiously (i.e. by the relation to the universal God) on the one hand and secularly or nationally (i.e. by a particular place in the world) on the other, and on the specific question of the transformation of Zionism after the Six Day War: the replacement of socialism by messianic fundamentalism in the role of the ideological vanguard of the movement in the 1970s need not be conceived any more as a reactionary falling back into a pre-modern kind of religious fanaticism but rather as yet another artic-ulation of religious and secular dimensions that have co-existed – either in competition, or in synergy – since the very beginning of the emergence of modern nations.


Jews, religious people, ethnic nation, Shlomo Sand, modernist conception of nationhood, secularization, socialist Zionism, Jewish messianic fundamentalism.

Biograf themes:

Ethnicity and nation; Religiosity, spirituality, religious communities; Modernity and postmodernity; Politics, power and dominance; Migration, immigration, refugees


BARŠA, P. (2019): Jak Židé získali vlast a co při tom ztratili [How the Jews gained a homeland and what they lost in the process]. Biograf, 69-70: 37-61. Available at [last access20. 09. 2021]


Tato práce vznikla za podpory projektu Kreativita a adaptabilita jako předpoklad úspěchu Evropy v propojeném světě, reg. číslo: CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000734, financovaného z Evropského fondu pro regionální rozvoj.

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