Points of Reference

Changing Identities and Social Positioning in Israel

Edited by
Orna Sasson-Levy, Zeev Shavit, Guy Ben-Porat
PublisherVan Leer Institute Press and Hakibbutz Hameuchad
Language Hebrew
Year of Publication2014
Series Theory in Context Series

Is Ashkenazi or Mizrahi ethnicity relevant to youngsters in Israel? How do Israeli women decide on a surname after marriage? How did pork become part of the Israeli scene in recent years? How does the post-Soviet reality explain the shaping of the identity of Russian immigrants in Israel? Why do Arab women become forced migrants and foreigners after they marry? And why do soldiers in Golani call themselves “Arabs” and paratroopers “yellowskins”?

In recent decades, complex processes have taken place in Israel: Social groups have reshaped their social and symbolic boundaries in an attempt to take their place in the social hierarchy and in systems of power relations shaped by the state and its agents. Points of Reference: Changing Identities and Social Positioning in Israel discusses these and other questions while observing the processes of deconstruction and reconstruction of identities and also the changing boundaries and positioning in Israel’s social structure. The book’s chapters demonstrate that both marginal and central groups give new interpretations to their identities and aspire to weave them into the repertoire of definitions of Israeliness so as to obtain new symbolic and cultural capital and higher status. However, the old categories continue to determine the structure of the power divisions in society; and ethnicity, gender, class, immigration, degree of religious observance, and nationality continue to serve as central axes of power and control that reproduce social hierarchies. Thus, sometimes the new identities challenge the existing power structure, but more often they are absorbed in it. The book sheds light on the complexity of identities in Israel, the special dynamic involved in forming them, and their relation to state structures.

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