Gabriel Abensour


The Masorti public has been part of Israeli society since the founding of the state, but only in recent decades has discourse emerged on the Masorti identity and on the contribution of Masortiyut to Israeli society as a whole. The cultural-ideological discourse on the Masortim and Masortiyut in Israel represents a turning point, as it allows Masorti identity, for the first time, to move from the individual to the public sphere, and to play an active role in fashioning a new Israeli social paradigm.

For most of the years of Israeli statehood, the dominant social paradigm was the religious-secular dichotomy that shaped the nation’s educational institutions and determined its budgeting for culture, its mode of providing religious services, its neighborhood and city planning, and more. The paradigm shift currently underway can be traced to an array of thinkers and activists who are formulating an alternative worldview and disseminating it to the public. We should note from the outset that there is often a gap between the spokespersons of Masortiyut and the actual Masorti viewpoints that we reviewed in the first part of this study. However, this does not mean that the spokespersons do not represent the Masorti public itself. As we shall see, the Masorti space is a space of multiplicity. Therefore, the intellectuals and organizations speaking on behalf of Masortiyut generally represent one discourse out of a variety of Masorti discourses.79

The multiplicity of Masorti discourses is the inevitable outcome of Masortiyut having transcended its ethnic boundaries. As far back as the 1980s the anthropologist Moshe Shokeid approached Masorti identity with great seriousness, arguing that it could become a post-ethnic phenomenon. In his view, Masortiyut was above all a Jewish-cultural identity that favored a sense of belonging and of spiritual-emotional engagement over obedience to stringent religious doctrine. These elements, added Shokeid, had also existed in European Judaism but had been suppressed by the aliyah endeavor and the destruction wrought by the Holocaust.80 Likewise, thinkers from the Masorti world such as Buzaglo, Benaya, Piron and Goodman proposed viewing Mizrahi Masortiyut as a foundation for broader paradigm change in Israeli society as a whole.81 To this Nissim Leon added the assertion that the Masortiyut project had already become a new social option for Israeli society. Social and economic developments within the Mizrahi population, and encounter/dialogue with other social project such as Jewish renewal, had lifted Masortiyut out of the folklore sphere and transformed it into an inevitable channel for advancing shared society in Israel.82

In Part 2 we will offer support for the idea that there are different Masorti voices in Israel, rooted in three main milieus – the Mizrahi, the Religious-Zionist, and the secular – which together are creating a new Israeli Masortiyut. First and foremost, we will be examining the Masorti web of discourse as manifested in the philosophical writing and educational-cultural activity of these three circles. In the first section we will briefly look at the roots of the Masorti revitalization in Israel. In the second section we will examine the characteristics of the new Masortiyut as seen in the three aforementioned groups. The third section will discuss the differences between the various Masorti discourses now emerging in Israel. We will conclude with the message that the new Masortiyut can bring to Israeli society as a whole.