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Desert in the Promised Land: Nature, Settlement, and the Politics of Space in Israel

Desert in the Promised Land: Nature, Settlement, and the Politics of Space in Israel

A panel discussion of the new book Desert in the Promised Land by Yael Zerubavel.

In her groundbreaking book “Desert in the Promised Land” Yael Zerubavel explores the desert as an ecological phenomenon and a cultural construction from the early twentieth century to the present, shedding light on romantic-mythical associations, settlement and security concerns, environmental sympathies, and the commodifying tourist gaze. She reveals the complexities and contradictions that mark Israeli society’s semiotics of space in relation to the Middle East, and the central role of the “besieged island” trope in Israeli culture and politics.

Panel will include:

Yael Zerubavel is Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers. She has published extensively in the areas of collective memory and commemorations, war and trauma, Israeli culture, and symbolic landscapes.

Barbara Mann is Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. She is the author most recently of Space and Place in Jewish Studies (Rutgers, 2012), and is currently completing a manuscript called The Object of Jewish Literature: A Material History for Yale University Press.

Derek Penslar is the William Lee Frost Professor of Modern Jewish History at Harvard University.  His most recent books are Jews and the Military: A History (2013) and Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader (2020).  His current book project is titled Zionism: An Emotional State.

Moderated by Alon Confino, Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies, Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, UMass Amherst.