Between knowing and understanding: Israeli Jews and the memory of the Palestinian Nakba

Norma Musih*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The village of Miska is one of the 530 Palestinian localities destroyed during the Palestinian Nakba (Arabic for great calamity, catastrophe, or devastation). Although the ruins of these places are part of the Israeli landscape, and most Israeli Jews have some knowledge about the Nakba, they do not understand its meaning. In this paper, I deploy Hannah Arendt’s distinction between knowing and understanding to answer the question of how the Nakba can at once be known but not understood by Israeli Jews. Drawing on the tours conducted by the activist organization Zochrot (Hebrew for ‘we remember’) to the ruins of Miska, I argue that the embodied and symbolic practices conducted during the tours to Miska can work to challenge the gap between knowing and understanding by creating a different perspective on the Nakba. From this perspective, the Nakba is not only understood as the memory of the ‘other’—that is, the Palestinian memory of the place—but is understood as a complex memory that embodies a dialectical relationship between Jewish and Palestinian remembrances: a potentially common memory of the place and the basis for the imagining of a common future.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)396-417
Number of pages22
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
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  • Hannah Arendt
  • Israel/Palestine
  • activism
  • imagination
  • memory
  • tours


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