"Here started the rift we see today": Student and textbook narratives between official and counter memory

Tsafrir Goldberg, Dan Porat*, Baruch B. Schwarz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The story about the collective past, which is embedded in the students' minds, may serve a significant role in learning history. The fit between students preconceived narratives and the official narrative in textbooks might considerably influence their ability to understand and use the official narrative as a cultural tool. 105 12th grade students wrote narratives about the Melting Pot policy in the absorption of the "Great Aliyah" (Mass immigration) to Israel in the 1950's, a corner stone of Israeli collective identity. The students' narratives were analyzed in order to identify overt opinions, and basic narrative characteristics, such as plot schemes, agency and recurrent themes. The narratives were compared to the central characteristics of the official narrative of the Great Aliyah mediated through history textbooks. Students' dominant narrative stood in opposition to the textbooks narrative, putting forward a highly critical perspective of the immigration absorption. Additional findings show students of "Ashkenazi" (European-Jewish) origin to be significantly more critical towards the Melting Pot policy and it's consequences for the Mizrahi Jews than students of "Mizrahi" (Arab-Jewish) origins. The authors seek to explain their findings within the framework of socio-cultural theory, as evidence of the students' use of social representation of the past as a cultural tool for explaining a problematic present. The personal historical narrative seems to serve as a tool for positioning the individual in relation to the past and in constructing potentialities of responsibility to contemporary reality.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)319-347
Number of pages29
JournalNarrative Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


  • Collective memory
  • History instruction
  • History textbooks
  • Narrative analysis
  • Narratives


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