The writer, Zohar scholar and Zionist activist Ariel Bension (1880–1932) has attracted attention of late from scholars seeking to recover an alternative vision of Zionism with Mizrahi roots in Ottoman Palestine. Yet the instrumentalization of Bension’s biography for the politics of identity in present-day Israel has led to a flattening effect whereby Bension is divorced from his manifold ties to European and global Jewish culture. In this article, we demonstrate those complex transnational and multidisciplinary dimensions of Bension’s life, theatrical oeuvre and thought through a reconstruction of his brief collaboration on a Hebrew musical play and film project with music scholar, composer and educator Avraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882–1938). Presenting newly discovered archival documents, we explore both the tangled array of social identities present in the early Zionist cultural elite and the emergence of a shared global Jewish imaginary in a moment of profound historical change.
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- Ariel Bension
- Avraham Zvi Idelsohn