The Chief Rabbinate and Israel's Independence Day Religio-National Rituals During the 1950s

Adi Sherzer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article investigates the place of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in the formation of Israel's national symbolic language during the country's first Independence Days. My main argument is that, like other state churches, the Rabbinate act as an important agent of memory that imparts collective myths and authenticate them. However, the Rabbinate was not willing to fully integrate the new national stance into the traditional ritual language and was therefore criticised accordingly. This criticism, and the alternative rituals it gave rise to, shows that certain circles of Israeli society were willing to go much further with the integration of national components into the traditional Jewish world. In addition, it demonstrates the necessity of the public's “approval” of the ritual, and therefore reveals the limits of memory agents. The first section of the article presents the background for the religious observance of the national holiday, the second section illustrates the nature of the first Independence Day synagogue services, the third section describes the criticism they had provoked, and the fourth section analyses the alternative rituals held on Mount Zion and the radical religious-national integration they created. Finally, the conclusion seeks to place this case within the wider context of nation-building and its religious aspects.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)112-132
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Religious History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

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