Yael Raviv, "Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel" (U Nebraska Press, 2015)


In the late nineteenth century, Jewish immigrants inspired by Zionism began to settle in Palestine. Their goal was not only to establish a politically sovereign state, but also to create a new, modern, Hebrew nation. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Zionist movement realized its political goal. It then sought to acculturate the multitude of Jewish immigrant groups in the new state into a unified national culture. Yael Raviv highlights the role of food and cuisine in the construction of the Israeli nation. Raviv's book, Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel (University of Nebraska Press, 2015) examines how national ideology impacted cuisine, and vice versa, during different periods of Jewish settlement in Palestine and Israel. Early settlers, inspired by socialist ideology and dedicated to agricultural work, viewed food as a necessity and treated culinary pleasure as a feature of bourgeois culture to be shunned. Working the land, and later buying "Hebrew" agricultural products, however, were patriotic performances of the nation. With increased Jewish migration, the situation changed. Cuisine emerged as an aspect of capitalist consumer culture, linked to individual choice and variety. As Israel became more cosmopolitan, its food scene grew. Israeli institutions professionalized cooking and emphasized ethnic diversity. Culinary pleasure, no longer shunned, even moved into the public sphere, as picnics and barbeques became a national obsession. Food Nation takes us on a historical journey through a century of Jewish foodways in Palestine and Israel, highlighting their essential role in creating an Israeli nation.

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