Lecture by Dvir Tzur in the conference “Sustainable Israel” in Concordia University, Montreal

In 1-3/6/2015 the annual conference of the AIS (Association for Israel Studies) was held in Concordia university in Montreal. The conference was titled “Sustainable Israel: A Changing society in the 21st Century”. During the conference, Dvir Tzur presented his paper titled “Place, Border Crossing, Identity and Mysticism: The Case of Two Contemporary Israeli Novels”. The paper focused on two contemporary Israeli novels by Pinchas Sadeh and David Shahar. Both writers make clear references to ancient Jewish mysticism, while they write about local issues in Israel. Both also use these references in order to outline the possibility of border crossing between different identities.

Mysticism is based on the conception that border crossing between man and transcendental entity. And though much criticism was written about the concept, it is clear that both Sadeh and Shahar are representing it as a valid phenomenon. They turn it into a subversive tool, pointing at the problem of borders in Israel. Moreover, the use of mysticism relates to the alternative the writers present. In a country where identity is described as solid and relations between different identities are presented as binary, mysticism allows to think about Israel identities as liquid, unstable and hybrid to some extent.

This also turns Sadeh and Shahar to writers who deal mainly with the question of Israeli place and its limits. They present a dialectics – the Israeli place turns into a boundless Space yet at the same time it presents the walls, the barriers and the obstacles determining the identities system in this well defined territory, one that deals almost compulsively with the question of borders, with no apparent resolution.

To the web page of the conference