From Schlemiel to Sabra

From Schlemiel to Sabra

Zionist Masculinity and Palestinian Hebrew Literature
Philip Hollander
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/17/2019
Format: Paperback 10 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-04206-4
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In From Schlemiel to Sabra Philip Hollander examines how masculine ideals and images of the New Hebrew man shaped the Israeli state. In this innovative book, Hollander uncovers the complex relationship that Jews had with masculinity, interrogating narratives depicting masculinity in the new state as a transition from weak, feminized schlemiels to robust, muscular, and rugged Israelis. Turning to key literary texts by S. Y. Agnon, Y. H. Brenner, L. A. Arieli, and Aharon Reuveni, Hollander reveals how gender and sexuality were intertwined to promote a specific Zionist political agenda. A Zionist masculinity grounded in military prowess could not only protect the new state but also ensure its procreative needs and future. Self-awareness, physical power, fierce loyalty to the state and devotion to the land, humility, and nurture of the young were essential qualities that needed to be cultivated in migrants to the state. By turning to the early literature of Zionist Palestine, Hollander shows how Jews strove to construct a better Jewish future.

Author Bio

Philip Hollander is Assistant Professor of Israeli Literature and Culture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has published numerous articles and chapters dealing with Hebrew, Jewish and Israeli literature, film, and culture.



While the macho New Jew was admired as an ideal and has been the focus of much scholarship, Philip Hollander shows how a number of important Hebrew writers of the early days of the Yishuv were pursing alternative ideals.


 (Naomi Sokoloff, editor of Gender and Text in Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literature)


Philip Hollander traces the image of the Israeli as the New or Muscle Jew and the role that gender, sexuality, and stereotype had in the formation of a new society.


 (Stephen Katz, author of Red, Black, and Jew)


Hollander tells an absolutely fascinating story about the formation of language and gendered identities in the revolutionary context of Zionist aesthetics and politics.


 (Ranen Omer-Sherman, author of Imagining the Kibbutz: Visions of Utopia in Literature and Film)

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Table of Contents


Note on Transliteration and Translation

General Introduction. A Rhetoric of Empowerment

Of Their Time and Their Places: A Biographical Introduction to the Self-Evaluative Writers

Chapter 1. Holding Out for a Hero: Crisis and the New Hebrew Man

Chapter 2. "He Needs a Stage": Masculinity, Homosociality and the Public Sphere

Chapter 3. Contested Masculinity and the Redemption of the Schlemiel

Chapter 4. Homosexual Panic and Masculinity's Advancement

Chapter 5. Self-Evaluative Masculinity's Interwar Apex and Eclipse

Afterword. The Lesson, Legacy, and Implications of Self-Evaluative Masculinity

Selected Bibliography