The Oldest Guard tells the story of Zionist settler memory in and around the private Jewish agricultural colonies (moshavot) established in late nineteenth-century Ottoman Palestine. Though they grew into the backbone of lucrative citrus and wine industries of mandate Palestine and Israel, absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants, and became known as the "first wave" (First Aliyah) of Zionist settlement, these communities have been regarded—and disregarded—in the history of Zionism as sites of conservatism, lack of ideology, and resistance to Labor Zionist politics.
Treating the "First Aliyah" as a symbol created and deployed only in retrospect, Liora R. Halperin offers a richly textured portrait of commemorative practices between the 1920s and the 1960s. Drawing connections to memory practices in other settler societies, The Oldest Guard demonstrates how private agriculturalists and their advocates in the Zionist center and on the right celebrated and forged the "First Aliyah" past, revealing the centrality of settlement to Zionist collective memory and the politics of Zionist settler "firstness."
About the author
Liora R. Halperin is Associate Professor of International Studies, History, and Jewish Studies, and the Jack and Rebecca Benaroya Endowed Chair in Israel Studies at the University of Washington.
"In this extremely important work on Israeli national memory and periodization, Liora Halperin offers new ways to think about early Jewish settlement in Ottoman Palestine. Halperin's insightful reading of the first Aliyah colonies unpacks the complex relationship between Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, and Palestinians in the modern state of Israel: a state whose perceptions of its past were, and are, in a constant state of flux."
—Orit Bashkin, University of Chicago
"The Oldest Guard casts new light on not only Israeli history but also key issues in the history of nationalism and colonialism, such as tensions between local and statist identifications, concepts of 'firstness' in national narratives, and settler-colonial memory."
—Derek Penslar, Harvard University
"Halperin's book is a unique history of Zionist memory in that it does not limit its approach to actors from particular Zionist movements or institutions. The book while nominally focused on the 'First Aliyah' generation is about much more: Labor Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, Palestinian agriculturalists, Holocaust survivor and Mizrahi immigrants to the State of Israel after its establishment, and even the history of continued settlement up until today. The book will serve as a fantastic resource for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in Jewish Studies and Middle East Studies."
—Ryan Zohar, Association of Jewish Libraries News and Reviews