Cover of The Oldest Guard by Liora R. Halperin
The Oldest Guard
Forging the Zionist Settler Past
Liora R. Halperin

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August 2021
368 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503628496
Paperback ISBN: 9781503628700

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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 Zionist Labor politics.

Treating the "First Aliyah" as a symbol created and deployed only in retrospect, Liora Halperin offers a richly textured portrait of commemorative practices between the 1920s and the 1960s. Drawing connections to memory practices in other settler societies, she demonstrates how private agriculturalists and their advocates on the Zionist center and right celebrated and forged the "First Aliyah" past as a model of private ownership, political impartiality, and hierarchical relations with hired rural Palestinian labor. The Oldest Guard reveals the centrality of settlement to Zionist collective memory and the politics and erasures of Zionist settler "firstness."

About the author

Liora R. Halperin is Associate Professor of International Studies, History, and Jewish Studies, and 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 the first wave of 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 Guardcasts 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