Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News April 2008

April 3, 2008

Professor Anita Shapira Awarded Israel Prize In Jewish History

The Memorial Foundation extends warmest congratulations to our president, Professor Anita Shapira, on receiving the Israel Prize in Jewish History in 2008. She will be awarded the prize at a special ceremony that will take place on Israel Independence Day, Thursday, May 8, 2008 in Jerusalem. Prof. Shapira, who received her Ph.D. in general and Jewish history at Tel-Aviv University in 1974 under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Carpi, currently holds the Ruben Merenfeld Chair for the Study of Zionism, and since 2000, has headed the Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism at Tel Aviv University. Prof. Shapira was also the founder of the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies and its first director.

The Foundation takes special pride in this richly deserved honor for her - the most prestigious international award in Jewish culture, not solely in her capacity as president of the Memorial Foundation. Less known is the fact that Prof. Shapira was the recipient of two Fellowship grants from the Foundation in 1990-1991 and 1991-1992, for her important volume on Land and Power. We also supported one of her research projects on the Impact of the Holocaust on General Society through an institutional grant to Tel Aviv University.

Prof. Shapira is the 39th recipient of the Israel Prize who received support either early in their careers or for their major research through the Foundation's scholarship, fellowship, or institutional programs. The other recipients include: Professors Ziva Amishai-Maisels, Mosher Bar-Asher, Shlomo Avneri, Yehuda Bauer, Haim Beinart, Gerald Blidstein, Mordechai Breuer, Joseph Dan, Chaim Dimitrovsky, Aharon Dotan, Menachem Elon, Moshe Goshen-Gottstein, Abraham Grossman, Moshe Idel, Sara Japhet, Charles S. Liebman, Shelomo Morag, Dov Noy, Joshua Prawer, Nahum Rackover, Yehuda Ratzaby, Aviezer Ravitsky, Eliezer Schweid, Gershon Shaked, Chuna Shmeruk, Daniel Sperber, Menachem Stern, Jacob Sussman, Israel Ta-Shma, Shemaryahu Talmon, Moshe Weinfeld, Yirmiyahu Yuval; authors Aaron Appelfeld, Aharon Megged and Shin Shalom; and Rabbis Adin Steinsaltz, Yoseph Kapach and Menachem Mendel Kasher.

This list of names is the greatest validation of the Foundation's fulfillment of its mandate, reconfirmed by its Board of Trustees two years ago - the development of the "social capital" of the Jewish people, that is, identifying and supporting the future cultural, intellectual and academic leaders of the Jewish world. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than 13,000 scholarships and fellowships for that purpose. The 39 Israel prize recipients to date represent the crטme de la crטme of the Foundation's success.

Prof. Shapira's research focuses not wholly on Zionist history but spills over to the whole range of political, cultural, social, intellectual and military matters pertaining to the Jewish community in Palestine and the State of Israel. Her first book, based on her doctoral dissertation, Hama'avak Hanihzav: Avoda Ivrit 1929-1939 (The Futile Struggle: Hebrew Work 1929-1939), deals with the social and political history of the Yishuv in the 1920s and 1930s, including the controversies regarding policies towards the Arab population and the conflicts between left and right on the means of achieving Zionist goals.

Her second book, Berl: The Biography of a Socialist Zionist, Berl Katznelson, 1887-1944, encompasses the story of the Israeli labor movement in which Katznelson played a major role in shaping its ideology and organizational structure. This volume was widely acclaimed, not only in academia, but also by the general reading public, and was published in Hebrew in eight editions.

One of her most interesting volumes, Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948, dramatically demonstrates the deep change which occurred in the image of the Jew during the last century regarding the use of power. In Land and Power, Prof. Shapira traces the road along which the Zionist movement gave up its early ideal of peaceful settlement in Palestine to the incorporation of the use of force as a legitimate tool for realizing the idea of Jewish national sovereignty there.

Prof. Shapira first describes the evolution of a "defensive ethos" in the early decades of the century that reflected the scruples and inhibitions of first-generation socialist Zionist settlers, then reflects on the emergence of a new, "Israeli" national ethos, accompanied by its particular symbols, myths, and norms. The appearance in the 1940s of an "offensive ethos" coincided with the coming of age of a new native-born generation, unfettered by their fathers' sensitivities. Shapira argues that this indicated that the barriers of ideology, moral norms, and mental restraints constructed by the founding fathers proved unequal to the challenges of the social and political realities of state building. The English version of that book won the National Jewish Book Award in 1993.

Among the other awards and prizes Prof. Shapira has garnered was the Zalman Shazar Prize in Jewish History for her biography of Yigal Alon. She won the Herzl Prize from the city of Herzliya for her excellence in research on Zionism in 2005.

Israel and Zionist studies has grown remarkably in our generation, especially in Israel, but has not yet achieved the full recognition it deserves within the larger field of Jewish History. This fact is verified by the absence of scholars working in this area from the list of those who have received the Israel Prize in the past. Awarding this prize to Prof. Shapira unequivocally acknowledges the importance of the history of Zionism, to which Prof. Shapira has devoted her career, in the history of the Jewish people.

It also recognizes in a most public fashion the growing prominence of the role of women in Jewish scholarship, an area in which the Memorial Foundation has played an important role in recent years, providing support for women, both young doctoral students and senior scholars, for their research.


Zionism As The Liberation Movement Of The Jewish People

Prof. Shapira will be concluding her six-year term as president of the Foundation this summer. In conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, the Memorial Foundation is organizing an academic symposium in her honor together with the Shazar Center for Jewish History on "Zionism as the Liberation Movement of the Jewish People". It will take place in Jerusalem on Monday, June 30th at the Zalman Shazar Center (2 Betar Street, Talpiot, Jerusalem). The full program is attached. Further details about the program will be sent to you in the future. I look forward to greeting you there.

In the meantime, best wishes for a joyous Pesach.

Warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President