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Tamar Kat ri e l
eritage museums have become a pervasive feaLUre of the cultural landscapes of
contemporar y Western societies. Recogni zing their emergence as increasingly
important arenas for cullUral production a nd ideological assertion. considera ble
scholarl y 3uention has bee n dircClcd in recent years to the examinati on of the role of
the " heritage industry" in the context of nationali sm and tourist ic practices.
MacCannell has argued, museu ill S and hi sLOr ical siles ser ve to anchor the "secular
pil grimages" undertaken by modern touri st- pil grims.' Through a process of "sight
sacralization," :l museums and sites th us become cultural enclaves whose aura of
timeless stabi li ty slands in sha rp contrast to a worl d marked by an ethos of change
a nd the "accelerati on of hi stor y:' I
Des pite the e normous the matic a nd presentational va ri ations found among
heri tage museums in different countries a nd regions of the world, they all share
some bas ic features in t heir orie ntation toward a collecti ve past. It is to the
expl oration of thi s shared o ri e ntat ion that thi s study is devoted. The main cOIlce p·
tual point to be expl or ed relates to an analyti c di stinction elaborated by hi storians in
rece nt years between what they conceive of as two funda mentall y opposed o ri enta·
tions to t he past: the first is a " me mo ry orientation" whi ch involves the invoca tion of
the past through r itualized actions des igned to create an a-te mporal sense of the
presence of the past in the prese nt- in ot her wor ds. the past mythologi zed. The
second is a " hi stori cal orie ntatio n," which involves a refl ecti ve exploration or past
event s cons ide red alo ng an ax is of irrever sibl e, linear temporality, with a view to
unde rstanding their situaLed particularity, their causes and consequences. Hi stOl- i·
ail s Natali e Zemon Davi s a nd Randolph Starn summari ze the difference between
these two orie ntati ons as foll ows: "Against memor y's delight in similarity, appeal LO
the emoti o ns, and a r bitrary select ivit y. hi stor y would stand for critical di sta nce a nd
docume nted explanati on."5
A closer look at act ual hi stor y. making pract ices, however, suggests that t he
anal yt ic categori es or '-history" a nd " memo r y" Ca n be viewed as dial ect icall y related:
a. hi stori cal o r ientati o n bOlh bu ilds on a nd tra nscends indi vidual memor y, and a
memory o rientati o n bOlh incorporal es a nd rerashions hi stor ical knowledge in
.. .
, IP • .
_ _ , __ -t-- = _ _ __ . A
making it part of an encompassing, commemorative project. In what follows, I will
try to sho\\l how these two orientations combine to produce richly textured
courses ofthe past in Israeli pioneering settlement museums. In so doing, I draw on
the basic insight of historian Pierre Nora, who elaborated the analytic distinction
between the categories of memory and history, yet pointed oul their interdepen-
Memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its It remains in permanent
evolution, open to the dialecti c ofrcmembcring and forgetting. unconscious of it s successive
deformations, vulnerable [0 manipulation and appropriation. susceptible to being long
dormant and periodicall y revived . Hiswry. on the other hand. is the reconstruction, always
probl ematic and incomplete, orwhat is no longer. Memory is a perpetually actual phenom-
enon. a bond tying us to the eternal present; history is a represelll3tion orthe past. Memory
insorar as it is affective and magical , only anects those faCES that suit it. . History, because it
is an intellectual and secular produCtion. calls for analysis and criticism.. . Memory lakes
root in the concrete. in spaces. gestures, images and objects; history binds itself stdcdy 10
te mporal continuities, 10 progressions and to relations bel ween things. Memory is absolute, ]
while history can only conceive the relative .. . . 6
These very different ori e ntations to the past co-exist as part of our cultural
consciousness, and each contributes differentially lO our experience of both past and
present. In considering the role played by the heritage industry as a major
institutionalized form for re-presenting the past in contemporary societies, we must,
therefore, attend to the inherent tension associated with the memory-history
dialectic, and with the localized inAections it assumes in particular sociocultural
contexts. Historiographical research addresses issues related to the re-presentation
of the past in the context of history-writing. From a cultural perspective, however,
an interest in the role played by the past in the present must clearly take us beyond
the context of official histor y- writing, and explore other social contexts in wh ich the
past is re-invoked or re-presented, Heritage Illuseums and sites are clearly good
candidates for such an exploration.
Notably, the dialectical tension between memory and history that has concerned
contemporar y historians has also been a central theme in modern Jewish thought.1
JI As Yerushalmi reminds us, in the case of the Jews, knowledge of the past has been
traditionally transmitted in a much more significant way by means of communally
;;\' '- l,.'. shared ritual practices than by means of the historical narrative. This array of ritual
\"'1 . practi ces has nOt served to re-present events of the shared past from a stance of 71
\,41' critical reRection, but rather to re-invoke a series of timeless existential slates .n ....' ..... .
II, Y .tI i'
f parti cipants are invited to re-live. This idiom of personal identification is \,...y ...... '
r' r,. \ II , .. 1ft{' inter alia, in the use of the first person singular on some of these liturgical occasions
0r1 r//'f ' (e.g., in the context of the Passover ritual celebration, the Seder, each parLicipant
,\I, ,I ( . speaks or himselr or herselr as having personally come out of Egypt). In traditional
I f .. .f,.l','t
Jewish thought, therefore, the main interestiies in the significance of past events
" rathel' than in the concrete deta il s of their unfolding, and the particularity of new
J'..' • \
I' .-v-""" £..t . events is subordinated to well-recognized archetypal pauerns.
Q:f ((; The secular' ization of J ewish histor y in the wake of the Jewish Enlightenment
I movement of the 19th century has marked a rupture in Jewish cultural experience,
tLJ ()t which involved, inter alia, a shift towards a concern with the historicity of the past
.f . ., rather than With I1S eternal , ntuallzed presence. As Yerushalmi pOInts out, "Western
,1'V//f\ 1/ man' s dlscovel Y ofhlstol Y IS not d mere Intel es till the past, whICh has always eXisted,
,, \.;, ,
&-'j '-"'!7 \ ..,.
./'-P' {. ' \;' { 1S 0" ,fr'./-," > "" .... 1' (
td \, ,,- -,lJ:-) \ 0(' vr -
(; y" " IlL" ''',) l") 1." .(/ " I ., ,'L .. "I' J . / It
. y. "Vl,;' ,:'fl' (I"'p . '."" Q \' -e'" L
,,- ,,1 . " (y n I '" r'j'- .c· .1
' \,o.(V , '(" /"'." ' f'.
, 'f ,,(0 ( ' "
.. ,jl " ..
but a new awareness, a perception of a Auid temporal dimension from which
nothing is exempt. The major consequence for Jewish historiography is that it
ca nnot view Judaism as something absolutel y given and subjeClto a priori definition .
Judaism is inseparable from its evolution through time. from its concrete manifesta-
tions at any poi nt in history. "!!
The kind or past the hi storian can provide, therefore, cannot adequately respond
to the persistent quest for coll ective memory in a secul arized world. I n the context of
contemporary. secularized Jewish traditi on thi s quest leads to the emergence of
newl y constructed , rituall y enclosed memory-building practices, which in Israel
rorm part of the "civi l religion" of nationhood.' Nora's discussion of the basic
features of what he call s "sites of memory" (or lieux de memoire) is , therefore, of
interest here:
' I'hesc ilelLl: d,. memOirt are fundamentall y rema ins, the ult imate embodiments of a memori al
consciousness Ihat has barely survived in a historical age that calls Oll t for memory because it
has abandoned it. They make their appearance by virtue of the deritualization of our
..... orld- pmducing. manifesting. establishing. constructing. decreei ng. and maintaining by
artifi ce and by ..... ill a society deeply absorbed in its own transformation and renewal. one
that inherently \'alues the new over the ancient. the future over the past. Museums.
archives. cemeteries. festivals, anniversaries. treat ics. depositions. monuments. sanctuaries.
frat e rnal orders-these are the boundary stones of another age. illusions of eternity.
ITJ hey mark the rilUal s of a society without ritual ; integral pa rticulari ties in a society that
Icvels particularity; signs of dist inction and of group in a society that tends to recognize
indi vidu::tl s onl y as idelllical and equal. ... 10
Thus, traditional me mory's spontaneity has been lost, and its traces are experi-
enced as deliberate construct ions, and as an externall y imposed duty to remember.
T his transformed sense of memory expresses itself through an archival obsession , an
attempt to conserve the present and preserve the past as fully as possible, a goal ror
which the "houses of memory" of modernity have been ereCled.' , Thus, heritage
museums, whe rever they are found, are prime exampl es of modern memory's
archival sensibility, with its reliance on " the materiality of the trace, the immediacy
of the recording. the visibility of the image."ll!
The meaning and texture of these sites of memory, however, are shaped by the
hi stori cized context in which they are located. This study thus becomes an expl ora-
tion in the uses of hi stor y and the recl amati on of memory as part of a complex and
persistent contemporar y process of cultural invention. For Nora.lieux de mcmoire are
largely "cultural remains," pal e testimoni als to a past suffused with "li ving memory,"
and hi s main concern is with the way memory has been affected by it s passage
through histor y. I beli eve there is more than a trace of nostalgia in this scholarl y
treatmenl of the rnemory-history dialecti c. Subjecting the processes of the produc-
tion of "sites of memory" to criti cal-hi stori cal analysis. we ca n also bring out the ways
in whi ch hi story is affected and deAected by our persistenl quest for memor y. Th is
latter emphasis hi ghli ghts the re-constructive, largely di scursive "work" that goes
int o the producti on of les lieux de memoirc. In eac h Stich re-construct ion. the
memor y- hi story dialecti c is shaped and re-shaped in parti cular ways. Thus, going
beyond an initial , oppositional definiti on of "memory" and "history," this article
exlores some of the forms this process of cultural production takes in the context of
Israeli pioneering settl ement museums, a nd some of what can be lea rned from it in a
more ge ne ral way.
Attempting to develop a discourse-centered pe rspecti ve on the study ormuse ums
as "siles of memor y," I ground my anal ysis in sel eCled dimensi ons of the museums'
re- presentational practi ces, expl oring the kinds of orientati ons they empl oy LOwa rds
the past. In so doing, I rocus on what Nora rerers to as "the push and pull that
produces lieux de 11lemoirC-ITI OmenlS of hi stor y lorn away from the movement of
hi story, then returned . No longer qui te lire, not yet deat h, like shell s on the shore
when the sea ofli ving memory has receded ." I:! Thus, the narrative performances of
tour guides as they routinely lead audi ences along the museum path will rorm the
basis [or exploring the ways in which these museums are di scursively constructed as
culturall y focal sites of memor y. Although one distincti ve feature of the museum
encounter s I have studied is t hat they may become occasions for shared remini scing.
these interesting personal uses of t he publi c museum text will nul be consider ed
here, II is in a less obvious se nse and more general sense that I wish to conside r
selli emenl museums as "sites of memor y" in the context of the prese nt article. T he
di scussi on will be orga ni zed as follows: The second section offe rs a n account of
Israeli pioneering settle ment museums as culturall y situated sites of memor y; the
uses of histor y in the muse um context are explor ed in the third secti on; the fourth
section explores the rhetoricall y evocat ive power of the museum's obj ect-narrati ves,
posing an indexical relati onship between them and the muse um's master-narrati ve;
some issues rel ated LO t he re-contextuali za ti on of obj ects in the museum selling are
di scussed in the fi nal secti on. I concl ude with some self-refl exive comments on the
cultural signifICance o f the study of [ieux de memoire as a form of auto-ethnography.
Israeli hi stori cal museums, which rocus on pre-state hi stor y (i,e., pre-( 948) , have
become a prominent feature ohhe Israeli cultural landscape onl y in the past decade
or so. Many ohhem (over 50 in number )" are devoted to the story of the pi oneering
settl e ment er a; each in it s own way tell s and the Zioni st version of Israeli
foundati o n mylhology, whi ch celebr ales the ideological 1"00lS of Jewish re-
seltl eme nt in the land or Israel in the past hundred yea rs." Establi shed through
local ini t iati ve, often by a core group of volunteers, the museums t hen gai n publi c
recogniti on and support both directl y in t he fo rm of regional or national develop-
ment grants and , indirectl y, through a va ri ety of instituti onal endorse ments. The
Mini str y of Ed ucati on and Cultu re, in parti cul ar . sponsors and cha nnels the visits of
school children to these museums, who are curre ntl y sai d to make up over 60% of
the 2 milli o n visitors t hat frequent these museums annuall y.1 6
The most out standing feat ure of the di scourse of Lhese museurns is the expl ici t-
ness and the direct ness of its ideological asse ni ons. I was told on numeroll s
occas ions by museu m personnel Lh aL the mi ssion of the museum is "lO teach
Zionism," or "to cu lt ivate the chil d r en's roots in the land," or to counter act young
people's growing desire to emi gra te. One museum guide, lo r exampl e, in preaching
the rellirn of direct ideological asserti on, ope ned a lOur of a group of uni versity
st ude nts with the roll owing \vords: "Ou r parents made a mi stake. T hey Lh ought thal
if they gave us lots or orange juice to d ri nk, we' ll become rooted in the la nd, but it
hasn' t worked out thal way. wi th all the emi grati on of young peopl e that's going on
now. ' <\Ie have to speak about our Zioni sm outl oUd."1 7 Anot her si mil a rl y used
the id iom o[ "roots" to talk about the museum' s ed ucalionalmiss ion , saying: " It's the
idea that we have to deepen our roots in thi s land , in thi s people, that's why we have
gone into all this trouble of preserving the 'Old Courtyard' ... to take this place and
use il as an educati onal tool. Preser ving the place is not a goal in itself, and the
educational tools-the experience, the story, the direct impression, the touching,
are an attempt to reach into the very root ofthings." He was, however, more attuned
to the pedagogical problematics involved in this ideological project. Elaborating on
the "roots" metaphor, he said: "We don't know exactly if the educational goal we set
out to accompli sh of culti vat ing our roots in the land is attained, but we know we
shouldn't overdo it , take out the roots all the time and check how they're doing, and
in ploughing the la nd around them, educationall y spea king, we should take care not
to gel too close to the roots so we don't cutthCTll ."18
Indeed , the emergence of heritage museums and sites as newly designed arenas
for the deployment of such explicit ideological di scourse in the context of the
cOll temporary Isr aeli society must be considered in the context ohhe demise of the
sociali st values and communal ideals they and revive in their
" musc umified" versioll.
One of the museu m guides succi nctly summarized this
situation in responding to a question conce rning the shape he thought the museum
would take in years to come: "Thirty years from now? Let me lell you this, I'm not
sure t he kibbut z will exist then, but I can assure you the museum wi ll."2o Clearly,
were the values and ideals so painstakingly invoked 'within the museum wall s sti ll
ali ve, there would be no need to enli ven and celebrate them in these speciall y
designed lieux de memoire.
As sites of memory, which are charged with a particular persuasive task of
the past, these museums fulfill their rhetorical mission by merging the
authenticating force of memory a nd the object ifying thrust of history in a compel-
ling, culturall y legit imating idiom. Throughout my discussion, then , I will attempt
to foreground the tentative balance of identifi cation and crit ical distance, of memory
and hi storical sensibili ty, which is recreated anew in ever y museum encounter. It is a
negotiated balance whi ch attests to a compl exity greater than the oppositi onal
model proposed by the aforementi oned historians would suggest.
The ethnographic project of which this study is a part has investigated the
of the pioneering era in lWO Isr aeli sett lement museums, both of
which focus mainl y on t he 1920s and 1930s. Both are loca ted in Israeli coll ective
sett le men ts, or kibbutzim. T he first muse um, establ ished in 1972, is located in
kibbutz Virat , and the second, establ ished in 1987, is located in kibbutz Ein-Shemer .
While museums, as lieux de mnlloire, are culturall y designed contexts for mater ial
d isplay, their overall "story" or "message" is lar gely conveyed and mediated
through verbal renderings in t he form of wri l.len label ings andl or museum guides'
or al interpretati ons. I n t he case of t he muse ums expl ored in t hi s st udy, the lOur
guides' oral performa nces are central in ge ne rating the desired " muse um
experience." Much of th is "experience·' relates to t he aforementioned nexus of
memory- history as interpreted and presen ted by the guides, and as re-lived by the
Playing itself between memory and hi stor y, t hen, the muse um guided lour
embodies the " push and pull " that produces iieu.x de memoire. The "texts" spoken on
t hose tours, and docu men ted eit her by aud io or by video, thus offer interpreti ve
sites in and t hrough whi ch t he d isc ursive construction of memor y in a world whi ch
organizes its past in terms ora historical consciousness can be fruitfully explored. In
attempting LO do so, I consider the museum tour as a cultural performance,
highlighting the role of the different narrators and their stances towards various
aspects of the nan"alive construction orthe museum story.
Seulement museums are suffused with a "rhetori c of history." Framing the
museum SLOry within the notion of his LOry, which involves the idea ofa sequence of
causall y related events, serves to "nalUralize" the museum's version of "the past"
wi th a powerful idiom of fa ctuality. The material " remains" that make up the
museum display are clearly congruent with thi s overall idiom. That the telling and
re-telling of a particular version of the past is self-consciously part of a larger
ideological project of considerable social significance is brought out by the oft-cited
dictum that "a people who doesn't know their past will have no future."21 This
dictum is spoken from the standpoint or a historical consciousness that decrees that
" learning about the past"-whether in museums , in schools , or by other formal
means-is not an end in itself but a necessary means for self-understanding at the
societal level, in the service of "the future." Notably, however, the idea of " I earning
about the past" as it is interpreted within the folk-historiographical perspective
grounding settlement museum practice tends to appealLO a rather restricted sense
of historical knowledge. T hroughout the museum tOllr, emphasis is placed on the
fragmented re-creation of the "facts of the past" rat her than on the culLivation of a
historical understanding of the unfolding of past events. The museum context is, of
course, conducive to a fragmentary and a-historical presentation as events of the
past become chronicled in the spatial language of objects. It is thus in the name of
historical facticity that themes, material items and stories find their way into the
muse um space. All thi s all ows the museum to sustain the fi ction that the past is told
" like it reall y was," and ignore questions of point-or-view and ideological irlfiection
in narrative constructions of the past, which would point to the possibility of
alternative or opposit ional readings ofil. Controlling the represe ntation of the past
in the museum context is therefore a malter of unacknowledged cultu ral pol iti cs,
wh ich is, in its own llIrn , spoken of in the Israeli cullllral idiom as a contemporary
way of "making hi stor y."22
The museum' s version of the past becomes naturalized through the use of the
concept nf"histor y." Even when argumen ts about the contents or the representa-
tional strategies in a museum are raised, they tend to be fonnulated as a matter of
contested facticit y, involving charges of historical ignorance, inaccuracy or fanciful
fabrication. Thus, while tour guides never waver in their claim to be re-presenting
the past, they va r y in the subtler nuances of their claims to fa cticity. At one end arc
the ';scholar" lypes who become upse t by any deviation from stri ct factuality: e.g.,
the guide who objected forcefully to the display of the sickle in the kibbutz museum,
argUing lhal it was lleVt:r ill USt in kibbutl agricultul'e and therefore no place
there. :!:1 T hi s auitude is countered by a much looser attitude to r epresentational
practices that speak in a generic:.: sense about "traditional agriculture" and "early
agricul wral pract ices" so that such finer factual di st inctions become irreleva nt.
More explicitly, I have repeatedl y heard versions of the claim: " I , doesn't really
matter if it happened here or elsewhere. the point is something like this really
One prominent exampl e of a vexing point of cOlllested facti city that is framed as
an argument between the claims of scholarly writings a nd the museum's re-
presentation of the past relates to the hi ghl y publi cized debate concerning the
swamps of the J ezreel vall ey. As depicted in sc hool books and other sources of
folk-hi stori cal knowl edge, the J ezreel valley, among other pa rts of the country, was
covered with swamps whe n theJewish pionee rs arrived. These had to be dried both
because they were sites for the propagation of mal ari a, whi ch LOok many lives, and in
orde r LO prepare cultivation areas for agriculwre. Thus. "drying the swamps"
beca me a symbol of the pi oneers' mythic struggle aga inst the hostil e forces ofnature
t hat threate ned the success of their nation-building enterprise. An article published
in 1983 by two Haifa Uni versi t y hi storical geographers claimed that the popular
view regarding the wide expanses ofswamps in the Jezreel vall ey in the early 19205
was highl y inaccurate, a nd that it was propagated so as to uphold the pi oneeri ng
mythology." Apart from t he scholarl y argument it triggered-relating both to t he
credibility of hi storical sources and to the conceptual definitions of the notion of
"swamps"-thi s articl e became a symbol in its own turn. It came to stand for the
academi c sc holars' di saffected drive to d e-mythologize the pioneering past, to
belittl e the accompli shments of the pioneering e ra, irl thi s case by claiming that they
were not as great as cultural members have been made to beli eve. Thus, standing on
the top of the hill of the Virat museum, facing the expansive view of the culti vated ,
lush fields of the J ezreel va ll ey, the museum guide's celebratory exposi tion of the
great accompli shment thi s view symboli zed often carried an argumentative edge
aga inst the alleged detractors of the myth . Stories about the swamps, the Arabs'
dread of them, t he J ews' heroic and successful efforts at drying them, wou ld be
prefaced by a somewhat sneering menti on of the people in the university who claim
there were no swamps in the vall ey and a promise to show definitive pictures of them
later 011. The guided LO ur thus becomes a nother rOllnd in the ongoing argument in
the debate about the swamps. the visi ting group anot her a udience whose adherence
to t he museum ve rsion oCt he story is LO be gained. Notably, the debate is framed as a
matter offactuality, while what is at issue is the unde rl ying ideology that gives shape
to the stori es. T he f ~ l c l U a l argu me nt concer ning the swamps. in auempling to set the
record st raight , also serves to modify the myt hologizi ng tendencies which mark
official re-presentat ions of t he pioneering past. Providing a re-cycled yet re-vitali zed
version of thi s kind uf discoUl-se, heritage museums may thus find themselves
embroi led in the wider cultural debate surrou nding the seuiemelll ethos and its
symboli sm. whi ch has long been a centerpiece of Israel i cultu ral politics of nostal-
gia. '· A conference held at the Uni ve rsity of l-l aifa on March 16, 1993, which marked
the publ ica ti on of a n importa nt Ilew cull eClion of essays exploring the role of t he
Jezreel vall ey as both hi stori cal site and cu lt ura l myth , incl uded a talk, by Yoram
Bar-Gal. the first aut hor uflhe famous articl e on t heJezreel valley swa mps, enti tled
"The Je7T-eel Va ll ey Swamps: Belween Myth and Reality," in whi ch he offered a
hi stori ographi calt reatlllCllt of the swamps theme in Israel i textbooks. Although the
presentation was quite low-ke y, B. , one of t he old-timer guides from the Viral
muse um whom I had heard countl ess limes expounding the story of the swamps in
front of the breat h-laki ng view of the \,alley, fidgeted in the chair next to me. He
~ .
claimed the presentati on was inaccurate, thal the speaker did not lake into account a
pa rti cular spring B. had known first ha nd, which had given ri se to ma ny swa mps.
Unimpressed by the academi c ambiance and the lea rned talk, he concluded with a
statement I had heard from old-timers before: "The trouble with these people is
they work out of documents, they don't reall y know how things are on the ground,
so they make mi stakes."
Indeed, it is precisely the position that the past is to be cheri shed for the sake of
the future, that its ideals and values are (or should be) relevant to the present and
serve as a corne rstone for the educatio n of the young, that seems to motivate the
"de· mythologizing" practi ces unclenaken in the name of historical facticity. It is
precisely the museum's ideological role in providing compelling models Jor social
action that requires that the pioneering story be cut to huma n size. A similar point
was made in a n earli er study which explored Israeli pioneering mythology by
tracing the rol e pl ayed in a variety of pedagogical materi als by a central settlement
narrative, which recounted the story of the sett leme nt opera ti o n known as Tower
and Stockade (HmTUl U7Il igdal), an umbrella term whi ch covers the establishment of
55 new Jewish settlements in Palestine between the years 1936-39, during the
British Mandate. In di scussing the rhetorical uses made of this narrati ve of he roic
settle me nt, it was ,pointed out that "pedagogicall y the message of t he stor y is
problematic: only great deeds are worthy of myt hologization, but the greater their
grandeur the more diffi cult they are to e mul ate. T herefore. the elevati o n of the
deeds and accomplishme nts of the pi o neering e ra invol ves a n ambiguous
message. This message simulatneously e ngende rs a sense of possibility a nd impossi -
bility. an uneasy balance of empowerme nt a nd self-do ubt. "27
The drive to " humanize" the gr eater -than-life image of the pioneering era so as to
retain the essential validity of it s ideological claims has greatly colored the texture of
muse um r epresentati o ns in othe r ways as well: alongside heroic tales of selAess
commitment, arduo us labor and great accomplish ments there emerged a genre of
" littl e sto ri es" describing the day-to-day experiences of the early pi o neers in such a
way as to gene rate inte rest a nd amusement rather than awe, invite identifi cation
ra the r tha n admiration.
These stori es, whether presented in the fi rst person as a form of remini scing, or
recited as part of a communall y shared anecdotal fund . serve to expand the
definition of what count s as " hi storical knowledge" by introd uci ng new a reas a nd
items of rel eva nce that become woven into the construction of the museum's version
of the past. Notabl y, this expans ion of "historical knowledge" is oft en accomplished
by mobilizing a nd legit imi zing personal memories as a source of " hi storical data,"
whether they a re found in documentary mate ri als 0 1' drawn from the guide-
interpreter 's a utobiographi cal experie nce. This is yet anot her way in whi ch the
dialect ic of memory and hi stor y plays itself o ut in the Illuseum contexl.
The rhetori c offacl icit y comes into play hel"C as well. but in a different way. While
in the aforeme nti oned di scussio n it was demonstrated that a r gume nts concerning
hi stori cal factuality a re designed to place const raints o n t he spinning of pioneering
myths and re-Iocate them wi thin a human context, the appeal to anecdotal bits of
information concerning lhe pioneers' way of life, whi ch a re oft e n not verifiabl e
t hrough sta nda rd historical research procedures, serves to legiti mate a broader
rather than narrower narrat ive base. Interes tingly, t hi s, 100, is done in the name of
", '. , ' , \
l'i'.kj 4.\ " "' [ j i \'."(1«< 0 " -
" . ''' >, 1".') ' " ..• , .,
lilctualit y; the anecdotes are said to represent a " hidde n" hi story, a paSl oft en
ignored in official versions of it as promulgated by the historians,
Humorously presented, many of these stori es in fact give voice to the "dark side"
of event s, so that their use combines the two fun ct ions of narrati ve factua lity
discussed earli er: they expand the factual base of museum narratives so as to include
domains that have been traditionall y excluded from official hi stories, and at the
same time they ser ve to de-mythologize the idealized and nostalgic version of the
past by introducing " negative" material s, For example, the general ideological
emphasis on the wa rmth of communal life is counteracted by stories recounting the
te nsions introduced into intimate famil y relations, the wholehearted celebration of
the new way of life in the land of Israel is counteracted by stori es concerning
indi vidual s' accute longings for the fa milies they left behind in the di aspora, and so
on. These lo lk-historiographical deliberations find thei r expression in the culturall y
constructed oppositi on between "the hi storia ns" and "the storytellers ," the former
being committed to t he transmi ssion of researched, officiall y authorized "facts,"
while the latter enjoy t he li cense of "folklore," both in the sense that they contribute
to myth making and in the se nse that they give voice to " hidden" hi stori es of the kind
di scussed ea rlier. I n this battle, t he "storytellers" are often on the defensive, having
to legitimate the "intrusion" of material s taken to be at the fringes of verifiable
hi story into t he museum tale. At the same time, the considerable audience-appeal
these material s have, at both the ideologi cal and entertainment levels, is largely
recogni zed, An explicit elaboration of this te nsi on between official hi stor y and folk
expression can be found in the introduction to a recentl y published coll ection of
stories relating to the hi stor y of settlement. appropriately entitl ed In the Beginning, 28
which was written by an arch stor ytell er and hi storian of the period, Muki Zur:'.
MemOl'Y appc:us in diRe.-em ways, II is the internal censorship which silences what is
remembered, it is the confession that gives voice LO events that ne ver happened , Thus, the
masters of memor y, t he wri te rs and the histo rians, ,H-gue among themselves, They all
remember , bu t in different \vays. T he hi sto rians claim that t hey an: objeCli ve, and t hat the
stol")'tellcrs o nl y decorate the cake and sometimes add t hings to it thai the)" sho uld nol.
\Vhcn you come a c r o s , ~ the storytell ers you are surpri sed to li nd that it is the y who hold keys
to a llislOl"y Ihal has heen hidden away. II was hiddt:n because il ....'as fe,lred t hat it wo uld
Ihreatt'n tht' precarious balance bel wl.:e n t hl.: pain and disintegratio n and the great
accompli shment s th"t became a model for days to conlt:, The persona l tt..'slimon ics add an
ilnpOrtalll dimt..'llsion to the sto ry and lhc hisLOr)". ,30
T he personal experi e nce stories are thus claimed nOt only to broaden t he scope of
hi stori cal representation. but also to introd uce t he seeds of a cri ti cal perspecti ve
towards the past. Pi tt ing the fact s of an expanded version of hi story grounded in
stor y and testi mony against the restricted ve rsions of "the hi storians" is a step
towards cou ilieracting the aggra ndi zing altitude associ ated \\"'ith a nostal gic and
ideologicall y motivated represe nlation ofl he past. It isa step. however, Laken within
a broade r context of basic ideologi cal consensus regarding the versions of hi story
being told and re·told withi n t he museum wall s, Therefore. the museum's rhetoric
of hi story and factuality is framed by a discourse ori ented towards the enhance ment
of memory, Another centra l feature of t hi s di scoll rse will be discll ssed in the next
sect ion,
, I
Museum displays are constructed out of "memory objects" and their atlendant
narratives . The dialectical tension of memory and hi story can be evidenced in
relation to both objects and narratives. Remembered meanings and values are
invoked and visitors' "sense of hisLOr y" is re-kindled by the sheer materiality of the
display, and the claims to faCLicity accompanying the museum tale. The museum
story is constructed in such a way as LO combine two very differe nt layers of narrative
construction: the first is the "master-narrative" that grounds the muse um's ideologi-
cal message and frames its display, and the second are localized "object narratives"
that are woven into the museum tour and concretize its message. In the settlement
muse ums I have bee n studying, the master-na rrative e nca psulates the ideological
stance of Labo r Zionism. It runs roughly as follows: The Jews of the diaspora were
di spersed a nd dislocated. They had no terri LOry of their own and therefore could
not e ngage in agricultural labor and were condemend to unwholesome occupations
as trade rs and middleme n of all sorts. Throughout the ages their greatest dream was
to come to the land of Israel and become fanners." The early pioneers fulfilled this
dream, leaving religion a nd diaspo ra li ving patterns be hind them, seeking to
become New Jews in the land of Israel. The beginnings were full of the hardships of
a new and unaccustomed way of lire (i n kibbutzim the difficulties of communal living
a re specifi call y highlighted), a diffi cult climate and a hostile natural and sometimes
human e nviro nment. Despite the hardships, they succeeded in establishing Rourish-
ing agricultural communiti es, like the one that houses the museum.
Emphases va ry between one rendering of the story a nd another, a nd the maste r-
narrative as such is not usuall y articulated in full, as its stor y- line-which is
congruent with hegemo ni c versions of J ewish-I srae li history commonly found in
histo r y textbooks-is well-known to most muse um vi sitors. In the context of the
guided tour, it may be brieOy alluded to in an explicit way, or, mo re frequently, it is
indirectl y invoked through the elabo ra ti on of "object narratives" spun together as
the tour moves along the museum path. A rel ati vely explicit, iffi'agmentary allusion
to the muse um's master-narrative is found in the foll owing excerpt fro m a guided
tour given to a g roup of Arab school teachers:
.. . AI the end or the last centu ry the J ews unders ta nd that the return 10 the land of Israel, a
n;II IOllal revival in the land or I sracl. has to begi n Ii'om the land , from agriculture. This is the
basis fo r the nation's existence .... The J ews \·: ho arrived in Israel understood that they had
to gu back 10 the land. rrom which .J ews had been CUI on-. In the diaspora thc), were n OI
rar mers, except for sume exccptional cases. They come hCI'e and Ihey have no idea or
how to go abou t it, but they have a strong viill and understand that th is is the way to do
it .. '\2
Each of the "obj ect nalTatives" that makes up the muse um tour serves as a sign
indexing some componenl(s) of the maste r -narrative, both amplifying a nd concre t-
izing its ideologica l message. In o ther words, each "obj ect na rrati ve" sta nds in a
metonymic relati o n to the master -narrat ive and the ideological world associated
with j(, :n In fact, n31T3t ive segments a re legitimi zed as pa n ofthe museum tal e to the
exle nt that they index some aspect of its grounding maste r-narrati ve through a
locali zed crite ri o n of narrative rel evance. Al so, the master-narrat ive may regul ate
features or the spat.i al display- e.g., in the Vif' at muse um t he corne r devoted to
traditional agriculture, whi ch contains Arab implements, is located at the e ntrance
because, as t hi s is repeatedl y pointed oul in the context of tours or interviews, thi s is
what the pi oneers found when they came to the land of Israel.
Let me briefly illustrate the metonymi c nature of "obj ect narrat ives" by mea ns of
two narrative segments, both of which index and concreti ze the themes of the
powerful hold of communal values, the hardships associa ted with the pioneers'
adaptati on LO communal demands in a context of extreme poverty, and the
resourcefulness they mobili zed to deal with them. Bot h stories are t ypi cal in that
they jointly express and diffuse the sense of hardship they wish to convey through a
humorous descripti on of some of the conditi ons and practices associated with the
pioneering past.
The first example concretizes the problematics associated with communali sm
through the story about a newcomer to the kibbutz group. a girl named Sonya, who
caused so much consternation by refusing to become part of the shared cl othing
arrange ment , nativel y known as shil'uf (i.e., partne rship), that the group was
convened by Va'acov, the kibbutz secretary, to discli ss the issue in the communal
dining hall. The tour guide recounts:
Imagi ne. a newcomer boy or girl a rrives. they came straight rrom home. New clothes.
Shoes. beautirul clothes compared to the worn , lOrn and pat ched up clothes the group had .
These were ....·hat we call now "gradc A" clothes, Sabbath clot hes. They were put aside, and
anybody who wem out to town would ....·ear the beautirul clot hes and the prelly shoes, that's
",hal you'd wear to go to Tel Avi v. for example. you want to go to Tel Aviv so yotl go to the
wardrobe. and you someone has alr eady gone to Tel Aviv. So never mind , you go
10 the railway station. there, ncar Can Shmuel, near Hadera, you wait . And when she comes
back rrom Tel Aviv, you both go behind the bushes, exchange clolhes, you give her your
wnrk clothes. and put on thc good clothes, and travel farandjl (,",,'cll -d resscd), as they say. in
good clothes. But she , Sonya, '·cfuscs. What docs Va'aco\' say? "Shc refuses to give he r shocs
to thc slllluI She has the newest shoes. All the girl s in thc group will have to go to Tel Aviv
and Haifa in their wom-out shoes. they' lI have no shoes to wear. This is a matter of
princi ple. If yoll don' T give your things to theshituf, lis te n. ir you don' t play our game. go to
another place. It can' t work this way. or the group will fall apart. The shilllf. it starts wit h
shoes. then it'lI be the clot hes, then they' II ta ke a tea-kettle to thei r rooms. then they' lI stan
rcading thei r newspape rs in thei r rooms, and all the companions hip a nd equality will ra il
aparl." This is what Ya'acov explai ns, it all begi ns with one shoc, bu t it 's a nutt er of
T he second stor y is one of many told abolll the pec uli ar living a rrange ment
whereby a third person was made to join the li ving qua rte rs, lent ur cabin, uf a
conjugal coupl e . The third person ca me to be nicknamed "/nimlls" (after a coml11on,
three- legged kerosene stove), and many stories were told aboul the misunderstand-
ings and di scomfort created by thi s arrangement :
Thc problem was that there ....·as a shon age or li ving space, and ir there was a couple who
wl.:rc li vi ng in here, the), would add another person [to the tellt ], because there was no other
pl:lCe. The third person's nicknallle was ··pnmus." Say lhere's a couple heJ'e who are
married. or at least living toget her- Th ey weren't so stri CT abOllt getting married those
cla ys- they' re lying here in bed , each in his or he r own bed. and arc waiting ror the thi rd
perSOlllo lie down and fall asleep. so the), can be togethel' for a whil e. He Ilhe thi rd person]
doesn' t want to disturb them. so he does n't come in. and walks around outside, to pass the
These stories, informati ve and entertaining as they are in a nd of themselves, draw
t hei r fu ll significa nce from lhe pathos associated wit h l he museum' s master-
I. > ".

.... . ,. '"i-
; J
r ,
... _-- - - - ---
narrative. Localized evclllS of the pioneering past are re·chaned onto the grand tale
of Zionist redemption in stich a way as to diffuse the particularity of the historical
circumstances surrounding them, transforming the tokens inLO lypes. Indeed, thi s
approach to the events of the past echoes a familiar strategy in traditional J ewish
thought, which, as mentioned earlier. was more concerned with the timeless
meaning rather than with the Reeting shape of hi storical events. As Yerushalmi
points out with reference LO the medieval Jewi sh chronicl es, they "tended to adapt
the Row of eve nts to longstanding and stable conceptual frameworks. It is
important to understand that there is no real interest in finding novelty in the
passing events. On the contrary, there is a clear tendency to adapt imponant new
events to well-known archetypes ... " 36
I would like to argue, then, that the narrative reconstruct io n of the past in these
sett lement museums marks a return to deep-seated patterns of memory-building,
which have li ttle to do with contemporary not ions of hi stor y. In a culturall y
intelli gibl e. ritual gesture of material and narrative inscription, individual acts,
eve nts and persons of the past thus become generic elements in the play of
indexicality which lUrns the different textual layers of the museum story into a
credi ble site of memory. Another st rategy for turning the histori call y distinctive into
the genericall y remembered involves the re-contextualization of Arab objects within
the narrative frame of the Zionist e nterpri se, as described and analyzed in the next
sect ion.
As is well recognized. the material conservation of valued objects which are
associated wit h a cherished past for the purpose of commemoration, in whatever
context it occurs, 3i involves a movement of de-contexLU:llization and re-contexlUal-
Removed from their original contexts of LIse, objects considered unusable
in their day-to-day existence arc re-Iocated and re-arranged in the confines of the
museum space in a way thm creates a new context for their secondary, museum life.
The spatial organization of the display provides part of the new meanings that
<lltend the re-contextualization of objects in the museum, e.g., linear, sequential
organi zation is often lIsed to represent chronological progression; thematic arrange-
ment in distinct areas of the museum is lI sed to crystall ize experiential areas in a
quasi-mimetic sense. The attending verbal interpretation complements the spatial
re-colltextualization through the use of labeling (or naming) procedures and
through the recounting of "object narratives." Both these aspects ofre-contextual-
ization- the naming of the o ~ j e c l s on display, and the li ttle slories spun around
t hem-refl ect (and reinforce) the museum's approved version of the past by
indexing the master-narrative that grounds its discourse. In the regular run of
('vents, th is practice goes unnoti<.:ed. as t he museum's "rhetoric of history" natural-
izes ideology. \tVhen visitors approach the museum with a completely different
vers ion of the past in mind, however-as is the case wit h Arab visiwrs whu come to
visit J ewish sett lement museums-the re-contexlllalization of the objects along the
lines ofthe museum's master narrative may be interpreted as an unacceptable act of
hi stori cal appropriation. and thereby as highly problematic.
As a malleI' oflact. Arabs are not frequent visi tors in Israeli pioneering settlement
museums. Of the IWO Illuseums disclissed in this paper. only the Virat museulll
receives Arab visitors on a regul ar basi s. Despite the left-wing ideologi cal leanings of
kibbutz Ein-Shemer, which are renected in the guides' passing comments about
amiabl e, nei ghborl y relati ons with nearby Arab villages, they do not cater lO Arab
visitors. Most of the gu ides I have approached about this issue expressed their
regret about thi s lact, but also said that if they began to receive Arab school s, for
example, they would need to change the story they were telling. They did not
specify what these changes would entai l, beyond noting that they would skip the
room di splaying the kibbutz arsenal , which is the onl y place in the museum where
the Arab/Jewi sh conAi ct is broughtlO the fore. I did not push as I reali zed that they
were too thoughtful to give me quick answers , and my obse rvations in the museum
in Yif'at, whi ch has been receivi ng groups of Arab educators and schoolchildren
from nearby villages and towns for man y years, have alerted me to the complexity of
the narrati ve accommodat ions Arab visitors "invite. " The general, unspoken inter-
pretive "poli cy" taken on these occasions of inter-group contact is fo r the tour to be
hea vil y focused on the " traditional agriculture" corner , whi ch di splays the main
point of contact between Arabs and Jews in the museum's rendering of the history of
settlement. This corner di splays the traditional agricultural tools used by Arab
fanners a nd therefore initiall y also used by the Jewish seul ers when they came to the
land of Israel around the turn of the century. Having sta rted their agricultural
venture with these tool s, the Jews are said to have improved them and then replaced
them by technol ogicall y more sophist icated implements and machines. The Arabs
are thus credited with having taughlthe Jews how to work, but are also said to have
greatly benefited from the technological progress introduced by the Jews. Interest-
ingl y, however , this part of the linear story of cultural contact and technol ogical
progress is never contested, but another part of it, the claim that the tools the Jews
found in use among 19t h century Arabs were the ones used by their forefathers in
biblical days , is nOt as readil y accepted.
The scene of na rrative aCl ion is the " traditional agriculture" corner of the
museum shed in ViraL. A variety of agricultural impl ements made of wood and iron
are hung on the wall , or laid on the ground along it. As is the case throughout the
museum, there is sparse labeli ng. a ll in Hebrew and Engli sh. Although thi s corner of
rhe muse um is devoted to the J ews' encounter with t raditi onal Arab ways. and the
objects themselves have been brought in from Arab villages, the object-names on the
labels hark back to bibli cal times. Even when the oral interpretation makes ment ion
of the object' s Arabic name, it is given as a sideline that demonstrates the narrator' s
immersion in local speech ways, thereby enhancing hi s or her credibility as a cultural
broker, or the na me is give n as a curiosity ("in Arabi c it has a funny na me" is a
phrase I have hea rd more than once). The re-naming of the object as a bibli cal item
makes a great deal of se nse within t he Zioni st version of J ewish hi sLoriognlphy,
which sees t he return to the land of Israel as marking a re-connect ion to bibli cal
times. A st rategy of the tour guides is t herefore to locate the item t hey have
identifi ed on the wa ll within the textual space of the Old Testament by demanding
of the audience: " Where in the Bible is it menti oned? Yes, the book of Judges, and
who used it? Does anybody remember the exact phrasing'" And so on. The
li te ralness wit h whi ch thi s strategy is pursued is brought out clearly in the following
exce rpt from a gu ided tour :
1" 111cll YOIl a Slory. d o you re member Ihe slor ), about lhe Palriarch Ahraham? Oh. he \\ <1 5
qUill" ;1 man! Plu:c [Wow], hl" had lolsof co\\'s a nd sheep a nd lOIS ofpeo plc working for him.
•... I
and he used 10 wander fmm place to pl.ICC, and he lived in the desert. He was the first
Bedouin. the Bedouins wcren' llherc ye t. but he was there already. He was silting in a tent.
what was his wi fe's name? Sara, Sara sal with him in the (CIll, and three angels are coming.
the y are going arou nd in the desert , and the y see some old man sitling with a young and
beautiful woman, so they say: "Let's go visit them," so they come, so Abraham says to them:
"Tefadalu, please, come in and be our guests," so he says. what does he say to Sara? He
whispers a loud whisper in her ear: "Go get three measures ofnour (JeOI kemah) ," Here are
t he measures {pointing to the walll,fro11l fhe Bible straight here on this wall. You see. this is what
they uscd to measure in, imagine. the J'atriarch Abraham in his lime. How many years
al ready? Oh, it's imposs ible, J ..... asn· tthere, you wercn'llherc, your parcms weren' t there,
and he was alread y using this to measure with t hi s. 39
To Jewish audiences this kind of story sounds like a playful elaboration of a
well-known biblical tale, which is re-told here as elsewhere by way of re-iterating a
largely accepted ideological claim concerning the historical depths oft heJews' roots
in the land of Israel (despite the 2,000 yea rs of the diaspora). Re-naming Abraham
as the first Bedouin, or recent Arab tools as biblical items, cannot be subsumed
under the museum's commitment to factuality, which includes an accurate specifica-
tion of the obj ects' provenance, but is intelligible in terms of its larger mission of
re-inventingJewisn collective memor y,
To Arab audiences. for whom the traditional agriculture corner provides an
occasion for animated personal reminiscing, as visitors identify objects they remem-
ber from their childhood, or objects they own to this very day, the strategy of
endowing these objects with an imaginary. biblical ca reer is an act of cultural
appropriation, even of symbolic violence. Arab visitors rarel y, if ever. express their
negative reactions openly, At one time. when a grade school child from a nearby
Arab vi llage openly showed his dissati sfaction with the claim that the valley had been
an empty, swampy terrain before the arrival of the Jewish pioneers. he was hushed
by his teacher, who said to him: "The Palestine we know is not the Palestine of the
Jews." This strategy of avoiding any potential open conflict over the interpretation
of the past is dominant. \,,' hen I once asked a group of Arab teachers. who had
assured me LhaL they felL the museum was telling their story more than the Jews'
story-pointing to the many Arab-made objects found in the traditional agriculture
corner-if they wouldn' t prefer "their" museum to be located in an Arab village
rather than a Jewi sh kibbutz, my question met with multiple evasions. Several
teachers said it didn't matter where the museum was, they assured me they were
glad they could bring their school kids over to see the implements that had until
recently been in use in Arab villages. and that Arab children nowadays no longer see
as they were a pan of a vanishing tradition. In so saying t hey not onl y re-affirmed
their cultural ownership of t he "traditional agriculture" corner of the museum, but
also gentl y reminded me that contemporary Arabs are very difrerent from the
tradi[ional figure ohhe Arab, which tends to be depicted as a Timeless Other in the
settlement museum display:lO One teacher suggested thal a separate corner in the
museum be devoted to t he display of olive growth and olive-oil industires. which
have been central to traditional Arab agri culture and life in the area. The suggestion
met with general approval by her coll eagues, and I felt that if the museum were to
follow it, which my queries suggest is unlikely to happen, this would be interpreted
as a geslUre of incorporation towards Arab visitors, enhancing their tentative sense
of the museum space as an island of political neutrality, where Arabs and Je\, ..,s can
. J . ~ - , - _______ . ___ _
rneet as children of the earth, producers and consumers of agricultural goods. A
comment by anot her teacher, however , brought the discussion back to ground . He
waved my question aside, saying there are many more important things the Arab
population needs; they'd rather have proper medical ser vices and schools before
they were given museums. Hi s colleagues responded with chuckling sounds of
approval, but at the same time some of them were qui ck to check his protest with
restraining, li ght-hearted calls o["no politics here."
Here and there, though, voices of contestation neverthel ess sift through, as in an
entry I found in the museum's visitor book written by an Arab teacher who said: "It's
a pity the Arab contribution to the settlement of the land has not been highli ghted
suffici ently." Or in the muttering of an Arab school teacher, whose sarcasti c
comment encapsulated the problematics of the tool di splay from the standpoint of
Arab visitors: "The tools belong to fat her and grandfather, and the stories belong to
Moshe and Haim [both Hebrew namesJ."o1l It is onl y on rare occasions, however,
that Arab visi tors become openly confrontational, and these become memorable and
" reportable" events. One of these rare cases was recounted by B., an old-timer guide
who speaks Arabic and is therefore usuall y assigned to guide gr oups of Arab visitors.
He told me the stor y in private conversation and then repeated it to a group of
university student s (bot h J ews and Arabs), who had: come to the muse um in the
context ar my ethnography cl ass. Obviously agitated by the memory of t hi s encoun-
ter, he told in detai l about an argument he had recent ly had with a group of Arab
visitors who inqui red about the present whereabout s of the Arab vi llage rs who had
li ved in the pre-1948 village of Mj edel , where Yif'at is now located. Posing thi s
questi on was interpreted as a political provocation, which it probably was, and B., a
great sympathi ze r with Arab culture and cause , was clearly d isturbed by thi s direct
confrontation. He told us at length how he had explai ned to the Arab visitors that
the vill agers of Mjtdel and the ot her pre-1 948 villages in the area had Red of thei r
own accord during the Israeli War of Independence, havi ng been misled by the
Iraqi army leaders who had urged t hem to leave, a nd that by the time they were
ready LO return, the ki bbutz had already absorbed many Holocaust survi vors who
had nowhere else to go. He concluded hi s stor y by saying: "They saw I was r ight and
said not hing in response:' I late r asked my Arab students if they had found B.'s
account equall y persuas ive. Not contesting any of the details of B.' s account , they
burst into laught er, and said that t he sil ence with whi ch it was received had nothing
to do wit h t he accepta nce of hi s argument. Not getting into argument , t hey poi nted
out, is a matter of respect; it is a way of doing musayara, going along with the ot her.
As muse um visitors, t hey regarded themselves as guests bound by the rules of
proper conduct, whi ch are culturall y inte rpreted as ori ented towards enhancing
harmony and avoiding confrontati on.
The non-confrontational, self-effaci ng st rategies generall y empl oyed by Arabs in
the context of seulement museum encounters (a nd elsewhere), contribute to the
undiswrbed, unselfconscious reproduction of the hegemonic version of the Zioni st
masler-narralive in lheir di scourse. In sha ring my se nse oflhi s largely su ppressed
problem3tics with museum personnel , most of whom have st ruck me as thoughtful .
creati ve and open- minded people, I found that their response de pe nded on thei r
overall vision of the museum's role. The ge neral attitude, it seems to me, is that
settl emen t museums have been established to tell t he story of the J ews, not of the
Arabs, and that it is therefore legitimately told li'om the perspective of Zionist
ideology. Even when conceding the role oflhe museum as an arena where contacts
between Arabs and J ews could be fruitfully highlighted and explored, museum
professionals insisted that this was only a secondary maller and that the primary
focus should be on celebration of the Jews' culture and nation-building mission.
There is no argument with the aforementioned statement that the Palestine of the
Jews and the Palestine ofthe Arabs represent two different geographies ohhe mind.
Let the Arabs tell their version of the story, I was told again and again. '"
I n discussing the uses of hi story in seulement museum discourse in the previous
seClion, I have tried to show that the museums' " rhetoric of factuality" serves as a
powerful memory-building strategy. This section has taken us beyond the simple
case of conse nsual narrative framing into con tested sociocultural terrain. Here, it
seems, hi story is both appealed to and transcended in all owing memory to do its
ideological work.
The concept ual point of departure for this study has been the argume nt devel -
oped by Nora and Yerushalmi (among others) conce rning the co-existence of two
fundame ntall y opposed orientations towards the past, one refe lTed to as " rnemory"
and the other ' referred to as " hi stor y. " In elaborating thi s analytica l opposition,
Nora concludes: "At the heart of history is a critical discourse thal is antithetical to
spontaneous memory. History is perpetuall y suspicious of memory, and its true
mission is to suppress and destroy it. " H Interestingly, Nora has also pointed out that
we have now come to a point at which a central pan of our hi story is a history of lieu x
de memoire. In thi s view, then , lieux de 11l emoire arc both enclosed cultural enclaves for
the prese rvation of memory- traces and objects for hi storical (and, I would add,
anthropological) inquiry. If hi story's "true mi ssion is to suppress a nd destroy"
memory, what ca n we make of the hi storians' and ot her social scientists' obvious
fascination with memory discourses as sites of scholarl y scrutiny? I n other words, are
our meta-di scourses of the past, in the form of hi stories or ethnographies of lieux de
memoire. another step in hi stor y's mi ssion to suppress and destroy memory? Can we
argue for a more complex picture. one that is grounded in a view of "memory" and
' ·h istor y" as dialecticall y r elated orientations to the past rather than independently
defined . antit heti cal ones?
\·Vhile Ill y analysis has necessaril y addr essed the specifics of the Israeli case I have
been studyi ng, the represe mati onal practi ces I have identified, wh ich both enact
and mediate the hi story- me mory opposit ion in sites of memory of various kinds, are
of much broader rel eva nce. In fact. they speak to an even more encompassing
dialecti cal tension that is basic to modern life, the te nsion between the isolat ing,
int ell ectual stance of criti cal reflection, whi ch Nora would assign to the realm of
" hi stor y." and the all -consuming moment of ,"iLUal, communal bonding, which he
would assign to the realm ofmcmory.
\1use ums, then, whatever else they do in terms of the local sociocultural scene,
also se r ve as cultural sites for the articulalion of thi s vel-y basi c tension of hi story and
memory jostling for cu ltural positi on. The eth nographic approach I have proposed
here for the study of the di scursive production of sites of memor y therefore
highlight s their negotiated and strategi c dimensions. " ' hat I have tried to show in
my di scussion of Israeli settlemenl museums is thai hi stor y and me mor y orienta-
tions inler-penetrate in producing multi-layered discourses of the past. Thus,
museums, as lieux de memoire, invoke a rheLOric of hi story , which may both utili ze and
dissolve claims lO factuality. At the same time, museums, like olher lieux de memoire,
increasingl y invite criti cal inquir y, leaving us with self-reflexive questions concern-
ing the role of our meta-di scourses about the discourses of lieux de memoire, and their
processes of production. To what extent does studying the di scourses of les lieux de
memoire become another ritualized, nostalgia-filled invocation of a world of "li ving
memory" that no longer is? To what extent do our scholarl y voices, suspici ous of
memory, remain part of the world that surrounds and contains it within the
boundaries of ies lieux de memoire?
As I turn to the road that takes me up the hill to the Yif'at museum, or glimpse the
top of the two old trees that pridefull y announce one's approach to the "Old
Courtyard" in kibbutz Ein-Shemer, my heart fill s with a surge of unspeakabl e
longing, a longing J have come to recognize in the voices of other visitors as they
sight long-forgotten childhood objects in a museum corner, for a moment trans-
fixed in time and pl ace. Yet the onl y way I ca n truly li sten LO the museum narrative is
by lending it a dubious ear, by interrogating the reprcsentalional pract ices em-
pl oyed, by attending to the silences around its edges, i.e., by producing a criti cal
Much has been written in recent yea rs about the criti cal turn in ethnographic
and some has been written about the aUlo-ethnographer' s peculi ar
slance.-I6 My confli cted participatjon in my chosen lieux de 17lemoire the refore comes as
no surpri se. My ongoing ethnographic explorati on in a culture in which I li ve and
work,'li whose celebratory moments as well as repressive practices are part of the
ve r y fabri c of my life, has also prepared me for the eve r-prese nt tension, whi ch is
part of the auto-ethnographEr'S position as professi onal, ifnot cultural, 01ltsider.
The auto-ethnographEr's self-conscious participation in hi s or her own cultural
world, including its lieux de memoire, may suggest the possibilit y of a new form of
cult ural enactment , one that transcends Nora's perspecti ve on sites of memory as
in-group ori ented , a ffecti ve and magical enclaves, which cel ebrate the esse nce of
Life in a world dominated by the sign of hi story. It invites a more complex altitude
that interweaves memory and history, criti cal reflection and rilUai enactment , in an
eve r-shifting yet produClive tension. For such an alternative reading to ma ke se nse,
we may need to relinqui sh our nostalgia for the " li ving sea of memory" and put
greater faith in t he mea ningfulness ofa refl ecti ve attitude. The hi stor y that is a livi ng
hi slOr y of lieux de memoirf may in itself be a new cultural form that suggests the
possibilit y of cri tical atte ntion grou nded in cultural affirmation. It is, indeed,
through the ethnographe r's fascination with lipllx de m,emoire as signifi cant cu ltural
arenas that their vul nerabili ty to criti cal interrogation is most clearly brought to
li ght. Should we think of the ethnographer's task in this context as the product ion of
lieux de his/oire? \"' het her we can concede such a formulation or n Ol, it appea rs that
the memory- hi stor y dial ecti c speaks to more subtle and ri cher possibiliti es of
cultural e nactmenl than was originall y suggested by the oppositi onal model that
launched the present exploration. and thal case slUcii es such as the one ofTered here
ca n help to illumine some of the empirical and conceplUal issues involved.
, .. , -,-),
. \, ..
i.' ,,\.' .
Tamar Katliti lS Associate Professor HI the School of EdllcailOPI at the U'lIvnuly of Haifa , Israel. This or-tid, is
part of a largt'r sllIdy explonug the d,scount ofhl'ritage mllStlllllS ", Israel. VanOILS aspects of lhe larger project
hallt been addressed at the Israel Sociological Sociely Meelirlg. /llIIfa. F,bnwry J 992; ICA, Miam;, May
1992; Til, Getty h lSlItllte for the I/ulor) of 011' Arts (HId ltc/urI! StritS, Santa M011icll. June J 992;
EthrlOgraph)' of Commmllrali071 Conj,rena, POrlland. August 1992; AlImwl Muting of lht! Amenwn
EtlHlologiral Sonely. S(mill Fe, Apnl /993. This researrh was supported fly The Basic Research Foundolioli
Admi'listtred by The Israel Academy of Sciences (llld Hllllumir;e.\, The overall featu.res and rationale for thl5
project, bill neither the conuptual exploration nor the empiriwl dtlta /)rfSI'11ifd herl!. lIrf dist.1tSsed in a short
eTl/ttled "Ollr Futllre H Where Dllr Past Is: Studying Heritage MUStt llms tiS Ideological and Performo(i1ie
A rows, .. Communica tion Monographs, ( 1993), The alllhor is grateful to Rivkl I?jbak and two anonymous
rell;ewus for helpful commtllls on Oil em1ier versiou of the present paper.
ICL for example. Robert Hewson. '1'1" Hmtagl' Indll.stry: Bnlam 111 a CIWUllf of Dfc/Illt. (London: Methucn.
1987). Donald Hurne. The (;,.,,11 i\>lIulllln: Tllf RI'- Pre.un/(JllOll of HHlm)'. (London: Pluto Press. 1984). Michael
Wall ace. " Visiting the Past : History in the United States." llaJu:al H UlOry IlwltlJl 25 I): 63- 96; I van
Karp a nd Sleven O. La,·ine. f:xhlbltmg Cultures: Th, Podu:s ami PollllcS of j\·tuSt llm DuplllY. (Washington:
Smithsonian. 1990).
:l Dean MacCanncll. Thl' 'formst: ANi'll! Thto/)' oflyhl' V/SUrI' Class. (New York: Schocken Books. 1989).
' M:acC.'lnncll 39- 56. Cr. also Eli/..abeth Fine and Jean Spt·er. 'Iour Guide "c ,fonnanccs as Sight Sacralilalion."
A"nals ofTounsm Rt'SI'arch 12 ( 1985): 73- 95.
Pi e rre Nora. " Between Memory and History: Lcs Licux de Memoire." UI'PUVtllflllOIiS 26 ( 1989).8.
:' Na tal ie Zemon Davis. ;md Randolph Starn. " lllI roduction." Special issue: and Coulller-Memory."
RtprW'tllallOFIS 26 ( 1980).4 .
fiNoI''' S-9.
i YosefHayim yerushall1li.lflkhor: jrwuh II;J/oryalldjell'uh M r mol)' . (Scanlc: Univcrsity of Washing ton Press.
I 982).
!!Ycl"Ushalmi 9 1- 92.
!l Charies Liebman and [ li elcr Don- Yehia. CIIl" Ileilguln /11 I.mul: Tmdl/lOllnl Jilt/illS'" mId Polillrnl C,IlI"re m the
jrll'ish Sinle. (Berkeley: Universi t y of California Press.
IO Nora 12.
II Frances A. Yates. The Art of I"t tmory (Chicago: The Uni versity of ChiC:lgo Press. 1966).
I:lNora I J.
uNor,1 12.
numbel' 01 these museums runs between 50 and 60. Va riations in coullting are related to the fact ,hal
mali y of the m gl'll\o,' out of local exhibitions and/ or local archives. alld it is not always dear when they can be
properly rclerred to as muse u illS. Another issue relates to Ihe fact that quire a !lumber of them are site-musculUs.
which a l'e located in historical sites that have undergone a process of restoration. Given the rather negative
popular associatIons with museums as the deadl)' instruments of High Culture. some oflhe site museums reject
the title of museu III and Opt fO!' some alternative. Simply "site" (alar) seems to be the lIIost common . As Ihe idea
of open air muse ums became more familiar. more and morc pionccring settl ement llluseu lllS sites became a pari
of the pl'Olessionalmu5Cum scene. a nd it separate division for the sClllement museums was established ..... ith the
framewod .. olthe !sri/ eli in 1989.
I-' Olher Israelr herit.tge focus o n such historical d ;lIlt.l esline immigration during Ihe
British Mandat e. or selected chapters of the military struggle for indcpendence. for example.
IhThese figures "'ere given to me lor Ihe years 1990 and 1991 by Mr. Yosi Feldma n. chai r of the Society for
IlislOric.ll I' resen'ation that 11<I S been quile acti,e III Ihe preservation of Ulany of these sit e-museums.
17 Z .. guided to ur 3.:1.91. Aillri/Ilsiations from Hebrew-la ngua ge field materials in this article are my own.
.. interview 15. 10.91 .
1'IThis prncess ill now relerred to as "t he ca pitaillatiun of lhe libbutl. ...
211 A .. discussion with university students. 8.11.91 .
:lI This dictum is often cited .. part orthe guided tour iudf. and I have he,lnl it attributed 10 different
Zionist pcrsorlatitics. most otiell to Yig.11 All on. It is also inse rted into the guides' discourse not a ci t;uion but as
a kind ufpro\'erbial truth.
21The idlOlll of museum-making is subsu med in lhe bracli cultural idiolTl of hi story- malin.\.{ and p];, ce-
making. which arc lypkal of of the pioneering era. "Frame" stor ic\ told about the enterprise uft he
"cr.J l\, Ie",' " ",·ho il1lti:ued and accomplished the establi shment orthe museums echo the stori es abmu the "craq
It· ..... .. ""ho pi,mccrl'd the n; tumlu the.: hUIIJ dnd lhe eSI<tblishrnem ollhe places tn whIch thc museums are
/lUW housed. This narrativc dearly " nux lds"t he cultural cOlltinuit y Ihe museum seeks to afleet.
with museum personnel. [in-Shemer. 10. 12.91.
.. gUided tour . 28.9.9\.
"' Yllram 8ar-G;11 and Shmuel Shamai. 'The Je.lred Valle) S""tlups- Legcnd and Realit)·:· ullh,,[m 27
(19M3)' 16:1- 179 (in Il cbrew). Subseql l(" lIt I)flhe joul' lI al carried a \·ariet y .,f 10 this article.
Ki-\ TRI t::L
Yoram Bar-Gal, Molrdr/ I/Ild (;f'ogrnph)' In fllmdrrd Ymlj of ZlOrml Edfun/foll . (Tel ,hiv: Am Oved. I9'J:\, in
Ta m;lr Katricl , and Alil-oa Shenhar, "Towel' a nd Stoc kade: Dialogic Na rrat ion in Israeli Seulenlcnt
Thf' QII(Jrlnl), jOlmlfl1 of Spu(h 76 (1990): 3S9-:S80; Fred Davis, )'rommg for A Socw!o[!;)' of
(N.Y.: Free Press. 1979).
n Katrici and Shenha r, 368. Cf. a di scussion ofa similar prcscntatiollal dilemma in di scourses ofordina l' y
families about the extraordi nary fa mil y of Ihitish royalt y as discussed in Mi chael Billi g, "Collective Memory,
Ideulog)' and the Royal Famil y," in C"lIu/ll'r Rrm"f1bn",c, cd. David Middlelon and Derek Edwards
(London : Sage, 1990) 60-80.
2HZvi Karnicl . /lllhf' Bf'gmnmg. ( Kibbut :r. Ramat Yochanan , 1992. in Hebrew).
It'l Muld Zur is a ce ntral fi gure ill the kibbulI; moveme nt as ideologue, educator and politician . He is alllhOl" of
several books relat ing to pioneering era and champion of stor ytelling. Hi s culle<:tion of kibbut z stories is uscd.
IIIIf'r flllfi. as resource material in many museums. When the muscum in kibbut L Yirat celebrated its 20 yca rs
annivcrsar y in August 1992 in the form of a one-day cunference of the chaptel' fOl' settlemem museums of t he
!sr,leli museum associ:ltion. Muki Zur was im·ited not onl y as ke) note spcaker but was also one of three people
who cunducled the guided lOurs or the muscum (the othcr I WO were Ihe d ircctor and a seni or guide).
lO Karnicl 7.
't The emphasis on the f:ll"lne r -i mage orlhc Zionist pioneer (hnlu/l.) was ce nl ra l to the Labor-socialist branch of
the Ziunist moveme nt . nut 10 all Zionists, They werc culturally a nd politicall y dominam throughout the
nati on-building era, e,·e n if outnumbered b)' newcomers 10 the land who became cit)' a nd small -town dwellers.
In the sett lement muse ums I havc observed it was a duminant image to the point of re· writing all of J e""ish
hisulI")' in its light, as indicated in this passage, so that the religion-based ),c;lrni ngs for Zion that accompanied
the j ewi .. h pcople in the dlaspora thro ugh the ages have become re-i nt erpreted as moti va ted by the yearning 10
cuili v;lI c the land as far me rs. Reli gious Zionists, on the ot her hand. re -interprct the Zionist reviva l as one more
indication of the j ews' age-old attachment to the land oflsr .. el. "

" cr. Charles Briggs' discussion of the notion of "triplex signs" in COmp,.ltllft UI PnfornwIICI' ( Philadelphia:
University of Pennsyl"ani a Press, 1988).
.. gui dedtour, I S. IO,9 1.
UI., guided lOur. 13. 10.91.
lti Yerushalmi 56.
''' Whercas musculUS and arc hives are ollr maj or conservation insti tutio ns in (he public domain. (here arc
less instinn COlllcxts or memory-building that make use of "material re mains'· in private contexts. Cf.
Tamar K:Hricl and Thomas n. Farrell. "Scrapbooks as Cultural TeXIS: An America n Arl OI' Mcmory." Tf'Xt mlft
P"'iOf"rfUIf/(f' QllaTttriy t I ( 1991): 1-1 6,
"'Cf. Sus.1Il Stewart. 01/ 1..o1/gmg: NarrnilVt's of Iht' G'gfIflIU, lIlt' M'rllnlllrf' . lh,. SOlOJt'IfIf', mul lhl' Collntlml
(Baltimorc: juhns Hopkins Univers it y Press. 1984 ), a nd Barbara Kil's henblatt-Gi mbl ell , ··Objects of
Ethnography," in Exhlhllmg Th,. POI'II(s amt Pair/In of MIlSt'/lfII DlSplr,)'. ed, Ivan Karp. il nd Steven D .
u lvi nc (Washington. D.C. : The Smitholllan Instit Llle Press, 1990) 386-4'13,
'9 1L gUided tour In a group of grade school childrcn, 1.8,89,
F .. bi .. n. ·, im, IHld thr Ollt,,: How AlIlltropolog)' Malus Its Dh},." . ( . , Y.: Columbia Universitv
II A Side-re mark made b) a female tcacher dUI'ing a \ ideu.t,lpcd gui ded 1U1ir .... ith B., 4.10.91,
, Ill elaborat ion of this cult ural communication patt er n. d. Yusul Grief ... and Tamar K'lI r iel . " Life
Dcmands 1\ l usa)':lra: COllllllunication .. nd Culture amollg Arabs in Israel." Inlt'ntallmtnl ami In/trw/tum/
Call1lllfllll({/IWn lhHllla/1 3(1989): 121 - 138.
tl ldeed. t hcy incl'e' lsi ngly do. In lIluse um-land the Arab version ofthc stul'y of Palesti ne can be gleaned
In the recently firs t Palestinian Herit;lge Museum IOC<ltcd in the Ga lileall \' illage of Sakhnin .
Although not rct ofhciall y open. it already receives 1II;II1 Y Arab as well .. jewish school groups a nd OTher
ucC'a)ional visi t(lrs. I nail intervie .......... ith A. B:lCkcr and II . Ii alil ...... hi ch W<lS COl ldllCl Cd as pari ofa semin .. 1' project
in the spri ng of 1992. direClor explained it s establishme nt as being partl y a to Ihc appropriation or
Ara b lIl aterial (uhurc in sl· ttl e me nt museum ... which he rc/erred to as t he .J ews' "stealing" of Arab her itage.
N'Jlably, the il (visibili t)' (JI the Jews is e\'cn more pronoliliced til the Sakh nin III USetllll tha ll that of the Arabs ill
the )elllelllellt ,\!though the dtrector told me he defined " heri taKc·· goi ng 30 ,ea rs back. i.e ....... ell
illto thl· 01 the State of ISI" :lcl. thcre is no tracc 01 the Jews' prcsell t'l'. Il r an)" inter·group conlan tn
lhe IIIU)(.' lIlII di'pl<lY. "lIlhc I .. heling. it is in A. :llm and Engli sh (as Ihe visiti ng card of the museum
dirctlnl' , ..... 110 is fluent 11\ Ilcbn:w). t\ dChtil cu I..UIlI j.ldt of lilt: u:: prclic llI ,lliutl al slral t'glt:s employed tn the
ami muse ums takes us beyond the cunfines of thi s pape l·. 11 ,)v,'evel'. Ict me poilU out that in
butll the museu III becomes an arena fur the culuv;IlIlJll of an essentiali st "ie ..... of culture
Ucwl. .. h-Isrilch or as the ma" \.)e). a \'Iew 111<11 fits ....·ell ",·ith the ITlIISeum·s 111\ thologi/ing agelHt;.
\I NO"' 1 9 .
"IIIlj>Hn;lIl1 hoob and :tl'lides ..... hi ch discu)) lilt:, (1' 111(".11 turll In cthnogrOlphic research ,lI1d \\nting. h,l\c
,'ppc.lled ttl 1"('((· 111 )(':1 1" Lg .. (;('orge ;Ind Mt ch.lcI FhlIH' I· . . 11I11t/ OpO/tlJ:..,) III Culluml Cn/fqlll': /III
•. \ ' . ! . .1, , . ... ,'1 ·It' ·
. '. '
-- _._---
Expnmumlaf Momen/m the ' -I1I11UIII SW!1ICI'S (Chicago: The Universi ty of Chicago Press. 1986); James Clifford and
George fl.lar('us. eds .. Wnlmg Cllflure: Thl' (HId POII/If.1 of F.flmogrn/;h), (Berkeley: Uni versity of California
Press, 1986): James Clifford, nte Prl'l/r((Jml'1l/ of Cul/urr: TWlllllflh-emllll' Ethnography. L,tera/lae al/d Art
(Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard Uni versity Press. \988). In the comlJlunicat ion fi eld. Dwight Conquergood has
adl'oGlted a critical stance to ..... ard eth nographic research. Lg. Dwight COIHJuergood. " Rethinking [lhnogra-
phy: Toward a Critical Cultural Politics," ComFltrmua/lon Monographs 58 ( 1991 ): \79-194, and Dwight Conque r-
good, " Review Essa)': Ethnography, Rhetoric and Performance," TIll QIIIlr/trly jOlfl1wl of SIJff'Ch 78 (1992):
special interest in thi s connection is Smadar Lavic, Till' POl'ties of Mill/my OccupalwlI: Muill(l AUego1"/es of
1dt'lIllly U"drr /Jraell mId Ef!;)'PIIIll! NII/I' (Berkclt' y: Universit y of California Press, 1990). In Ihis
ri chl y-textured and sensitive ilnal ysis, Lavie di sc usses her positioning vis-a-vis the Mzeina culture on the one
hand and IUileli cult ure on the other. Ac; her ti tle suggests, howc\'er, hers is onl)' secondaril y an auto-
ethnography. Different as our studies are, they share a concern with the consequences of power and
domination. My main ti:)(;US here is on the role of represe ntational practices in maintaining hcgemony, whi ch
from the standpoint of the dominant J e\\' ish culture is a celebration of roOts. Her main focus is on Ml,ci na
performanccs of identity that wrestle with the cultural consequences of political domination.
Kat ricl , Talkmg Slr(Hght: 'Dugn' Spt'f'rh 111 ISHUil Sabra CldluYI' (Ca mbridge: Cambridge Universit y
Press. 1986) and Tamar K:lIric1, Commlmal W,.bs: Commumcallorl Ulld Cuillm: 111 Contemporary' (Albany: SUNY
Press, 199 1).
411,\ recell! exchange between John Fi ske and Donal Carbaugh entilled "Forum: Writing Ethnographies," Thf
ofSpeet:h 77 ( 1991): 327-342. has been devot cd to the issue of critique in ethnographic research,
suggesting the two gcneral alternatives or consensus-orit'nted research on the one hand (Carbaugh) and
conflict -orient cd research (fiskc). I belie\'e my research side-sle ps this argument by applying a con fli ct approach
(attention to silences) to the study of consensus-building practi ces (discourses orlhe past). Like Carbaugh. I a m
interested in the discursive production of communit y. but like Fi ske. I ,lin attuned to thc excl usions that are
inevitably involved, and am imeresled in the ways in which they become negotiated.

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