EVENT: "A Purposeless Spectacle: The Interwar Origins of Israeli Sport and the Hebrew Neglect of the Athletic Experience" - Talk with Dr. Ofer Idels (April 11)

Csaba Nikolenyi's picture

Please join the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies on Monday, April 11, 2022, at 12:00 AM EDT / 7:00 PM IST for a virtual talk with Dr. Ofer Idels.


About the Talk:
During the interwar years modern sports rose to prominence as a global phenomenon, becoming, in many cultures, a representation of hegemonic national pride and a 'strong,' 'healthy' bodily image. This cultural transnational change had also Jewish context, and in Europe and North America, for example, sports clubs like Bar-Kohba, Gwiazda, Hakoah Vienna or the various Jewish boxing champions of the era, established what is now known as the "Golden Age," of Jewish sport. Theoretically, the Zionist desire to create a 'muscular' and robust Jewish representation should have embraced the athletic into its national culture. Nevertheless, throughout the interwar years, the athletic body was mostly perceived as a vain and useless counterpart to such alternate ideal figures as the soldier or the pioneer. Thus, more than an untold story, Hebrew athletes' unusual failure to achieve national distinction shed a necessary light on totemic Zionist slogans such as 'new Jew' or 'Muscular Judaism,' and provides insight into the mechanisms that shape Zionist meaning-making.

Ofer Idels is an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellow at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. His historical research focuses on language, embodiment, selfhood, emotions and experience in Zionist and Modern Jewish History. He is currently completing a book manuscript about the "new Jew" and the interwar global rise of modern competitive sport.

Idels' latest article: "How to lose gracefully in an internationally selfish world: gender, the “New Jew” and the underestimation of athletic performance in interwar Palestine."