How do secular Jewish-Israeli millennials feel about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, having come of age in the shadow of the failed Oslo peace process, when political leaders have used ethno-religious rhetoric as a dividing force? This is the first book to analyse blowback to Palestinian and Jewish-Israeli religious nationalism among this group in their own words. It is based on fieldwork, interviews and surveys conducted after the 2014 Gaza War. Offering a close reading of the lived experience and generational memory of participants, it offers a new explanation for why attitudes to Occupation have grown increasingly conservative over the past two decades. It examines the intimate emotional ecology of Occupation, offering a new argument about neo-Romantic conceptions of citizenship among this group. Beyond the case study, it also offers a new theoretical framework and research methods for researchers and students studying emotion, religion, nationalism, secularism and political violence around the world.
In recent years, questions of space and the Jewish homeland have been at the forefront of public debate in Israel, catalysed by increased settlement building, Jewish and Palestinian activism at the Holy Esplanade in Jerusalem and Palestinian spatial resistance to Occupation. Using Tovi Fenster’s tripartite conception of spatial comfort, belonging and commitment to analyse attitudes towards the Temple Mount, this chapter analyses hiloni hierarchies of what counts as home – including Tel Aviv as a hiloni-majority city. I argue that young hiloni conceptions of themselves as reasonable fulcrum citizens have been forged in important ways through their assessment of what parts of the Jewish homeland are really home.
The conclusion returns to the generational question. It argues that for hiloni millennials as a religio-class, neo-Romantic conceptions of self and nation have come to play a much greater role within hiloni habitus. This is a process which began in the 1980s but has intensified during their critical years coming of age in the post-Oslo national atmosphere. What it is to be reasonable is shaped significantly by hiloni millennial neo-Romanticism. The conclusion connects the personal level to high politics. It carefully analyses the intersection between Israeli government discourse about what is a reasonable response to Hamas and what is happening at the level of the self. It argues that these intersections facilitate acceptance of the Occupation’s status quo among hiloni millennials – even among those who reject Occupation.
The Postscript addresses the comparative academic debates on religion and ethno-national conflict, particularly the gap around lived secularity. What do violent political conflicts look and feel like phenomenologically to people who, in their given context, distance themselves from religious traditions and yet are fully embedded within them?
Living within hiloni habitus feels a certain way. But this is not just about clothing or food, time and place, or social networks. Habitus also involves metaphysics: how we behave in the world is grounded at a basic level in shared positions about the nature of reality and the nature of knowledge. Being reasonable is not just political but also epistemological. This chapter explores this dimension of hiloni habitus through an unusual case study – how young hilonim ‘manage luck’ when confronted by rocket attacks. This is a generationally distinct security threat facing millennials since the Gaza blockade and construction of Separation Walls.
This chapter sets out historical events since hiloni millennials have come of age in the 2000s and 2010s, framed by Karl Mannheim’s critical years hypothesis. It traces continuities and subtle differences in what it feels like to be hiloni between Generation X and millennials. These are not visible at the level of public debate or religious practice but feature within self narratives. These subtle differences intersect with and feed a broader conservative shift in attitudes towards Occupation among Jewish-Israelis generally, including hiloni millennials. It introduces the main argument about hiloni millennial neo-Romanticism and how Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory is used in the book.
Chapter 1 addresses terminological debates. What does hiloni mean? How do scholars use the term? How do people identifying as hiloni use the term? Does the Western term secular apply in Israel? How does this book use the term hiloni to denote not a religious group but a religio-class? How does social class and Jewish diasporic descent come into play? Engaging both specialist and non-specialist audiences, it analyses and refines academic debate on Jewish secularism in Israel, provides statistical data, including new data collected for this study, and introduces the voices of participants.
This chapter analyses how hiloni millennials have experienced what has been called religionization of the Israel Defence Forces over the past 20 years. It argues that for this generation, serving as IDF conscripts and reservists during and after the 2005 Disengagement, two things have become clear. First, that army service during this period has helped shape both millennial hiloni and Jewish identity post-Oslo. Second, despite bitter recriminations between political left and right on social media, the frequency of wars post-Oslo has reinforced Jewish national solidarity, across religious lines. It provides new interview data with young hilonim as well as teachers in mechinot (pre-army colleges), speaking about Jewish identity education in the IDF.
This chapter looks at how young hilonim have imagined global jihad and Islamic fanaticism as conceptual categories. It juxtaposes this with their far more nuanced understanding of Palestinian nationalism, political Islamism and anti-Semitism within the lands of Israel and Palestine. The chapter presents evidence that young hiloni attitudes towards Hamas are shaped far more by their personal, intimate experience with violence than by stereotypes about Islam. Hamas and Hezbollah are, in their view, rational but not reasonable actors. Theoretically, this chapter critiques as too simplistic William Cavanaugh’s account of the liberal, secular myths of religious violence.
This chapter introduces the main argument and contribution to the comparative academic literature on political violence, religion and ethnic nationalism. It also sets out two research questions and how these intersect throughout the book: First, as a young ‘secular’ Jew, what does it feel like coming of age during a phase of national conflict when Palestinian and Israeli government leaders, not just fringe figures, use religio-ethnic symbols to motivate and divide? Second, what do violent political conflicts look and feel like to people who claim to distance themselves from the majority religious tradition in their given context – and yet are fundamentally embedded within it? It sets out the logic of using Israel as a non-secular ‘hard case’ to explore this.