Zerubavel, Yael


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

M.A., University of Pennsylvania

B.A., Tel-Aviv University

Research Interests

Collective memory, autobiographical memory, history & memory; nationalism, national myths; tradition and change; Israeli culture, Israeli literature; Jewish memory, Jewish space; Jewish immigrant literature.

Biographical Notes

Yael Zerubavel is a scholar of memory studies with an expertise in modern Israeli society and culture. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach that informs both her teaching and writing, her work explores collective memory and identity, national myths, the transformation of traditions, war and trauma, and cultural perceptions of space. Her work addresses the impact of nationalism, secularization, immigration and dislocation, the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the reshaping of Jewish memory in Israel and developments within Israeli culture. Her award-winning book—Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (1995)—and numerous articles focus on the cultural construction of Israeli national myths and the politics of commemoration, drawing on historical sources, Hebrew literature, educational materials, popular and folkloric forms, as well as in-depth interviews.

Professor Zerubavel continues to explore the impact of the Holocaust and the Middle Eastern conflict on attitudes towards death, sacrifice, and bereavement and the image of the Israeli war-widow in Israeli fiction and film. She is nearing completion of a book entitled Desert in the Promised Land: Nationalism, Politics, and Symbolic Landscapes (forthcoming), and is at work on another that examines contemporary representations of antiquity and the changing role of the Bible in contemporary Israeli culture. Her study examines an array of cultural texts and mnemonic practices including works of fiction, media articles, popular performances, and tourist sites.

The Founding Director of the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Study, Dr. Zerubavel is also a Professor of Jewish Studies and History. She has taught courses on Israeli culture, Jewish memory, the Jewish immigrant experience, Jewish space, memory and trauma, and Israeli literature, as well as an interdisciplinary graduate seminar in cultural memory.

Selected Publications


  • Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1995; paperback 1997).
  • Desert in the Promised Land: Nationalism, Politics, and Symbolic Landscapes (under contract with the University of Chicago Press) Forthcoming.
  • Encounters with the Past: The Memory of the ‘Bygone’ in Israeli Culture (work in progress)

Journal articles

  • “Passages, Wars, and Encounters with Death: The Desert as a Site of Memory in Israeli Film,” in Deeper than Oblivion: Trauma and Memory in Israeli Cinema, edited by Raz Yosef and Boaz Hagin. London & New York: Continuum, 2013, 299-327.
  • Ha’tanakh akhshav: Ikh’shuv, satira politit ve’zikaron le’umi” [“'The Bible Now': Contemporizing, Political Satire, and National Memory”], a combined issue of Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore vol. 28 and Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature vol. 25 in honor of Galit Hasan-Rokem, (2013), II, 755-74 [in Hebrew].
  • “Transforming Myths, Contested Narratives: The Reshaping of Mnemonic Traditions in Israeli Culture,” in National Myths: Constructed Pasts, Contested Presents, edited by Gérard Bouchard. London: Routledge, 2013, 173-90.
  • Ha’hazara el ha’tanakh:Ha’tiyul ve’zikhron ha’avar ba’siah ha’tayaruti be’israel [“Back to the Bible: Hiking in the Land as a Mnemonic Practice in Contemporary Israeli Tourist Discourse”], in History and Memory: Essays in Honor of Anita Shapira, edited by Meir Hazan and Uri Cohen. Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 2012, vol. 2, 497- 522 [in Hebrew].
  • “Coping with the Legacy of Death: The War Widow in Israeli Films,” in Israeli Cinema: Identities in Motion, edited by Miri Talmon and Yaron Peleg. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011, 84-95.
  • "The Conquest of the Desert and the Settlement Ethos," in The Desert Experience in Israel: Communities, Arts, Science, and Education in the Negev, edited by A. Paul Hare and Gideon Kressel. Lanham: The University Press of America, 2009, 33-44.
  • "The Desert and the Settlement as Symbolic Landscapes in Modern Israeli Culture," in Jewish Topographies Visions of Space, Traditions of Place, edited by Julia Brauch, Anna Lipphardt, and Alexandra Nocke. Heritage, Culture and Identity Series. London and Aldershot: Ashgate Press, 2008, 201-22.
  • "Memory, the Rebirth of the Native, and the ‘Hebrew Bedouin’ Identity," Social Research 75:1 (Spring 2008): 315-52.
  • "Antiquity and the Renewal Paradigm: Strategies of Representation and Mnemonic Practices in Israeli culture," in On Memory: An Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by Doron Mendels. Bern: Peter Lang, 2007, 331-48.

Courses Offered

  • Israeli Culture
  • Cultural Memory
  • Jewish Immigrant Experience
  • Jewish Memory
  • Jewish Space
  • Trauma and Memory in Israeli Culture
  • Israeli Society through Film

Professional Affiliations

  • Association for Jewish Studies(board member, 1993-2002, 2006-present)
  • Association for Israel Studies(board member, 1997-2001; 2006-09)
  • Israel Studies (editorial board, 1995 – present)
  • Journal of Israeli History (editorial board, 2002 – present)
  • Israel Studies Forum (editorial board, 2000 – present)
  • Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts and Contemporary Worlds (editorial board, 2005-present)
  • Rutgers University Press, Jewish Cultures of the World Series, (editorial board, 2007- present)
  • Academic Studies Press, Israel: Society, Culture, And History Series (editorial board, 2009-present)
  • AJS Perspectives, the bi-annual magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies (editorial board, 2009 – present)

Visiting Scholar/ Fellow

  • Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Kazan State University, Russia
  • Ben-Gurion Research Center, Ben-Gurion University, Sde Boker
  • Institute for Advanced Studies, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem
  • École Pratique des Hautes Études

Recent Invited Lectures (selected)

  • Keynote address: “Israel, Cultural Memory, and the Transformations of a National Tradition," Graduate student conference in Israeli Studies, Yeshiva University, New York, May 2013.
  • The Einhorn Endowed Lecture, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, "The Bible, the Lure of Antiquity, and Israeli Popular Culture," April 2012.
  • Keynote address: "Heritage, National Memory, and Identity Politics in Israel," International Society for Cultural History, annual meeting on "History – memory – myth,” Oslo, 2011.
  • The Forkosh Judaic Studies Lecture, “Imagining Exile in the Homeland: Cultural Diversity and the Politics of Remembrance in Israel,” at Carleton College, Minnesota, February 2010.
  • The Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures, “Encounters with the Past: Remembering the ‘Bygone’ in Israeli Culture,” University of Washington, May 2009.