Graduate Activities: Rotem Rozental at the Association for Israel Studies

Doctoral candidate Rotem Rozental will be presenting a paper, titled “The Sustainable Photographic Archive: The Jewish National Fund and the Shaping of a National Body,” at the 31st Annual Meeting of the Association for Israel Studies, to be held at Concordia University from June 1-June 3:

The Jewish National Fund (JNF: Ha’Keren Ha’Kayemet Le’Israel) has a central function within Israeli state operations, deriving from its hold on state lands and its worldwide fundraising mechanisms, also designed to disseminate Zionist ideology across Jewish Diaspora. Traversing Zionism with lands in Israel and their development, the organizational mission statement highlights a commitment toward ecological preservation, forestry and sustainability. This paper suggests that by positioning
this obligation in a historical trajectory, strategic tools that defined the interests of the JNF can be revealed. Since its inception in the fifth Zionist Congress of 1901, the Fund’s activity was intertwined with the transformation of Palestine into Eretz Israel (the land of Israel). This process transpired physically and symbolically, by the purchase of lands from the Turkish government and the shaping of a visual language that imaged and imagined the land as barren prior to Zionist efforts. As will be discussed, the JNF shifts its focus to environmental issues at a particular juncture: in 1947, when Israel was preparing to declare independence. This research examines a central apparatus to this process: the photographic archive initiated by the Propaganda Division of the organization in the 1920s. The archive enunciated a national Zionist identity and defined its territory, consequently marginalizing those who do not meet the criteria. After 1948, the narratives of the archive were constituted as a historical “truth,” which can now be revisited in an online website that communicates the JNF’s “green” efforts internationally, and supports the continuation of its operational procedures.

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