קונגרס העולמי ה-18 למדעי היהדות

Jewish Art on Jewish Land? Martin Buber’s Conception of adamah Yehudit in his Fifth Zionist Congress Speech

The proposed talk will put forward an alternative reading of Martin Buber’s speech on Jewish art, which he delivered at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in 1901. In lamenting the fact that Jewish art lacked “Jewish soil” in which it could take root, Buber unknowingly established the paradigm for thinking about Israeli art that would endure throughout the twentieth century and indeed beyond. In this conception, truly Jewish modern art can only be created in the Jewish land of Israel. Israeli art is therefore the only modern Jewish art, for it is made on Jewish soil.

In different forms, this paradigm remains embedded in Israeli art history to this day. However, a close reading of his full address reveals that, contrary to received interpretations, Buber used the phrase “Jewish soil” metaphorically. Although it came to be understood literally later on, it important to note that Buber did not insist that modern Jewish art could only be made in Israel. In this presentation , I will advance a revisionist interpretation of the term “Jewish soil” as alluding to Jewish self-becoming - a process of building a society characterized by dialogue, intersubjectivity, and mutuality. For Buber, this new sense of proud Jewish selfhood was to be the real guarantee of great Jewish modern art. At time when a sovereign Jewish state was scarcely even imagined, Buber believed that Jewish soil can be found anywhere on Earth, so long as the spiritual conditions are ripe for Jews to prosper.