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Protecting the State’s Double Promise: The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum’s Role in Promoting Liberal Democratic Values in Israel

Michael Eizyk

Michael Eizyk is graduating this quarter with majors in International Relations & Diplomacy, and Spanish. He is also completing minors in English and Hebrew. He conducted research during Summer 2010 for his honors thesis. "My plan is to spend next year tin Israel taking language courses and getting acclimated to the culture. I hope to start my Masters program in Conflict Research, Management, and Resolution at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the autumn of 2012."

Research Abstract

An interdependent relationship between liberal and communitarian values rests at the heart of Israel's self-conception as a Jewish and democratic state. Its Declaration of Independence clearly outlines the state's responsibility to ensure collective rights while also equally protecting all of its citizens' individual freedoms. However, decades of war, religious and nationalistic ideologies, socialist influences, and a thick collective identity partly rooted in the traumatic memories of the Holocaust have led communitarian values to become the predominant social norm in Israeli society. Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the Holocaust, has played a major role in creating a common Jewish identity around the collective trauma of the Holocaust.

In contrast, the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum strives to promote liberaldemocratic values that prioritize the individual over the collective. The museum's decentralized design, ambivalence towards displaying graphic depictions of Nazi atrocities, and multicultural educational programs all play a role in developing an ethos of individualism. Furthermore, the museum's leitmotif of resistance is a medium through which it promotes a liberal culture of individualism that empowers the individual to stand apart from the crowd and openly denounce and resist prejudicial attitudes. One of the most influential ways the State of Israel can honor its dualistic commitment to both the individual and the collective is by bringing the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum into the mainstream of Holocaust education in order to serve as a counterbalance to Yad Vashem.