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To Grow Up Among Neighbors: Neighborhoods as a Formative Childhood Experience in Mandate Palestine

Mon, December 17, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Backbay 1 Complex

Abstract

When Amalia Kern, born in 1920, reminisced about her childhood in Baaley Melacha neighborhood in Tel Aviv, she said: "It was a very united neighborhood, where people knew and respected each other. It was a united thing, something warm and heartfelt. I will never forget how in Purim we received mishloach manot from all the people my mother took care of."
Urban developments in Europe and in the US in the first half of the 20 century turned neighborhoods into particular sites of childhood experience. Sociologists who studied urban communities at that period, such as Lewis Wirth, pointed out the importance of neighborhoods for providing city dwellers, chiefly immigrants, networks of social, and at times financial, support. This paper examines the role of neighborhoods in shaping children's experiences and images of childhood in British Mandate Palestine, with an emphasis on immigration and assimilation. Using the premises of the “spatial turn” and the concept of “place identity”the paper reconstructs the everyday routines of children, the spaces surrounding them daily, and the institutions they visited in order to understand in what ways and by what means childhood experiences in Mandate Palestine neighborhoods were shaped as Jewish and/or Zionist. On top of urban typical urban location, such as streets, libraries and grocery stores, synagogues and the Jewish holidays appear as important landmarks in forming the experience and ideal of a neighborhoods for children. Etkin argues that the idea of the neighborhood was a significant component in molding both a Jewish and Zionist identity among children and youth in mandate Palestine, and that these identities coexisted along with a local identity focused on neighborhoods themselves.

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