Dana von Suffrin

Religion, Science, and Nationalism in Conflict. Botanical Zionism in Palestine around 1900

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Even though Zionism's scientifi c cadre considered itself as secular, the "Botanical Zionists" who gathered around German-Jewish colonial botanist Otto Warburg provide an interesting case study for understanding the role that religion played in Zionism (1858-1938). I shall argue in this article that Zionism was indeed deeply devoted to science, but could never free itself from religious content and knowledge. Since the Botanical Zionists were scientists, they considered their mission of creating facts, planting, and establishing agronomy in Palestine as enlightened and modern. For them, science was the antithesis to religion. In this paper, I will try to elaborate on the complex relation between religion, science, and nationalism. I will try to show how religion turned a resource of legitimization for the Jewish state's foundation. I will also show how the Botanical Zionists strove for a scientifi c reinterpretation of religious knowledge, such as during the manna expedition of 1927.

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