Yoav Rinon // The shaping of German national identity began at a time when there was neither a nation-state nor an appropriate political order to channel and contain nationalist feelings among the people of the various lands of what now constitutes contemporary Germany. Imagination filled the vacuum that existed in reality, and literature (especially poetry) and philosophy, rather than politics, came to the fore.
Several decades after that, toward the end of the 19th century – in a similar context of neither a nation-state nor an appropriate political order existing to channel and contain nationalist feelings – another new national identity began to develop, one that led, eventually, to the creation of a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine.
The similarity between the two identities, albeit accidental, is striking; yet, unlike the German identity, which had a strong national focus, the developing Jewish identity revolved around the religious no less than around the national. In fact, the two components have been interlocked from the outset, but the religious one, which had served as the cornerstone of Jewish identity for almost 2,000 years, had become problematic. The search for a substitute led to nationalism.