Identity in itself is not a modern development, but the subject of identity and the engagement with it are a modern phenomenon that came into being only after the individual became a person with a self-identity. The individual, by very definition, is unique within the collective and thus also belongs, and hesitates with regard to questions of belonging, and also tries to give meaning to that.
This meaning rests on the claim that the difference between identities is interesting, fascinating, and even more decisive than the congruence of identities. This is because the important point is not the search for what is shared (and thus also abstract) in national identity, tribal identity, and religious identity, which is the lowest common denominator, but rather what is different in each. It transpires that the meaning lies in difference and uniqueness, and it is reflected in and motivates history.
This book, which grew out of a conference on this subject at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, examines the difference and the congruence between diverse, distinct identities that have come into being in Israel, takes note of some of their components, and follows the process of their construction.