Families and the Social Infrastructure of War: From Palestine to North Africa and Back Again, 1942–1944


  • David Motzafi-Haller The Graduate Institute, Geneva




family history, World War II, zionism, Israel, social mobility, movement, British Army


This paper looks at careers, families, and households as a way to explore the relationship between two forms of movement—physical and social. Privileging the account of a family over the more traditional androcentric historical narrative, it utilizes the correspondence of one Zionist-Yishuvi family, the Muchniks, during World War II. The analysis points to the Muchniks’ adoption of a coherent family strategy, one that attempted to harness the extensive wartime profits that flowed to the Zionist Yishuv during this period to attain lasting upward mobility for the family.

By adopting a split household pattern, the article argues, the Muchnik family strategy consisted of two interdependent cogwheels of physical movement. In the first, Rosa and the children dissolved all semblance of a nuclear household and instead constantly moved between their extended family’s farmsteads in the Zionist agricultural settlement of Nahalal. In the second, Pinchas was temporarily freed from the obligations of a family-man and joined the ranks of the first generation of region-trotting lower class Yishuvi men as a soldier in the British army. Together, these two cogwheels empowered the family’s climb up the social ladder.

Author Biography

David Motzafi-Haller, The Graduate Institute, Geneva

David Motzafi-Haller is a PhD candidate at the Geneva Graduate Institute. His current project follows Zionist involvement in regional and international circuits of infrastructure construction and economic development through a global microhistory of the families of mid-range employees at Solel Boneh. A Mizrahi Israeli Jew of mixed Iraqi and Austrian heritage, his interests focus on the making of ethno-classes in Israeli Jewish settler society and the cumulative effects on the transnational development encounter. His academic work to date has been published in Katedra, Journal of Israeli History, and Middle Eastern Studies. His French and Hebrew translations have appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals, collected volumes, and popular outlets.


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