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  You are in: Home > Jewish Studies > The Ring of Myths  

The Ring of Myths
The Israelis, Wagner and the Nazis

Na’ama Sheffi

Na’ama Sheffi teaches at the School of Communication at Sapir College, Sderot (Israel). She completed her studies in modern history at Tel Aviv University, and has published extensively on German and Israeli culture. Her publications include German in Hebrew: Translations from German into Hebrew, 1882–1948 (Hebrew, 1998; German, 2011). Currently she is conducting a new research on German translations into Hebrew since 1948.


In the fall of 1938, following Kristallnacht, the symphonic orchestra in Palestine cancelled the performance of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. No one could foresee that this would be the beginning of a never-ending boycott. The boycott began in a society struggling for its existence and collective identity; it continues in a well-established culture that maintains close ties with Germany and German culture, when numerous Israeli institutions are involved in commemorating the Holocaust. At present Wagner is known in Israel mainly as a symbol of the Holocaust.

From the late twentieth-century Wagner is the only composer who aroused strong opposition when attempts were made to publicly play his music. Analysis of this controversy sheds light on the changes that have taken place in Israel – from a pioneering to a traditional society, and from a socialist to a capitalistic one.

In the Wagner Year The Ring of Myths appears in a revised edition, including interpretations from new perspectives on the place of the Holocaust in Israeli society and the processes of change until 2012.

Glossary of Political Parties

1 An End that Marked a Beginning
2 Legends, Tribes, and Anti-Semitism: Ideas and Issues in Wagner’s Work
3 Racism, Music, and Power: The Nazification of Wagner
4 Music, Politics, and Morality: The Beginning of the Boycott in Palestine
5 Toward Germany, Away from Germans
6 The 1960s: An End to Forgetting – The Establishment of Symbols
7 The 1970s: Political Furor, Musical Calm
8 The 1980s: Xenophobia and Overt Political Intervention
9 The 1990s: The Last Round
10 Epilogue: The Commemoration of Wagner in Israel – Problems and Puzzles


“Sheffi concludes that the choice of Wagner as the target for all their abhorrance of Nazism and the Holocaust ‘both sins against the man and obscures the significance of the Holocaust’.” Choice

“Does an excellent job of showing the historical evolution of the debate, and linking this to the political and ideological evolution of the State of Israel.” H-Net; H-Genocide

“The reception of German culture in general and Wagner’s music in particular is traced to show how the taboo developed alongside the collective memory of the Holocaust... For Sheffi, the dilemma around Wagner reflects the situation of the state of Israel as a whole... She takes the musical debate . . . and uses it as a mirror to reflect Israeli society today. [The book] shows a profound understanding of how Israeli society emerged and how it functions today.” The Jewish Quarterly Review

“Professor Sheffi is as much a journalist as an academic. Her search for truth is clearly a personal odyssey, but it’s also a means of revealing to the world how truth and myth have jostled with each other over the last 60 years, sometimes merging to become almost the same thing, and sometimes standing out in strident confrontation. Inevitably, the role of the media in making truth into myth (and vice versa) is paramount. [...] despite the frustration shown here, Na’ama Sheffi continually reminds us towards the end of her book that there was never any official ban.” Liz and Heath Lees, Putting the Spotlight on Israel’s Wagner ‘Ban’, Wagner Society of New Zealand Newsletter, 12.1, July 2014, pp. 3–4

Reviewed in The Wagner Journal, volume 8, number 2.


Publication Details

Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
March 2013. This book is a revised paperback edition of the earlier 2001 hardcover publication.
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
Paperback Price:
£19.95 / $29.95

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