Israeli Humor

The Content and Structure of the Chizbat of the Palmah

By Elliott Oring

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780873955133, 295 pages, June 1981
Hardcover : 9780873955126, 295 pages, June 1981

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



1. Ha-Palmah

2. Ha-Chizbat

3. The Argument of Humor

4. The Content

5. The Structure

6. The Message

7. Kezavim

Appendix 1: The Texts

Appendix 2: Glossary





Derived from the Arabic word for "lie," the word "chizbat" was chosen by members of the Palmah to designate the particular form of narrative joke exchanged by these volunteer defenders of Jewish settlements in Israel during the uncertain years 1941—48. Elliott Oring concentrates his attention on how the chizbat represents the expression of a distinctly Israeli identity and the disparate elements of this identity: sabra/European, Arab/Israeli, East/West. He shows how chizbat humor depends, not so much on novelty or punch line, as on displaying these incongruities of Israeli identity. Oring also discusses the sociocultural context in which the chizbat developed and examines how various theories of humor apply to understanding the chizbat. In an appendix invaluable for the folklorist, Oring has translated hundreds of chizbat into English. some are from written sources and others are verbal accounts he obtained during his months of research in Israel.

Elliott Oring is Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Los Angeles, and Research Associate at the Center for the Comparative Study of Folklore and Mythology at UCLA.


"Oring succeeds in obtaining insights and understanding which a member of Israeli society might have difficulty in perceiving. He succeeds in the interpretation of the chizbat as cultural texts revealing the intricacies of social relations and nuances of language that the chizbat telling involves." — Professor Dan Ben Amos, University of Pennsylvania