This article focuses on the legal discourse of the first decade and a half of the Israeli state, from 1947 to 1961, through a close reading of texts written by the first generation of legal theorists in Israel. I show that conditions formed during that period still run our present possibilities and, more often than not, limit them. The article ties together a German Jewish discourse of emergency, on the one hand, and the politics of etatism (mamlachtiut) and Hans Kelsen's Basic Norm, on the other hand. Seven decades later, the legal system still shows the same hesitation of the first generation of German Jewish judges between catastrophe and renewal, emergency and normalization. Liberal historians have missed this side of jurisprudence in Israel, as well as its impact on current political and legal philosophy.

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