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Yavneel, an agricultural village on a plateau south of the Sea of Galilee, is a microcosm of Israeli history and modern society. Settled in the early years of Zionism, it became a prototypical Zionist farming community. Those who were born in or trace their roots back to Yavneel include two famous generals, leading soldiers, and distinguished leaders in the worlds of art, literature, politics, and popular culture. The town also contains a population mix that spans the Israeli populace: Sephardim and Ashkenazim; secular, traditional, Orthodox Jews, and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, both Hasidim and misnagdim (opponents of Hasidism), as well as converts to and from Christianity.

The arrival of the Bratslav Hasidim during the mid-1980s prompted the sociological study resulting in A Small Place in Galilee. When the Hasidim arrived, the village's bucolic life seemed endangered. In their long coats and white knee-socks, the Hasidim began an attempt to replicate the town of Bratslav, Poland at the end of the eighteenth century, where their legendary teacher lived. That the Hasidim neither accept political Zionism nor put their lives on the line in Israel's wars made their efforts to impose their ways on the village all the more irritating. For example, on Israel's Memorial Day, they attempted to organize an alternative program to overshadow the patriotic ceremonies. They tried to purchase land in the most desirable spot in town to build a yeshiva, and tried to blackmail the local rabbi. In a word, Yavneel reflects the religious diversity and tensions in Israeli society.