Lately, I’ve noticed several writers that used the feminine personal pronoun (in all cases + reflexive pronoun) when referreing to “Israel”. For all I knew – and for what the biblical account of that name coming into being tells – “Israel” is masculine. So I looked up what dictionaries have to say on that matter:
She\, pron. [sing. nom. She; poss. Her. or Hers; obj. Her; pl. nom. They; poss. Their or Theirs; obj. Them.] [OE. she, sche, scheo, scho, AS. se[‘o], fem. of the definite article, originally a demonstrative pronoun; cf. OS. siu, D. zij, G. sie, OHG. siu, s[=i], si, Icel. s[=u], sj[=a], Goth. si she, s[=o], fem. article, Russ. siia, fem., this, Gr. ?, fem. article, Skr. s[=a], sy[=a]. The possessive her or hers, and the objective her, are from a different root. See Her.]
1. This or that female; the woman understood or referred to; the animal of the female sex, or object personified as feminine, which was spoken of.
She loved her children best in every wise. –Chaucer.
Then Sarah denied, . . . for she was afraid. –Gen. xviii. 15.
2. A woman; a female; — used substantively. [R.]
Lady, you are the cruelest she alive. –Shak.
Note: She is used in composition with nouns of common gender, for female, to denote an animal of the female sex; as, a she-bear; a she-cat.
“she.” Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 19 Oct. 2008.
See, Webster’s does not collocate the feminine pronoun with any nationalities, but:
Used to refer to the woman or girl previously mentioned or implied. See Usage Note at I1.
Used to refer to a female animal.
Used in place of it to refer to certain inanimate things, such as ships and nations, traditionally perceived as female [ed.’s emphasis]: “The sea is mother-death and she is a mighty female” (Anne Sexton).
n. A female animal or person: Is the cat a she?[Middle English, probably alteration of Old English sÄ“o, feminine demonstrative pron.; see so- in Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Using she as a generic or gender-neutral singular pronoun is more common than might be expected, given the continuing debate regarding the parallel use of he. In a 1989 article from the Los Angeles Times, for instance, writer Dan Sullivan notes, “What’s wrong with reinventing the wheel? Every artist has to do so in her search for the medium that will best express her angle of vision.” Alice Walker writes in 1991, “A person’s work is her only signature.” It may be argued that this usage needlessly calls attention to the issue of gender, but the same argument can be leveled against generic he. This use of she still carries an air of unconventionality, which may be why only three percent of the Usage Panel recommends it in sentences like A taxpayer who fails to disclose the source of ______ income can be prosecuted under the new law. Â· Some writers switch between she and he in alternating sentences, paragraphs, or chapters. This practice has been gaining acceptance, especially in books related to fields like education and child development, where the need for a generic pronoun is pervasive. It can also be seen in academic journals, where the sentence The researcher should note that at this point in the experiment she may need to recheck all data for errors might be followed later in the same section by The researcher should record his notes carefully at this stage. This style may seem cumbersome, but if generic pronouns are required, alternating between she and he can offer a balanced solution in an appropriate context. See Usage Notes at he1, they.
“she.” The American HeritageÂ® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 19 Oct. 2008.
Is the nation of Israel traditionally perceived as female? The comma in the highlighted line above suggests a non-defining relative clause, which would mean that all nations are traditionally perceived as female. However, only the American Heritage Dictionary suggests that use of “she” whereas the other dictionaries I’ve got at hand (and there are plenty) don’t.
Basically, the way I see it is that Britain gets referred to as “she” since her / its allegory is the undoubtedly female / feminine character “Britannia”. If you feel there’s a need for a generic pronoun to refer to Israel, there still is “it” (which, in case of doubt, collocates with any nationality). That is unless you are one of those that conflate grammatical gender with actual gender and that only feel properly addressed if somebody uses the feminine form. I, for my part, consider myself emancipated and feminine enough to not base my self-perception on the use of pronouns and will therefore opt for the more easily readable choice rather than try to castrate the languages I speak.