Engberg, “Walking on the Pages of the Word of God”

Engberg, Aron. 2016. Walking on the Pages of the Word of God: Self, Land, and Text among Evangelical Volunteers in Jerusalem. Doctoral Dissertation, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies. Lund, Sweden: Lund University. 

Excerpt: During the last 30 years, the Evangelical relationship with the State of Israel has drawn much academic and popular attention, particularly from historical, theological, and political perspectives. This dissertation engages with this literature but also complements it with an ethnographic account of the discursive practices of Evangelical Zionists through which, it is suggested, much of the religious significance of the contemporary state is being produced. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork among Evangelical volunteer workers in Jerusalem, focusing on their stories about themselves, the land, and the biblical text.

Kaell, “Can Pilgrimage Fail?”

Kaell, Hillary. 2016. Can Pilgrimage Fail? Intent, Efficacy, and Evangelical Trips to the Holy Land. Journal of Contemporary Religion 31(3): 393-408.

Abstract: Many scholars have debated the potential results of pilgrimage, but few have tracked how pre-trip goals actually relate to post-trip outcomes. Based on research with US evangelicals, this article argues that, despite being confronted with the possibility of disrupted meaning, nearly every pilgrim comes to see the trip as a success. To understand why, I draw on studies that frame Christian rituals as processes that are partial and in flux. Firstly, I explore how gendered notions of relationality affect perceptions of efficacy and lead to multiple goal-setting. Secondly, I show how the journey is couched within broader epistemologies that define a Christian life as incremental improvements, where one ‘grows’ with God. Thus the meaning making associated with pilgrimage is never fully complete, but is compelled into a future where further interpretations and presumed successes are inchoate. Ultimately, the belief in future meaning is as important—perhaps more so—than immediate ritual success.

Feldman, “A Jewish Guide in the Holy Land: How Christian Pilgrims Made Me Israeli”

Feldman, Jackie. 2016. A Jewish guide in the Holy Land: how Christian pilgrims made me Israeli. Bloomington; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Publisher’s description: For many Evangelical Christians, a trip to the Holy Land is an integral part of practicing their faith. Arriving in groups, most of these pilgrims are guided by Jewish Israeli tour guides. For more than three decades, Jackie Feldman—born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York, now an Israeli citizen, scholar, and licensed guide—has been leading tours, interpreting Biblical landscapes, and fielding questions about religion and current politics. In this book, he draws on pilgrimage and tourism studies, his own experiences, and interviews with other guides, Palestinian drivers and travel agents, and Christian pastors to examine the complex interactions through which guides and tourists “co-produce” the Bible Land. He uncovers the implicit politics of travel brochures and religious souvenirs. Feldman asks what it means when Jewish-Israeli guides get caught up in their own performances or participate in Christian rituals, and reflects on how his interactions with Christian tourists have changed his understanding of himself and his views of religion.

Seaman, “Coffee and the Moral Order: Ethiopian Jews and Pentecostals against culture.”

Seaman, Don. 2015.Coffee and the moral order: Ethiopian Jews and Pentecostals against culture. American Ethnologist 42(4): 734-748. 

Abstract: For Ethiopian Jews and (formerly Jewish) Pentecostals in Israel, coffee (buna) is more than just a stimulant, a cultural symbol, or even a social lubricant. It is a material medium for disputes about the limitations of moral agency, the experience of kin relations that have been broken or restructured, and the eruption of dangerous—but also healing—potencies in the social world. Buna consumption has become a focal point for at least three different forms of moral compulsion (physical addiction; zar, or spirit, affliction; and kinship obligations) that are experienced as isomorphic with “culture” and from which freedom is sought. The decision to drink or to refrain from drinking buna has therefore emerged as a fulcrum of moral experience around which different Ethiopian groups in Israel negotiate the limits of “culture” and the quest for an elusive moral freedom.

Cox, “Israeli Technicians and the Post-Colonial Racial Triangle”

Cox, John.  2015. Israeli Technicians and the Post-Colonial Racial Triangle in Papua New Guinea.  Oceania.  Early online publication.

Abstract: Papua New Guinean imaginings of Israel as a potential development partner draw on Christian renderings of the Bible, but they also reflect an understanding of Israel as a modern, technologically advanced nation. As middle-class Papua New Guineans reflect on the failures of national development since gaining independence from Australia, they express ambivalence about the appropriateness of Western models of development for the Papua New Guinean context. However, the influx of Asian investment is also seen as lacking, or even threatening; therefore, Asian models of development also fail to offer an appealing hope for the future. In this paper, I argue that these racialised understandings of modernity represent a ‘post-colonial racial triangle’, a discursive field within which the moral implications of development are understood and debated. Within this triangle, Melanesians are thought to have ‘culture’ and (Christian) ‘morality’ but lack ‘development’. Australians or ‘whitemen’ are thought to have ‘development’ and ‘morality’ but to lack ‘culture’. ‘Asians’ are thought to have ‘development’ and ‘culture’ but to lack (Christian) morality. Taking this moral framing of race into account, Israel emerges as a possible aid donor with the credentials to reconcile these three positions as it is seen to be the possessor of ‘development’, ‘culture’, and ‘morality’.

Jones, “Mountains Of Israel”

Jones, Edwin. 2015. ‘Mountains of Israel’: Fijians’ Judaic Origins and the Use of the Old Testament in Highland Viti Levu. Oceania. doi: 10.1002/ocea.5107

Abstract: The suggestion that the iTaukei (indigenous Fijians) are a lost tribe of Israel has gained currency among Methodists in the interior of Viti Levu, coexisting with a firm and widely held belief in the ancestors’ emergence from the mystical Nakauvadra hills. For the people of Nabobuco, the Hebrew Bible’s depiction of the relationship between Jehovah and the Israelites also contains powerful analogies with contemporary Christian experiences of collective sin and redemption. This paper discusses local genealogies and the use of the Old Testament to posit Nabobuco and Israel’s moral equivalence within the Kingdom of God.

Timmer, ‘Building Jerusalem in North Malaita, Solomon Islands’

Timmer, Jaap. 2015.  Building Jerusalem in North Malaita, Solomon Islands. Oceania. doi:10.1002/ocea.5110

Abstract: Amid a variety of ideas of Israelite genealogies for To’abaita speakers in North Malaita, Solomon Islands, ‘Holy Land’ features as a utopian fantasy of a just nation, not in Israel but grounded in the ancestral soil of the island. I analyse this mimetic gesture as part of attempts to reconcile kastom (custom) with Christianity and as evoking a sense of an essentialised group identity. In particular for followers of the All People’s Prayer Assembly (APPA), the idea of an essentialised group of To’abaita as a nation in the canonical ‘Table of Nations’ in Genesis 10 is quite prominent. This dialectic between ‘religion’ and ‘nation’ explains the ways in which people claim to have found authentic To’abaita foundations for a nation unifying distinct lineage groups, with a religious form at the centre, namely: Jerusalem. In this article I will show that APPA’s theology weakens the claim of the ‘secular’ state while strengthening the force of religious imagination and ideas about local sovereignty and a related notion of nation.

Stadler, “Appropriating Jerusalem”

Stadler, Nurit. 2015. Appropriating Jerusalem through Sacred Places: Disputed Land and Female Rituals at the Tombs of Mary and Rachel. Anthropological Quarterly 88(3)

Abstract: Due to deep-seated political tensions and intermittent violence between various streams of the city’s three major religions, Jerusalem’s sacred landscape is in the midst of significant change. One of the most salient expressions of this phenomenon is the renaissance of female saint shrines, most notably the Tomb of Mary and the proximate Tomb of Rachel the Matriarch. At these sites, female symbols, imagery rituals, and materiality have become powerful tools for asserting political claims that pertain to land and belonging. I will take stock of this phenomenon through the lens of different ethno-religious groups in Israel/Palestine that are availing themselves of female symbols (such as fertility, suffering, and maternal care) to advance various objectives. I find that these symbols have charged valences within minority communities. For members of the country’s hegemonic denominations, Rachel is the Jewish people’s “eternal mother” as well as a national symbol of the “return of the exiles” to their homeland. At the same time, local Catholic and Orthodox Christians view Mary to be “the mother of minorities” who suffered on behalf of and continues to provide succor for the weak. As a minority, Christians in Israel/Palestine employ this image of the Virgin as part of their effort to struggle with their weakening grip over the territories. Viewing the Virgin as a protector of minority groups is a departure from the vast majority of the Christian world, where Mary constitutes a national symbol that reinforces social belonging. In sum, I show how, amid the ongoing religious struggle, both female icons and their respective sacred venues are mobilized by different groups for the sake of challenging the political order and reshaping the landscape.

Timmer, “The All Peoples Prayer Assembly in Solomon Islands”

Timmer, Jaap.  2015.  The All Peoples Prayer Assembly in Solomon Islands.  Nova Religio 18(4): 16-34.

Abstract: The notion that forebears of Solomon Islanders might be descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel is widespread among To’abaita speakers in North Malaita, and it features in a particular way in the theology of the popular All Peoples Prayer Assembly (APPA), also known as the Deep Sea Canoe Movement. Prominent in this boast of an Israelite genealogy is a utopian fantasy of a just “Israel” grounded in the ancestral soil of the island of Malaita. This article describes the APPA worldview as an alternative modernity that is meaningful to the To’abaitans because it provides a new sense of self and a shared destiny. Although APPA’s theology relates to the people’s socio-economic concerns, it reveals more clearly the continuity of some key cultural models through changing global influences, local histories and cultural dynamics.

Liebelt, “Mama Mary”

Liebelt, Claudia. 2014. The “Mama Mary” of the White City’s Underside: Reflections on a Filipina Domestic Workers’ Block Rosary in Tel Aviv, Israel. In Migrant Domestic Workers in the Middle East: The Home and the World, edited by Bina Fernandez and Marina de Regt.  Pp: 95-116. New York: Palgrave. 

Excerpt: Each Friday, a loose network of Catholic migrant domestic workers, almost exclusively women from the Philippines, carries a figure of the Virgin Mary through the marginalized neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, Israel. As the figure is carried from one participant’s home to another of this so-called block rosary, they believe “she” (the Virgin Mary) blesses these homes and the surrounding neighborhood, hears hundreds of the women’s petitions, creates a community of devotees, and performs miracles. Against the backdrop of the troubled neighborhood’s Friday night life and the turbulence of the devotees’ own lives, “Mama Mary,” as she is tenderly addressed, has come to stand for compassion, refuge, and protection. This chapter seeks to describe and analyze domestic workers’ Marian devotion in a complex Middle Eastern locale. In doing so, this chapter contributes to the literature on diaspora, gender, and religion and investigates ritual performance and processes of homemaking in the context of female migrants’ diasporic journeys and a gendered global economy based on the international division and feminization of labor, especially in the field of reproduction and care.