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.

Feldman and Young, eds. “Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands”

Religion and Society: Advances in Research, volume 5, 2014, features an edited collection on “Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands” edited by Jackie Feldman and Donna Young.

Introduction: Contested Narratives of Storied Places – the Holy Lands
Jackie Feldman

Guiding Settler Jerusalem: Voice and the Transpositions of History in Religious Zionist Pilgrimage
Alejandro I. Paz

Changing Colors of Money: Tips, Commissions and Ritual in Christian Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Jackie Feldman

Age of Innocence: The Symbolic Child and Political Conflict on American Holy Land Pilgrimage
Hillary Kaell

‘The Empty Tomb’ as Metaphor: Finding Comfort in Nothingness
Donna Young

The Accidental Pilgrim: Olive Pickers in Palestine
Anne Meneley

Afterword
Ellen Badone

Walking Where Jesus Walked: Book Review

Kaell, Hillary. 2014. Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage. New York: NYU Press.

By: Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University)

“On each trip, certain interpenetrations are articulated and shaped by group leaders, Many, however, are not. At the back of the bus, pilgrims make the experience meaningful in ways that guides and tour operators may not expect and cannot predict. Pilgrims keep these deeply felt connections to themselves, and they color each trip in very personal ways.” (Kaell 2014: 80)

Although I have been working with American Holy Land pilgrims for over three decades, both as anthropologist and as tour guide, Hillary Kaell’s book surprised me. The perspective she has chosen – accompanying and talking with women before, during and after the voyage – places the voyage within a longue durée that was invisible to me as tour guide, and only partially visible as researcher. Rather than privilege the narratives spoken into bus microphones by guides and pastors/priests, Kaell places her microphone with the woman in the back, who rarely expresses her desires or thoughts in public on the tour. This perspective is a useful corrective to scholars who focus on ecclesiastical guidelines, sermons, recited public prayers, guides’ explanations, and the goals made explicit by the pilgrim/tour industry or the pastors who organize and lead groups. Kaell’s concentration on the lived experience of 50-75 year-old Catholic and evangelical American women traveling to the Holy Land demonstrates how the geographical, political or even biblical context of the sites and routes of the Holy Land may serve as the background for an intensely personal trajectory. This personal path is a continuation of the home lives of ‘middle-old’ aged women, who make up a major portion of Holy Land pilgrims. Without ignoring denominational distinctions, Kaell reminds us that the pilgrimage experience is rooted in profoundly American, (mainly) middle-class values that cut across traditional religious lines. Continue reading

Feldman, “Abraham the Settler, Jesus the Refugee”

Feldman, Jackie. 2011. Abraham the Settler, Jesus the Refugee: Contemporary Conflict and Christianity on the Road to Bethlehem. History & Memory 23(1): 62-95.

Abstract: By examining tour brochures, practices of landscape display, posters and tour guiding narrations, I seek to understand how Bethlehem and the “separation wall” between Jerusalem and Bethlehem are integrated into the experience of Western Christian pilgrims of a variety of theological orientations. I argue that current practices of display and narration promote particular political views of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and lend them authority by saturating them with particular Christian meanings and associations. The study contributes to our understanding of pilgrimage as a site of contested discourses in which local actors sacralize the landscape while making their understandings of the conflict seem self-evident and divinely justified.