Grasping Land

Space and Place in Contemporary Israeli Discourse and Experience

Edited by Eyal Ben-Ari & Yoram Bilu

Subjects: Anthropology
Series: SUNY series in Anthropology and Judaic Studies
Paperback : 9780791432181, 246 pages, February 1997
Hardcover : 9780791432174, 246 pages, February 1997

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Table of contents


Eyal Ben-Ari and Yoram Bilu

1 To Morocco and Back: Tourism and Pilgrimage among Moroccan-Born Israelis

André Levy

2 Gravesites and Memorials of Libyan Jews: Alternative Versions of the Sacralization of Space in Judaism

Harvey E. Goldberg

3 Saints' Sanctuaries in Israeli Development Towns: On a Mechanism of Urban Transformation

Eyal Ben-Ari and Yoram Bilu

4 The Presence of Absence: The Memorialism of National Death in Israel

Don Handelman and Lea Shamgar-Handelman

5 Tiyul (Hike) as an Act of Consecration of Space

Orit Ben-David

6 Remaking Place: Cultural Production in Israeli Pioneer Settlement Museums

Tamar Katriel

7 In and Out of Territory

Dan Rabinowitz

8 The Double Site of Israel

Zali Gurevitch

9 A Response from New York: Return of the Repressed?

Jonathan Boyarin

Epilogue (Three Years Later)

Yoram Bilu and Eyal Ben-Ari



Examines the discourses and experiences associated with space and place in contemporary Israel.


This volume explores various processes associated with constructing what has variously been called "The Holy Land," "Eretz Israel," "Zion," Palestine," or "Israel. " The contributors focus on ways the landscapes of Israel figure in creating and recreating the identity, presence, and history of groups living there. The book critiques the assumptions lying at the base of various spatial practices related to Zionism. It does this through both a theoretical examination and a focus on hitherto little explored phenomena such as pilgrimages of Israelis to their (or their relatives') native lands abroad, the establishment of Jewish saints' tombs in Israel, the design of Kibbutz museums, country hikes, and conceptions of territory in mixed (Jewish-Arab) communities.

Eyal Ben-Ari is Associate Professor and Yoram Bilu is Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ben-Ari has also written Changing Japanese Suburbia: A Study of Two Present-Day Localities; Organization and Culture in Japanese Children: An Interpretive Study; and Body Projects in Japanese Childcare: Culture, Organization and Emotions in a Preschool. Bilu is the author of Without Bounds: The Life and Death of Rabbi Ya'acov Wazana.


"Grasping Land is an outstanding effort for which the editors are to be commended. Not only are the articles clearly written, absorbing, original and unusual with respect to the anthropological literature of the Middle East generally and Israel in particular, but they open up new vistas in thinking about nationalism, political systems and the ethnography of complex society. What truly sets this volume apart from many other collections, is the brilliant explanatory essay by the editors. " — Laurence D. Loeb, University of Utah

"I am particularly impressed with the richness of the case material and the sophisticated manner in which it is utilized to explicate the common themes. The topic is of great intrinsic significance for anyone interested in contemporary Israel. The book is highly original and important. " — Leonard Kasdan, Dalhousie University