A Jewish Guide in the Holy Land

A Jewish Guide in the Holy Land

How Christian Pilgrims Made Me Israeli
Jackie Feldman
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/11/2016
Format: Paperback 20 b&w illus., 1 table
ISBN: 978-0-253-02137-3
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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.

Author Bio

Jackie Feldman is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is author of Above the Death Pits, Beneath the Flag: Youth Voyages to Poland and the Performance of Israeli National Identity. He has been a licensed tour guide in Jerusalem for over three decades.


“A New York-born Israeli citizen, scholar and licensed guide draws on his experiences leading tours, interpreting Biblical landscapes, and fielding questions about religion and current politics for Evangelical Christian tourists who visit the Holy Land.”

“To read Jackie Feldman’s engaging, insightful, and provocative words is like being on a pilgrimage from the inside out. The underlying meaning, logic, and power of symbols and language, experienced among people from different cultural and religious roots and sensibilities, negotiated through shared time and place are all unveiled here in a personal and profound fashion. He confirms in this book what I’ve always suspected in the twenty-five years I’ve known him -- that he is a mature and brilliant interpreter of social constructions and realities around us all. And in this sense, there is a deep universal appeal and thread. I continue to learn from him, and this work has me yearning to travel with him once again.”
 — Dr. Randall Y. Furushima, President Emeritus and Dean of the Graduate School, Pacific Rim Christian University, Honolulu, Hawa

“Incredibly readable, accessible to a variety of undergraduates yet smart and provocative enough to appeal to graduate students and scholars. . . . [C]onstructs a multivocal account, moving among guides, pastor pilgrims, lay pilgrims, and others in the social space of the tourist-pilgrim encounter.”
 — James Bielo, author of Emerging Evangelicals

“Exceptionally perceptive and insightful . . . . Feldman believes that the Holy Land, despite different readings of the symbols inscribed on its landscape, provides a common ground on which Jewish guides and Christian pilgrims could meet. The book’s message is one of Jewish-Christian mutual understanding, if not of total reconciliation of their divergent interpretations of that landscape.”
 — Erik Cohen, author of Contemporary Tourism: Diversity and Change

“Jackie Feldman's new book is intensely personal, often wry and comic, and beautifully conceived. Based upon his adventures as an Israeli tour guide, his rich ethnography is wonderfully complex: hired by a Palestinian tour agency to guide Christian pilgrims, Feldman shows how the guide-pilgrim encounter constructs "Bibleland" for the pilgrims while also transforming his own Jewish-Israeli identity and sense of belonging. Not only a notable contribution to the anthropology of tourism, the book wisely interrogates the anthropologists' claims of reflexivity and the linkages between texts and their politically contested contexts. Well written and cogent throughout, this book is a fine achievement.”
 — Alex Weingrod, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

“Feldman successfully shows how deeply the political and religious dimensions are intertwined and enacted when guides and pilgrims navigate a sacred landscape marked with politically potent barriers. This kind of material makes A Jewish Guide in the Holy Land a wonderful case study to use in teaching about pilgrimage and tourism in a space marked by multiple narratives of competing nationalisms.”
 — American Ethnologist

“One of the personal points that he makes  is that guiding Christian pilgrims and tourists contributed towards his development of his Israeli identity. It is interesting that working myself in this specialized industry also made me more aware of my Palestinian identity and in thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that it is the “Land” that we both share. Quite a bit of the Old and New Testament writing; often enough, is expressed metaphorically. In other words, what was written was not always what was meant. The Old Testament writers and Christ himself expressed themselves in parables, allegories, and proverbs, drawing images from the land and its culture. To me it is clear that this shared land that gave rise to two national narratives, can and must incorporate these narratives. It is truly a one Land with two Nations and three Monotheistic Religions.”
 — Hani Abu Dayyeh, Near East Tours, President

“The book is recommended for anyone who has ever visited the Holy Land or worked with groups in it. ”
 — Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations

“Here, the author chronicles his experiences shepherding tourists, mostly Protestants, on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. . . . A unique lens through which to view the conflicted Promised Land. ”
 — Kirkus Reviews

“A comprehensive tour of the implications, challenges and irritations of Christian tourists guided by US-born or Sabra Jewish Israelis sharing a common, often violent history but from unequal power positions – a journey to the mutual other. In a wonderful playful way - in the most serious sense of the word – he describes his own and other guides' paradigmatic experiences as „holders of the keys“ to  Christian pilgrims' experience of the Holy Land. All take part in a journey exploring theology, religion, politics and human nature in an enormously complex field of encounter. An intense and sometimes breathtaking, sometimes very funny, learning experience for every reader - Jewish and Christian, religious and nonreligious, pilgrim or skeptic.”
 — Professor Christian Staffa, Evangelische Akademie zu Berlin

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Table of Contents

1. How Guiding Christians Made Me Israeli
2. Guided Holy Land Pilgrimage—Sharing the Road
3. Opening Their Eyes: Performance of a Shared Protestant-Israeli Bible Land
4. Christianizing the Conflict: Bethlehem and the Separation Wall
5. The Goods of Pilgrimage: Tips, Souvenirs, and the Moralities of Exchange
6. The Seductions of Guiding Christians
7. Conclusions: Pilgrimage, Performance, and the Suspension of Disbelief

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