• The City Square in the Performance of Taanit: From Rabbinic Space to Contemporary Jerusalem

    In winter 2012 the Israeli group Tnua Tsiburit (Public Movement) initiated Taanit (Civil Fast), a performance action that first took place at Davidka Square, in Jerusalem. Taanit was designed to explore the potential role of the body, and of bodily self-affliction, in social and political protest. An intertextual analysis of Taanit reveals it also as a site-specific interpretation of the city square that examines its political-theological significance by evoking traditional, religious layers of meaning given to that place. Following the reclaiming of the city square that characterized recent protests around the globe, Public Movement’s civil fast reactivates the religious underpinnings of modern urban space by juxtaposing it with rabbinic traditions, illuminating through performance the potential significance that the rabbinic space of public fasting has for modern urban politics.

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    Gender, Religion, and Secularism in the English Mission Hospital of Jerusalem, 1844–1880

    This article offers new insights into the operation of the Mission Hospital built in Jerusalem in 1844 by the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews (LJS) and the space that was created within it. I argue that the encounter in Jerusalem between Jewish women and the missionaries worked to create a liminal space that was neither religious nor secular, neither Jewish nor Christian, but all (and none) of these at once. I draw on Olwen Hufton’s concept of the “economy of makeshifts” to portray the hospital’s unique space. Based on the existing literature and new evidence, I show that in effect the Mission Hospital served women more than men, and I suggest that the gender composition of the patients allowed the hospital to succeed and helped to shape its operation. After a brief review of the literature, I introduce the LJS and compare its Jerusalem medical mission with contemporary medical institutions in England. I then expand on evidence showing that the Mission Hospital was in fact more of a women’s hospital and suggest why that was the case.

  • A Center of Transnational Syriac Orthodoxy: St. Mark’s Convent in Jerusalem

    This article highlights the role of St. Mark’s Convent in Jerusalem as a center of transnational Syriac Orthodoxy. Beginning with Manuel Vásquez’s discussions of transnational religion, it underlines the processual aspect of the transnationalism that characterizes contemporary Syriac Orthodoxy in the Holy Land, as it emerged from a mixture of pilgrimage, genocide, and diaspora as well as the combined forces of ecclesiastical expansion and changing political contexts. A complex web of relationships thus connects the community of Jerusalem to the other Syriac Orthodox groups in Bethlehem and Jordan, to the Syriac Orthodox center in Damascus and Ma‘arat Saydnaya, to the monasteries in Tur Abdin, to the faithful in India, and to the many communities in the diasporas of Europe, the Americas, and Australia. In Jerusalem this network is maintained by a narrative expressed in texts and images that combines the ancient connection to the holy places with the nationalist narrative of the lost homeland, brought together in the profuse use of Classical Syriac, the symbolic language of both church and nation.

    While this community in many ways resembles the other small orthodox churches of the Holy Land, especially the Armenian and Ethiopian churches—whose members, like the Syriac Orthodox, tend to see themselves as ethnically different from the majority of local Christians—the Syriac Orthodox differ in that their homeland is a virtual one, existing primarily in the transnational network that ties all the different locations together. In the creation of this virtual homeland, Jerusalem plays a crucial role as the least political, most ecumenical, and most international of all current Syriac Orthodox centers.

  • Back to the Future: The Jerusalem Exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair

    The famous St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 was a vast celebration of the new century and its promise of a future governed by technological and scientific progress. It is not often remembered that in the heart of this paean to modernity stood an enormous and astonishingly life-like replica of the Old City of Jerusalem. Evoking the past rather than the future and transcendence rather than materiality, what was Jerusalem doing in the St. Louis Fair? How did its presence challenge, complicate, or legitimize the popular narratives of modernization with which it was surrounded? Through a description of the fair and the replica—and contra theories that continue to adhere to the secularization thesis and its structuring binaries—this essay is an examination of the preservation and deployment of religious themes and symbols within modernity.

  • A Chosen Republic: Rome, Jerusalem, and the “Mediterranean Synthesis” in American History

    This article traces the ethos of the United States to a Mediterranean setting. Founded as a Roman-like republic, the country has also understood itself as a “second Israel” throughout its history. This combination has proved itself to be anything but problem free: while Americans wished to become republicans according to the Roman model, they could not ignore Rome’s corruption and decline. On the other hand, if they were to be the new Israel, what did it mean to be a God-chosen republic?

    One way to make sense of this tension is by better understanding a “Mediterranean Synthesis” in American history. If Rome excited Americans but also demonstrated that a republic would necessarily become corrupt, Jerusalem promised that the American Rome could escape the historical pitfalls that ensnared republics for millennia. Americans thus made sense of the meaning of their national experience in light of two ancient Mediterranean entities, a classical polity and a biblical nation, hence becoming a chosen republic. The outcome was Americans’ paradoxical ability to perceive theirs as an exceptional polity, one that would not necessarily follow the universal rules of history.

  • The Transnationalism of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church (EOTC) in the Holy Land

    The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of transnationalism on the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church (EOTC) in the Holy Land. It demonstrates that the EOTC is a transnational organization in a number of senses. First and most obviously, the church in the Holy Land is part of the wider network of Ethiopian churches found not only in Ethiopia but also in North America and Europe. In addition, like many other churches in the Holy Land, the EOTC serves as a seasonal hub for pilgrims who visit the holy sites, particularly on Easter. Moreover, virtually all its resources are imported from abroad. Not only the clergy (none of whom are trained at the monasteries in Jerusalem) but also religious objects, literature, and significant funds reach the EOTC from overseas. Perhaps most interestingly, during the twentieth century the transnationalism of the EOTC was not merely the result of the movement of people or objects across national borders. The redrawing of national borders in both the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Eritrea) and the Middle East (Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority) created yet another dimension of the church’s transnationalism.