River Jordan: The Mythology of a Dividing Line

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The Jordan River in Israelite History

Skickas inom vardagar. Laddas ned direkt. As the site of several miracles in the Jewish and Christian traditions, the Jordan is one of the world's holiest rivers. It is also the major political and symbolic border contested by Israelis and Palestinians.

Combining biblical and folkloric studies with historical geography, Rachel Havrelock explores how the complex religious and mythological representations of the river have shaped the current conflict in the Middle East. Combining biblical and folkloric studies with historical geography, Rachel Havrelock explores how the complex religious and mythological representations of the river have shaped the current conflict in the Middle East. Havrelock contends that the intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stems from the nationalist myths of the Hebrew Bible, where the Jordan is defined as a border of the Promised Land.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the Jordan as a necessary boundary of an indivisible homeland. Examining the Hebrew Bible alongside ancient and modern maps of the Jordan, Havrelock chronicles the evolution of Israel's borders based on nationalist myths while uncovering additional myths that envision Israel as a bi-national state.

These other myths, she proposes, provide roadmaps for future political configurations of the nation. Ambitious and masterly in its scope, River Jordan brings a fresh, provocative perspective to the ongoing struggle in this violence-riddled region. Bibliographic information.


Publication date ISBN cloth : alk. Browse related items Start at call number: DS J6 H38 Librarian view Catkey: In the end you have to develop abi-national or federal model. And so following thePalestinian General Strike from , the British brought in commissionsand they started trying to parcel the land, drawing more artificial lines sothat they could maintain these promises for a Jewish state and a Palestinianstate.

Oneof the questions I have for you—I was going to bring it up later but youstarted to talk about it previously—has to do with water. In your workdiscussing the initial Jewish settling by the Zionist movement, going back tothe earlys and before, you address this. Could you discuss the role ofwater the development of Zionism and in early decision-making by Zionists as towhere they should settle?

Agriculture in Jewishnationalism as well as in Palestinian and Jordanian nationalism, agriculture isa very central symbol. So part of the Zionist thinking—and manypeople have even diagnosed it as a form of internalized anti-Semitism—theidea was that the Jewish body was unhealthy. So these river valleys had a very important role inpractical Zionism, and the Jewish National Fund bought its first landparticularly along the Jordan River. The very first kibbutz, which I writeabout, Kibbutz Degania, was just east of the Jordan River… But you know,practical Zionism translated also into symbolic ideas.

And so particularlythese early kibbutzim, these early communal settlements along the Jordan Riversymbolically were broadcast as symbols of the modern crossing of the JordanRiver, right? In the bible, in theBook of Joshua, Joshua leads the people of Israel across the Jordan River andthis ends their wandering through the wilderness following the exodus fromEgypt. So these kibbutzim at the Jordan—and they were secular,right?


Rachel Havrelock

There was awhole translation of biblical symbols out of the religious mode and into thesecular national one. Developing these communities became the symbol of theredemption of world Jewry. From the beginning of the BritishMandate until its end, Jewish nationalists and Palestinian nationalists prettymuch landed on their techniques of influencing policy.

And the Jewish means ofinfluencing policy was to establish settlements. Of course we can see thislegacy, particularly after when the West Bank and Gaza were occupied. And in terms of governmentincentive. The early kibbutzim, the land was bought with funds fromworld Jewry, from the Jewish National Fund, and developed by the pioneers.

Andof course today there are incentives by the Israeli government for settlers tolive there. So structurally we are looking at a kind of continuity. Their notions of God, and apocalypse, and Jewishdestiny trumps their identity as citizens of the State of Israel.

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And by which I mean, whether there are Palestinians inwhat gets called the region of Israel, they would have full minority rights. What would have tochange, of course, is the distribution of resources. You asked me earlier aboutwater, and of course the West Bank sits on top of the Mountain Aquifer, whichis the most viable water source in the region right now. The Mountain Aquifer is almost entirely claimed by the State of Israeland the Palestinians end up with about five to seven percent of the viablewater in the region.

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So what would have to change—what mustchange—is that you have Palestinian towns and villages with literally notenough water to sustain their daily lives, and next door will be a settlementwith a dairy and green lawns and trees and flowers. But what must change is not only enfranchisementand rights, but also the rights to things like water and energy and movement. Onething you note in your writing is that various interpretations of the map ofIsrael have coexisted throughout history.

If you see coexistence among versionsof maps and borders, do you see any of these interpretations providing a modelfor a future coexistence, not just of maps, but of people? Wetend to think that that people in antiquity knew who they were and where theybelonged, but it was a very fluid model. And, in fact, it really seems that thebeginnings of ancient Israel was a tribal confederation. It was always changing. And so thosechanging instantiations of Israel are recorded ultimately in the Hebrew Biblein terms of these geographic traditions. People were coming in and out.

Palestine, at a much laterperiod, was also very similar, right? There were groups of people, they hadregional identities, they had family identities, they had clan identities. Andultimately, you know, very much later in time, it really takes Europeannationalism for what the Jews are and what the Palestinians are to getconfigured as being national.

You know, there were many co-existing ideas.

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People thought ofthemselves as part of a region, part of a family, part of a clan, part of aplace. Goingback to the idea of the Bible, there are two maps that have really impactedpolitical life—not only Jewish political life but also Christian andEuropean political life that also inherited the Bible as the Old Testament.