Accepted Paper:

Christian Holy Land pilgrimage as interreligious dialogue  

Author:

Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)

Paper short abstract:

Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land may serve not only as a confirmation of faith, but as the setting for a Judeo-Christian inter-religious and intercultural encounter between guides and pilgrims. The shared sites provide the security that enables mutual questioning of taken-for-granted assumptions.

Paper long abstract:

Pilgrim itineraries often promote the Holy Land voyages so that pilgrims may "see Jesus", make the Bible more real and strengthen their Christian faith. I suggest, however, that Christian pilgrimage may also be seen as an inter-religious and intercultural encounter. The environmental bubble of the guided group pilgrimage encloses not only the Christian pilgrim and his pastor, but also the Jewish-Israeli guide, and the Palestinian (Muslim or Christian) driver. Christian pilgrims' initial religious and political views may be confirmed through the guide's presentation of Christian Holy sites, the Bible, current politics and his own life story. Jewish-Israeli guides, on the other hand, struggle with the seductions of Christianity and their own Jewish commitments in the course of shepherding pilgrims through the Land.

Based on three decades of experience guiding Christian groups and interviews with guides, pastors and pilgrims, I demonstrate how Christian pilgrims and Jewish guides negotiate their expectations and commitments through performance in the charged landscape of the Holy Land and at shared Jewish/Christian places of worship, such as Mount Zion and the Western and Southern Walls of the Temple Mount.

While the convergence of Christian pilgrims and Jewish guides over the significance of the land and its sites creates avenues for shared discourse, the developing conversation often questions the taken-for-granted nature of Christian/Jewish understandings of the land and the Bible. By citing several examples of this interaction in differing power/authority situations, I hope to offer new perspectives on pilgrimage, interfaith dialogue and the performativity of the Bible.

Panel P130
Unity in diversity? Anthropological reflections on interreligious devotion and dialogue in Europe [Anthropology of Religion Network]