Friday, March 27, 2009


and their practices:

performance approach to ethnography in tourism


Performing knowledge

chapter attends to tourism epistemologies, which concerns ways of
knowing tourism and tourists and the types of knowledge that academic
research on tourism produces. The chapter is part of a growing
critical movement—a critical turn—within the field of
tourism studies, seeking to reflect upon and appreciate the processes
by which discourses and practices of tourism research serve to
construct academic knowledge . This critical movement explores common
discourses and practices in tourism studies, which shape the type(s)
of knowledge(s) in the field, offering critique of received
traditions, on the one hand, and fruitful “creative vistas”
(Ateljevic, personal communication) for future research, on the

deconstructive move I offer is accomplished through a reflexive and
critical (re)examination of a particular research project I conducted
recently. The research is an ethnographic study of a national
commemoration site in Israel, which was conducted during the summer
of 2006 , and which supplies a case study of the production of
academic knowledge. As part of the research, I spent about a month
observing and interviewing tourists and other visitors at the
symbolic site’s memorial museum, focusing on the impressive
visitor book which is centrally positioned therein. Importantly, my
approach to the memorial museum and as a whole, and specifically to
the visitors’ commemorative entries in the visitor book was
performative. I viewed the symbolic spaces of the site and of the
visitor book as stages on which tourists may act meaningfully. The
paradigm of performance studies is generally concerned with how
meanings and identities are socially created, sustained and
challenged, and with the practices and discourses through which this
is accomplished. The performance paradigm is inspired by radical
social construction, suggesting that social reality (defined broadly)
should not be presumed as a given, but is rather continually
(re)created, shaped and negotiated by ongoing struggles between
hegemony (the powers that be) and various oppositions. Within tourism
studies, the performance approach is highly creative and critical,
radically suggesting that tourism as whole should construed
performatively; that tourism is arguably defined as power-ridden and
embodied scenes on which some of the most central dramas of our days
unfold .

light of this, this deconstructive move concerns addressing my
ethnographic research in terms of performance. Performance
sensitivities and sensibilities are shifted from the tourists unto
the(ir) researcher, as my ethnography at the symbolic site is itself
rendered performatively. In other words, the tourism ethnography that
I conducted will be (re)viewed and theorized in a fashion that
resembles the ways I viewed and theorized visitors’
actions in situ
, putting visitors’ visits and researcher’s
ethnography on similar footing. A performative rendering of
ethnographic practices is promoted, which is to say a
problematization of tourist ethnography, suggesting that research
practices in situ may be viewed not in terms of “academic
research” but in terms of “tourist visits.” By
doing so, the power and authority of the modern institutions of
tourism and specifically museums are critically acknowledged, and so
are the authority and the taken for granted social roles and
definitions of who are researchers. The traditional positivist
notions of neutrality and objectivity, and the view that holds the
researcher as an uninvolved observer occupying a position that is
external to the observed events and ideologies (a “fly on the
wall”) are undermined. Hence the reflexive (re)view of the
academic research sheds light on the different ideologies and
epistemologies that typically compete over frames of interpretation
in tourism.

what follows, I will make three stopovers, at what I call “research
scenes,” where academic knowledge in tourism studies is
socially constructed and processed. The first scene illustrates the
performative rendering of my ethnographic practices and ethnographic
presence at the Ammunition Hill National Commemoration Site, located
in Jerusalem, Israel. Yet a performance rendering of ethnographic
practices does exhaust the entire process of academic knowledge
production. Alternatively, ethnographic practices do not actually
terminate once the researcher leaves the site/field. Hence the
chapter will move to inquire into two additional scenes: practices of
decontextualization (to be refereed as “collecting practices”),
followed by practices of representation. In the capacity of exploring
the dialectics between the practices that serve to construct and
represent knowledge in the fields of tourism and academic research of
tourism, in these three scenes I will attend (albeit not
systematically) to three issues, namely embodiment, technology and

1: Dasein
or Being—looked at—There

famous notion of Dasein comes to mind when I reflect performatively
on my ethnography at the Ammunition Hill National Commemoration
Museum. The notion of Dasein promotes an ontological realization of
my (ethnographic) presence at the site. Literally defined as “life”
or “being,” and commonly taken to mean being-in-the-world
or being there, the concept is helpful in acknowledging the
existential weight of occupying a space and a social role in a given
field. When applied to ethnography, the notion of Dasein suggests an
embodied and occupied presence. The expression’s twofold
designation points at the complexities involved in doing ethnographic
inquiry in symbolic spaces, where competing frames of interpretation
and similar practices concerning knowledge creation in academia and,
in the present case, in symbolic sites of national commemoration. The
term “being” touches on an existential notion of
presence; a Heideggerian being-in-the-world which underlies the mode
of performance. This type of being-in-(the world
of-)ethnographic-research concerns the meanings and implications of
being within physical and semiotic confines of various places.

the sense of being is not abstract. It has times and spaces as
possibilities of materialization . The notion of Dasein concerns
particular locals—a sited-ness—in which “being”
transpires. This is true for all beings-in-the-world, and it is
complicated in particular for ethnographic inquiry, which is by
definition a situated and embodied inquiry that is pursued in
distinct “fields” or “sites.” As a method of
research, ethnography concerns being—of observing,
recording, interviewing, participating, interacting, feeling,
etc.—there. In situated practices are defined and
understood by spatial references to places and locations, which
reveal the relations between the researcher and the field. “Here”
or “there” are common spatial (deictic) terms at use to
describe distances and relations between the field and the homeplace.

the deictic terms “here” and “there” are also
profusely used by tourists who inscribe in the site’s
impressive visitor book . These deictic terms are used as indexicals
that accomplish the task of producing entries performatively, through
fusing the text with the place in which it is uttered. Accomplishing
a meaningful and effective statement of presence, i.e. a performance,
necessitates an anchoring of the text in the space/on the stage
whereat it is revealed as a meaningful social action . For visitors
at the symbolic site, the actual (corporeal, “authentic”)
presence in the site is of crucial importance, and it is vital for
the effectiveness of their performances. Visitors make this clear by
repeatedly indicating that their performances are produced in
, and that they are anchored to the “here” or the
“here-ness” of the site.

next paragraphs supply examples of the notion of the researcher’s
presence or being, and show the uniqueness of Dasein when viewed
under the ideologies, epistemologies and circumstances characteristic
of modern tourism. These examples are illustration of observable and
traceable presence of the ethno-grapher or touist-grapher in the
symbolic site.

First, the presence of my research installation, which included a
notebook, a tripod, a camera and a video recorder (and additional
technical equipment), drew some attention on behalf of the museum
visitors, who sometimes interpreted it as a display of sorts. This is
not very surprising, considering the fact that these devices were
located inside the museum and inside spaces of exhibition, and that
museum goers are typically curious with regards to objects and
devices which they understand to be part of the display. Since the
presence of a researcher in such spaces is not commonplace, it is not
routinely expected. (Re)viewing the video recordings reveals the
interest visitors exhibit with regards to the devices I used: they
approach and examine them, sometime looking directly into the lends,
and discussing their meaning with fellow visitors. This was the
visitors’ way of indicating that the research apparatus is part
of what they take to be the exhibit. In fact, the video recording
captured a number of instances where I had to actually approach
visitors and kindly ask them to avoid manipulating the tripod and the
cameras (I had forgot these uneasy instances and was reminded of them
when viewing the video recordings). While the motivations behind
these interactions were obvious, the point is that in the symbolic
and semiotic spaces of the museum, these interactions illustrated an
expression of authority on my behalf, marking myself off form other
visitors and situating myself above them in terms of the range of
situated actions that are available to me. In other words, this was a
way to say “this is not an exhibit.”

my embodied presence too drew visitors’ attention. This took
the shape of both direct and indirect references. On a number of
occasions I was addressed directly, such as when inquiries regarding
the museum were addressed to me (questions regarding the location of
museum halls and lavatories). On one occasion, a visitor (who was an
Ultra-Orthodox Jew in his thirties) approached me smilingly,
announcing that “the Messiah will come!” (Hamashi’ah
Indirect references to me were also made by visitors. These were
usually whispers and sneak glances (sometimes also chuckling), in a
way that revealed that my presence is a matter of/for discussion,
entertainment and perhaps some discomfort too. A memorable instance
occurred when I was attending to the equipment, and did not notice
that a few high school students approached the nearby hall. Since I
was absorbed in fixing the camera to the tripod, I did not realize
that they were able to observe me, when I suddenly heard the
surprised call from the first of these youths to have noticed me:
“Wow! I thought it’s a sculpture! Look!” (“Yuuh!
hashavti sheze pesel! Tir’u
”). Since the video camera
was recording, the tape clearly discerns this cry. Indeed, why should
my figure, bent over the camera and tripod in an empty, darkly
lighten museum hall, not be taken to be a statue, which is to say why
should the researcher there not be taken in the context of a museum
to be a display of sorts? If in this context I am not viewed as a
visitor, what else might I be there? What else might my
actions there embody, and in whose (ideological) eyes is my
presence acknowledged and evaluated? What are the other
interpretative possibilities that are available for visitors who
encounter the ethnographer’s being in situ? In any case, the
video recorded the momentarily surprise—actually, a horrific
moment—when what seemed to the youth walking ahead of his
friends to be an inanimate commemorative sculpture suddenly started
moving. This moment of animation amounted in the eyes of the visitor
to nothing less than an act of resurrection. Note that this lies
squarely in the commemorative ideology of the site, which attempts to
“bring to life” the dead soldiers it commemorates.

my embodied presence and movements were also captured, somewhat
paradoxically, by the technical devices which I used in order to
document visitors’ activities. As I look at the video tape my
own body is occasionally discerned, crossing the frame somewhat
ghostly (always looking away and not at the camera); at other times I
am recorded talking with my mobile phone or writing in my notebook
(see figure 1, below).

I acknowledge the agentic role of the recording and documenting
devices which I used. I follow Latour’s line of thought as I
realize that in these circumstances, the video camera, which was
operating continuously, had its own role and performed its own
performance; once operating, it was not completely subordinated to
me. In other words, from the perspective of the camera’s lends,
my figure does not enjoy any particular (esteemed) status, and I am
caught in the frame just like any other museum visitor. The camera’s
framing, therefore, (re)positions and (re)presents me and inside the
museum, as I pass in front of it, rather than assuming the
photographer’s/tourist’s position behind it. The camera
is saying: “you too are observed.”

1: (Un)observed?: The researcher

of whether these were face to face or technologically mediate
interactions, or whether they took the shape of direct or indirect
references, what these illustrations share is the delineation of the
ethnographer’s presence in situ. These interactions supply
documented instanced that make the presence of the ethnographer
visible and embodied, and hence traceable and documentable. A bit
like a chemical of which presence is revealed through interaction
with another chemical, both visitors’ and my equipment trance
my presence in situ. Moreover, all of these interactions not only
record my “being there,” but also propose various
interpretations and frames of understating. These are situated
interpretations that do not construct me as a “researcher,”
which is how I would have had it, but as an actor that occupies
various other meanings and social roles.

2: Collecting practices

the ethnographer’s presence in situ is acknowledged, that is
once the diverse potential for physical and symbolic roles embodied
by the researcher in situ are recognized, the way is open for
examining another aspect which contributes to the ideology of
knowledge construction presently under investigation. This aspect
concerns collecting and documenting practices and materials, which
are pervasive in and pertinent for any type of empirical science .
Indeed, the very term ethnography includes a suffix that
conveys the importance and centrality of writing on processes of
constructing (social) knowledge and a social science discipline.

are numerous types of materials, data, and information that can be
gathered and collected through just as many methods of research. From
mass telephone surveys to in-depth interviews, and from structured
questionnaires to participant observation, in one way or another data
is gathered. ??(עוד קצת
על תפקיד איסוף
הידע במדעים
בככלל ובמדעי
--Similar to many other forms of empirical research, ethnographies
too are concerned with collecting, storing and classifying data. Over
and above interviews with visitors, the research at the AHM was
dedicated to documenting visitors’ entries in the visitor book.
Furthermore, the data that is gathered must be of particular
worth, and not just anything can be gathered. Rather, the data must
be “authentic” on a number of grounds: for instance, it
must not be contrived (it is original), and the ways by which it was
accessed and collected must be revealed.

the general context of tourism and specifically in the context of the
national commemorative museum, practices of collection and the
resultant collections are matters of central (ideological) concern.
“It is the museum, not the library,” Stewart correctly
argues, “which must serve as the central metaphor of the
collection.” This point was reiterated recently, in Macdonald’s
observations: “The idea of the museum has become fundamental
to collecting practices beyond the museum ... practices that
cannot only produce knowledge about objects but also configure
particular ways of knowing and perceiving.” The point of the
ensuing paragraph related to Macdonald’s mention of collecting
practices’ and role and how these practices are exercised
“beyond the museum.” In other words, the following
examples try to juxtapose evidences of research collecting practices
with of tourism and museums.

of ethnographers and others working with qualitative research methods
and data, what I “brought home from the field” eventually
amounted to a collection. Qualitative research is sometimes (dully)
concerned with what to do and how to analyze this vastly rich
yet presently the focus lies on acknowledging the fact that images
are transposed from the field unto the researcher’s workplace.
My research experience at the national memorial museum was no
different, perhaps beside the fact that compared to earlier research
projects, it contained not only a wealth of data, but data that was
gathered by various techniques and stored in various modalities.
These included field notes, audio recordings of ethnographic
interviews, digital documentation of various documents (including a
significant number of complete volumes of the site’s
commemorative visitor book), and video recordings.

my research focused on the site’s voluminous visitor book and
visitors’ entries therein, a number of complete
volumes—including the one presented during the time I was there
and a number of volumes that I from the museum’s archive—were
digitally photocopied. What these documentation practices have
created to is a comprehensive collection of photo(copie)s of pages of
visitor book, that amounts to a second-order type of documentation of
the commemorative site’s corpus of visitor books. Figure 2
(below) shows the digital collection of pages of visitor books. The
collection, which includes high quality pictures of hundreds of
pages, is located on my computer’s hard disc. The image in
figure was created by screen capturing software. It illustrates a
page (a “window”) which includes twenty-four visitor book
pages. In the center of the figure, under the smaller images of the
book’ pages, information about the images is indicated, framing
them thus not as authentic commemorative scenes (which is how they
are framed in the museum), but as research data, to be organized and

2: Pages in the Window: Ethnographer’s collections

screen capturing operation allows to see not only the ethnographer’s
collection—high resolution pages of the authentic visitor book
at the Ammunition Hill museum—but also to notice the new
context into which the book’s pages have been transposed. While
the center of the screen (figure 2) is populated with the visitor
book pages, the top, right and left of the image reveal the
environment—the virtual workplace—where these images are
stored and available for analysis. For instance, on the bottom of the
screen, Microsoft Windows logo is recognizable (albeit the text is in
Hebrew), and so is Microsoft Windows Ruler, which shows that other
windows are open and other activities and programs are presently
underway (such as MS Outlook and Mozila Firefox browser, etc.).

3: Representation: Dis/embodied

final scene that plays centrally in the construction of disciplined
scholarly knowledge is of course that of representation. While less
critical attention has been given to the two scenes that were
examined examine above, much has been written about seemingly
“scientific” modes of representation in the social

the Ammunition Hill National Commemoration Site promotes an embodied
sense of commemoration, which seeks to arouse patriotic sentiments
and emotional involvement within the visitors, scientific
representation is marked by disembodiment which aims at sustaining
neutrality and objectivity. From a critical perspective, both stances
are ideological, and both have technologies and esthetics at their
core. However, in the western-modern culture, the body—and
therefore embodied notions—is viewed as occupying a lower
stance on the latter of intellectualism and cultural capital, while
abstract notion—embodied so effectively by the very notion of
intellectualism, are highly esteemed .

the available space, I will supply an illustration of the erasure of
the researcher’s embodied presence in situ. Like the
illustrations above, the example will refer primarily to visual
practices of “scientification” in tourism and not
textual ones. Figure 3 (below) presents a digital photo of an opening
taken from one of the visitor books at the Ammunition Hill Museum.
The image nicely captures the vividness of the visitor book pages,
and their visual-cum-textual nature . Also, the pages show how
visitors’ entries to the book are captured and stored in situ.
In other words, once visitors chose to write in the book, their
written entries endure after they leave, and they are publically
accessible for the consumption of following visitors. Hence visitors’
inscriptions become animated elements within the museums’
display. This occurs because the visitor book is not located near the
site’s exit, but rather in one of the site’s innermost
halls, near the Golden Wall of Commemoration (which supplied the
emotional peak of the visit). In this way, the function of the
visitor book is transformed: it is not positioned there merely to
record visitors’ details (such as date of visitor, etc.), or
even reflexive impression, as visitor books typically do. Instead,
the book supplies a stage for ritualistic commemorative performances.
The visitor book achieves its ideological goals as a stage for
commemoration due to the fact that it is a documenting device.
Which is why literally speaking, what figure 3 evinces are traces
of visitors’ visit

from the memorial site’s ideological use of documentation to
the social scientific use of the same, it should be noted that in
order to produce an image of satisfactory quality, I had to remove
the visitor books which I was photocopying from the dimly lit
archive, where they are stored, to a more convenient and location
outside the building. The margins of the photo in figure 3 show/tell
the story of its production, a story of the scientific reproduction
of images: the image’s perimeter evinces the building’s
outer wall (typically made of “Jerusalem stone”), and at
the bottom the researcher’s sandals and his toes are
discernable as well. These are the researcher’s footsteps
(literally speaking), which are traces of the embodied practices of
reproducing images in situ—the heavy volumes had to be
positioned on a lower location (in this case a low stone wall), in
order to be able to take their picture vertically from above. These
images supply evidence of the embodied presence of the researcher
taking the picture (thus anchoring back to the ethnographer’s
performance), and of the specific background wherein the picture had
to be taken.

3: Embodied twofold: Ethnographer’s (and tourists’)

course, while for the sake of (social) “scientification”
embodied traces of the visitors must be well preserved, the embodied
traces of the researcher must be omitted. Figure 4 evinces a
manipulated version of the same digital photo presented in figure 3,
of the type of that appeared in publications on the Ammunition Hill
Museum . In this version, the material context of production and the
embodied presence of the researcher are erased, and what is left is a
purified and disembodied “scientificated” image, which
conceals the story of its production. This act of cleansing
represents a(nother) step away from the embodied Dasein—with
its (presence) traces of presence—towards decontextualized
representation of the type that is (still) all too common in the
social sciences.3

4: Embodied visitors/Disembodied ethnographer


three scenes that were described above are spaces of performances.
Together, they contribute to the construction of a hermeneutic
circle, moving between sites of being, practices of collecting, and
eventually practices of representation.

semiotics of traces in tourism, and of being in places.

the way it was organized and through its means of representation,
this article also stressed and echoes the visuals clues and traces
that are so abundantly available in tourism.

nate that with all its subversiveness, what I did in this chapter is
actually and highly recommended and approved by basic social science
textbooks, some of which are adamantly positivist. The claim that
social science in general pushes for new research, rather that
re-examining (and when possible re-conducting) older research and
experiments is shared by most observers of the fields.

the abstract) Altogether, the inquiry leads to insights into the
construction of academic knowledge with regards to tourists and
tourism (i.e. epistemology), and to enriching tourists’
ethnographies (i.e. methodology). The inquiry is located in the
junction of critical explorations of ethnography, on the one hand,
and museum studies, on the other, with the performance paradigm in
tourism as the connecting thread. The research develops earlier
conceptualizations regarding the construction of meaning and power
relations between researchers, tourists and tourism institutions
(Noy, 2007).

I use the term ethnography throughout referring not only to the
traditional (anthropological) practice defined as “field work
proper,” nor even as to ““ (ציטוט
ממישהו בספר
הביקורתי הכותב
על כמה שכיחה
Instead, and in line with performative sensibilities, I see any and
every type of research in the social sciences as ethnography.
Let me explain: insofar as documents of sorts are created and crafted
(“graphy”) during or in any other way in respect to
social interactions, what we have as a result is ethnography . In
other words, it’s all in the eyes of the beholder or
(Goffmanesque) framer or interpreter, and the fact that some
researchers “deliver questionnaires,” while others
“conduct telephone poles,” and yet others “do
fieldwork”—they are all accomplishing situated and
interactional social roles.

if the above concerned a broadening of the concept of ethnography,
then the following presents a type of specification, which concerns
the charged field of tourism and its research. Contra the claim of
positivist science for ?? of methods, methods are actually
field-sensitive. Research methods are not some kind of ideology-proof
devices that can be put in use identically regardless of the context.
First, and this is quite know, research methods are bearers of
ideologies, or epistemologies (from Edensor??). Further, they are
also implicated by the fields and by the ideologies where they
operate. This statement is rather iconoclastic, because it pulls the
carpet from beneath one of the strongholds of positivist science. Yet
as Urry’s repeatedly argued, tourism pervades our lives, and
where exactly does tourism transpire is a tricky question. Surely,
such symbolic suits as the Taj Mahal or the French Riviera are
tourist spaces; yet contemporary tourism scenes are by no means
(de)limited by and to the physical areas where tourists travel. As
shown elsewhere, much can be learned about the field of tourism from
attending closely and critically to the methods themselves, and
interviews with tourists might become sites where the semiotics of
tourism are central .

Cited References

In contemporary Israeli society and culture, this statement should
not be taken literally but politically. It marks the politics of
Jewish messianism and often fundamentalism.

Qualitative textbooks typically dedicate sections to the ways that
qualitative data should be treated. One memorable treatises is
Kvale's “the 1,000-page question.”

In line with sensitivity to the technologies that are involved in
the production of academic knowledge and to their roles therein, and
with the risk of remarking a negligible point, notice the paperclip
on the right side of the image. Indeed, in all the images that I
have produced, paperclips are visible. These paperclips helped me
hold down the surface of the visitor book pages horizontally, which
is required if a quality image is to be achieved taken (because the
shape of the book, the pages’ center tends to round and rise
thus creating an uneven surface, which does not allow the camera a
good focus). In Latourian terms, these paperclips are “tiny
hands,” that allow the researcher to hold the camera while
they are holding the pages. These are low-tech devices that join
others in the (subtle) manipulation that occurs during processes of
collecting and gathering data.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


and their practices: A performance approach to ethnography in tourism


wish to take this space to rethink a research I recently conducted,
reported in the previous lecture (titled Performance and Discourse in
Tourism: The Narratives Visitor Books Tell). I employ reflexivity in
order to critically examine the production of academic knowledge with
particular reference to ethnographic practices in tourism research.
The deconstruction builds on an appreciation of the fact that there
are different epistemological discourses that compete over the frames
of interpretation in various tourist attractions (in this case, the
National Commemoration Site in Jerusalem, Israel). In this vein,
tourists' ethnography will be (re)viewed and theorized in a fashion
that resembles the ways I viewed and theorized visitors' actions in
, putting visitors' visits and researcher's ethnography on
the same footing. A performative rendering of ethnographic
practices is promoted—a problematization of ethnography which
is pursued by viewing researching practices in situ not in
terms of 'academic research' but in terms of 'tourist visits'. By
doing so, the power and authority of the modern institutions of
tourism and museums are acknowledged.

and competing "frames" (Goffman) are emergent, especially
in cases where research is pursued—performed—in highly
symbolic and ideological settings. Over and above research practices,
the lecture will move to discuss various modes of representation and
the convergence and divergence between the discourses of academic
knowledge in the social sciences and in national commemoration.

the inquiry leads to insights into the construction of academic
knowledge with regards to tourists and tourism (i.e. epistemology),
and to enriching tourists' ethnographies (i.e. methodology). The
inquiry is located in the junction of critical explorations of
ethnography, on the one hand, and museum studies, on the other, with
the performance paradigm in tourism as the connecting thread. The
research develops earlier conceptualizations regarding the
construction of meaning and power relations between researchers,
tourists and tourism institutions (Noy, 2007).


see ethnography not only in traditional (anthropological) sense as
"field work proper," nor even only as "" (ציטוט
ממישהו בספר
הביקורתי הכותב
על כמה שכיחה
instead, and in line with performative sensibilities, I see any and
every type of research in the social sciences as ethnography.
Insofar as documents of sorts are created and crafted ("graphy")
during or in any other way in respect to social interactions—then
we have ethnography . In other words, it's all in the eyes of the
beholder or (Goffmaneque) framer or interpreter, and the fact that
some researchers "deliver questionnaires," while others
"conduct telephone poles," and yet others "do
fieldwork"—they are all accomplishing interactions social

article attends to tourism epistemologies, which concerns the ways of
knowing tourism and the types of knowledge that academic research on
tourism can and is produced. The article makes three stopovers at
three decisive moments in the construction of academic knowledge on
tourism, via ethnographic research (defined broadly [not only as
being in the “field,” but also as interacting with
informant or interwers. With Urry’s (1990) oft quoted
suggestion that tourism pervades out lives, where the “field of
tourism” is located is a tricky question. Surely, such places
as the Taj Mahal or the French Riviera are tourist spaces. Yet
contemporary tourism scenes are by no means (de)limited by and to the
physical areas where tourist travel.])

chapter about space and performance and also epistemology is very

שלו מצויין כי
הוא עוסק—בעיקר
בפרק ראשון אותו
אני קורא—בשילוב
שבדיוק מענין
אותי בין מרחבים,
ומערכי כוח.
אולם הנקודה
שאני עוסק היא
בהשלכת הדברים
האלה שהוא כותב
על תיירות ותיירים
והכוחות הפועלים
(למשל ההבנייה
של אתר גבעת
התחמושת), על
המחקר של התיירות
ועל החוקר
לכן אני קודם
כל טוען לנקודת
מבט פרפורמטיבית
המסבה את GAZE על
החוקר ועל הפרקטיקות
המחקריות. חשוב
להבין שזוהי
נקודת המוצא

של הטענה שלי.
השמוש "ברגישויות
שהנן ממילא
ביקורתיות (א-לא
אנדסור או גימבלט
או אדלר או אני),
לגבי המחקר.
שלה נובעת בראש
ובראשונה מן
היציאה מן "הראש"
של החוקר
ומן הנכונות
להביט אחרונית
על המחקר במושגים
ובשיח שאינם

של אפיסטמולוגיות
מחקריות, החוקר
אמור להית מעין
זבוב על הקיר,
לא נראה,
לא מתערב
ולא משפיע.
אולם שיטת
מחקר איכותניות
בכלל, והTURN
בחקר התיירות,
הביאו לבחינה
היחסים בין
החוקר ובין
השדה. גם
אני הופך את זה
על פניו ורוצה
לראות מה קורה
עם החוקר ולחוקר.
גם לגבי שיטות
מחקר וייצוג
בהן אגע בחלק
השני שגם הן
אמורות להיות
ואילו אדנסור
מראה מאוד יפה
מדוע המציאות
שהן המציירות
קשורה בכלי
היצוג והמסירה
של המיצאות הזו.
[לכן חשוב
להדגיש כי הראייה
הזו ייחודית
למחקר בתיירות].

ברור לי מה זה
הדסיין הזה והאם
צריך לציין את
זה בכלל. למה
דסיין? כי
הדסיין מייצג
את ההכרה העמוקה,
של החוקר בשגה,
וממנה נגדרת
הגישה מופעית
לנוחותו ולהתנהלותו
של החוקר על
הבמה בשדה.
דסיין זה
משהו נוכח מונכח
וממומש המדבר
על הנכוחות
החוקר בשדה
המחקר והיחסים
המורכבים ביניהם.
אני חושב
שדסיין נמצא
תחת כל גישה
שהיא תמיד גם


התייר, גם
החוקר עסוק
בדברים די דומים,
ועל כך עמד
הדיון בין
לחוקרי תיירות
על הדמיון והשוני
בין הדיסציפלינות
(כאשר הראשונים
טוענים לשוני
מן הדמיון
ומן ההשוואה
לשני, ואילו
השני טוענים
להיון התרבותי
של מגלי-מפרשי
תרבויות, הקשור

אגע בשלוש פרקטיקות
מרכזיות, למחקר
ששתיים מתוכן
משותפות למובעים
של החוקר ושל
התייר והשלישית
היא ייחודית
למופע ה"מדעי"
של חוקר.
הראשונה היא
במקום" (אכן,
זו הסיבה
שיש דסיין).
השנייה היא מה
שמקובל לחשוב
אצל תיירים
כצילום (ר'
אנסור המציין
יצלום כפרקטיקה
אולם בעוד
שגם אני חושב
שחלק חיוני מן
המופע התיירותי
קשור בצילום
ואדלר), עם
כל החשיבות שאני
מקנה לצילום
אני רואה את
הצילום כתת-פעולה
בתוך פעולות
האיסוף והתיעוד,
הכוללת גם
מזכרות, רשמים,
יומנים ועוד
גם בהיבט
מופעי זה אני
רואה את הדמיון
והגשר בין החוקר
ובין התייר,
שכן גם החוקר
עסוק בתיעוד
וביצירה של כל
מיני סוגים של
ועוד – על
כך גם אדנזור,
אדלר ואני


or Being (looked at) There

number of people ,

person (an Ultra-Orthodox Jew in his thirties) approached me
smilingly, announcing that "the Messiah will soon come!"
(Hamashi'ah ??); some other visitors whispered and sneaked
glances at me (sometimes also chuckling) in a way that revealed that
my presence there is a matter for discussion, entertainment and
perhaps some discomfort as well. Most of the visitor however, did not
show any interest in me and in my activities there, which sits well
with other indications of involvement and participation in visitor
activities, such as reading and inscribing in the visitor book


Cited References

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


blasphemies and the (Jewish) Nation: Commemorative Inscriptions in a
National Memorial Site in Israel

Prologue 1

Introduction 2

Israeli Civil religion inscribed 2

Method: Ethnography of (inscribed)
commemoration 4

Institutional (top-down) construction:
The visitor book as a sacred Jewish stage 5

Inscribed performances: Sanctities and
blasphemies 8

Conclusions 10

References 11


  • להראות
    שהמקום קדוש
    בקדושה המשלבת
    קדושה יהודית

    • כתיבה
      – וספר, כל

    • מבנה
      ספר המבקרים
      בלב האתר.

    • להתייחס
      למלחמת 67 כאירוע
      קריטי בנרטיב
      של הקדושה החילונית

  • ראשית,
    להראות שיש
    חולין באתר
    ובספר המבקרים:
    רוב רובם
    של האנשים אינם
    רושמים ולכן
    אינם נרשמים
    בשרשרת ההנצחה
    שהקים האתר.
    כאן לא מדובר
    על חילול קודש
    אלא פשוט יחס
    קליל, חולי,
    סתמי ו"לא
    קדוש" לאתר
    – סתמי או מקרי
    או מאולץ או
    משהו כזה.

    • זה
      מעניין כי היחס
      תמיד היה של
      "top-down", הקנייה
      מוסדית של "דת
      וכאן ניתן
      לראות מה אנשים—bottom
      באתר קדושה

  • שנית,
    להראות שיש

    מפורשות ומעורבות
    במישור דתי,
    הקשורה בהבנת
    הצומת "קדושה
    בהקשר הישראלי

    • ע"י
      קדושה דתית
      שעליהם דיברתי

    • ע"י
      קדושה דתית
      ציונית (למה
      אין פה..)


a recent annual meeting of the Israeli Anthropological Association, I
was discussing my last research project with a senior colleague. I
was sharing my ethnographic experiences from and contemplation of the
Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site, which is a commemoration
complex located in (West) Jerusalem, where I conducted a month of
observations and informal interviews at the, focusing on the
impressive commemorative VB therein.

to the memory of soldiers who died in Jerusalem during the 1967 war.
Some time before the conference I conducted a month of observations
and informal interviews at the, focusing especially on the impressive
commemorative VB therein . The senior Anthropologist heatedly argued
that the “heydays of the Ammunition Hill site are long gone,”
and that the place is run down and ill-kempt. With specific regards
to the commemorative VB, he argued that, “delinquent youths
from nearby neighborhoods and school they “masturbate on the
book,” with an expression of disgust. While I understand that,
at least since Mary Douglas' famous work, bodily excursions?? are
considered as impure and taboo, the symbolism in this case was not
completely coherent; nor did I know whether my counterpart was well
familiar with the urban history of the place of the Ammunition Hill,
which, prior to the building of the Site and due to the marginal
urban location between East (Palestinian) and West (Israeli) parts of
the city, prostitutes were offering their service there. The point is
that it was clear that my colleague was describing acts of
desecration, which represented the decline in the state of an revered
site of commemoration, that he was bothered by it, and that in this
regard the practice of masturbation, and bodily fluids such as “cum”
(which he also mentioned), were used as stark illustration of the
steep degradation of the national commemoration site had undergone in
the last years.

what follows, no further reverence to autoerotic practices or bodily
fluids will be made whatsoever. I chose to open with this vignette
because it reveals some of the (symbolic) tensions that surround
issues of sacredness of places and spaces, and particularly spaces of
national(ist) ritual and sanctity in Israel. In the sections that
follow, I will briefly describe the theoretical background concerning
works on the holiness and nationalism, succinctly tied up in Robert
Bellah's (??“Civil Religion in America,”
) famous notion of “civil religion,”
coined in the late 1960’s. After a short methodological
account, I will characterize the ways that the institutionally
construct a sense of sacredness of the place of national
commemoration, and then I will supply rich empirical details I will
descive abd discuss a number of activities, predominantly in the form
ov VB entries, where different VB entries

aspects that


the site as “Jewish space” and so is the VB – from
Jewish spaces to Jewish media.

Six day war a crucial junction in the weights of available
interpretation of the national Zionist project.

concept is spicy because it puts critical mirror in front of the face
of national projects, suggesting that these are (but) substituted of
hegemony, which use similar means for arriving at not too different
goals. … Bellah's concept is productive also because it
transcends the realm o high (sociological) theory, and it is in
highly intuitive. Of my autobiographical impressions I have a clear
recollection of sitting on my Sabra (native Israel) wide uncle’s
shoulders (my material uncle was a combat soldiers in the Israeli
army, with many combat stories), waving to a variety of military
troops and vehicles marching and riding through the center of the
city of (West) Jerusalem, during the early 1970s.

Civil religion inscribed

ideologies of commemoration have several recurrent motifs, prominent
among them sacrifice. W. Lloyd Warner (1959: 249) has written in his
classic ethnography of Yankee City that its Memorial Day's principal
theme is sacrifice: "the sacrifice of the soldier for the living
and the obligation of the living to sacrifice their individual
purposes for the good of the group." This is true also of the
themes of the Israeli Memorial Day. However, whereas the "cult
of the fallen" officially assembles in Yankee City during only
one weekend in springtime, in Israel it has much more presence and
power. In addition to the national Remembrance Day, annual rites of
commemoration are also held in Israel by each of the underground
(pre-state) military organizations and by various units of the
Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Further regular meetings and ceremonies
are conducted in Yad Labanim centers in every Israeli community. To
understand the ideological form of this institutionalized cult of the
fallen in Israel, we need to locate the discourse of bereavement
within the larger political structure of Israeli society. The
ethnography presented above reveals the conflictual nature of
bereavement as ideology in Israel. The texts of the Ministry of
Education presented the collective pole of standardization; by
attacking such standardization, the art exhibits tried to turn the
paradigm of uniqueness into a counter-ideology. The semi-official
texts of Yad Labanim stand in between. Here we found a remarkable and
seemingly schizophrenic melange of uniqueness and standardization.
All of these texts, however, portray the profound engagement of
Israeli society with commemoration: an engagement so extensive as to
be recently termed a "national obsession" (Weingrod 1995)
and a "national cult of memorializing the dead" (Aronoff
1993: 54).

The Israeli
"obsession" with commemoration, besides being factually
grounded in the sheer number and frequency of war and terror
casualties in Israel, is arguably rooted in two major sources: (
the political use of commemoration as a symbolic mediator between
past and present and (
the use of commemoration for social mobility. Zionist ideology has
been continuously preoccupied with creating a national mythology that
would link its present project of nation-building with the remote
Jewish history in the Land of Israel (Zion). The problem faced by
Zionism was how to construct a historical bridge to a land from which
the Jewish people had been exiled for nearly two millennia. "Perhaps
the primary goal of Israeli political culture," argues Aronoff
(1993: 48), "has been to make the continuity of the ancient past
with the contemporary context a taken-for-granted reality." This
was no doubt all the more important since the Jews' right to
statehood has been challenged by many, both Jews and Arabs. "The
fallen" thus became visible, unquestioned evidence for this
right to statehood.

the sacrifice of the fallen--often identified in American culture
with the sacred sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Warner 1959: 279)--was
connected in Israel with ancient Biblical heroes as well as newer
heroes among the pioneers (chalutzim). Two prominent Biblical myths
that are often mentioned in conjunction with the commemoration of
Israeli soldiers are the story of Massada and of David and Goliath.
Massada, the ultimate story of Jewish sacrifice in the face of a
superior enemy (Ben-Yehuda 1995), is told so that "Massada shall
not fall again" (Schwartz, Zerubavel, and Barnett 1986: 86). The
induction ceremony for new army recruits, who are given a Bible to
hold in one hand and a gun in the other, was traditionally held at
Massada or at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The story of David and
Goliath, again a myth of the few versus the many, is similarly used
to mobilize citizens into a state of perpetual conscription and a
feeling of siege (Gertz 1984). Another prominent story is the legend
of Tel-Hai, where six Jewish settlers died on March 1, 1920, while
defending a small northern settlement against Arab forces. The
reputed dying statement of Yoseph Trumpeldor, leader of Tel-Hai, was
"never mind, it is good to die for our country" (see
Zerubavel 1990, 1991, for an analysis of the Tel-Hai narrative).
Tel-Hai Day has become institutionalized as an official part of the
Israeli culture of commemoration.

second political use of the Israeli cult of the dead is for social
mobility. It should be noted that in Israel, the military is arguably
the most important social network. Despite the events of the last
decade--especially the war in Lebanon--for most Israeli men,
participation in the army is still considered a reward in itself,
which defines the extent to which an individual is in the
"social-evaluative" system of Israel (Horowitz and
Kimmerling 1974; Gal 1986). The fact that Kibbutz members
disproportionately serve(d) as officers and in elite units that
suffered high casualties was often cited as evidence for their
vanguard role in society. Conversely, Israeli-Arabs and Orthodox
Jews--who do not serve in the army--are marginalized. "This is
to a lesser extent also true in regard to women, who serve in
noncombatant roles (see Weiss 1996). Recently, Aronoff (1989: 132)
reported that in interviews conducted during the War of Lebanon,
leaders of nationalist religious Jews and of Eastern Jews told him
that the higher rates of casualties suffered by their respective
groups were "evidence of their having moved to the forefront of
the national struggle." The death of family members in military
service, as a close reading of ethnography of individual bereaved
families should illustrate, is also used as a means for personal
mobility--for individual gains in the form of financial benefits and
a social license to change one's course of life (see Weiss 1978,
1989). The art exhibitions are in themselves a means of professional
mobility--"making a living of my father's death," as the
title of one of the exhibit's catalogues proclaims.

particularly important example of the use of commemoration as a
political lever for social mobility is the recent appearance of new
shrines for Moroccan saints (zaddikim) whose bones were transported
from Morocco to various outlying Israeli towns where the majority of
the population is of Moroccan origin. Members of this and other
North-African ethnic groups then take part in large-scale pilgrimages
to the new "memorials" (Weingrod 1995; Bilu and Ben-Ari
1992). Taking part in the Israeli cult of the dead, these ethnic
groups stake a claim for "legitimacy and status as equal
Israelis" (Weingrod 1995: 16).

Israeli culture of commemoration, or cult of the dead, thus
ultimately presents itself as a key symbol that cuts across
historical periodizations and ethnic divisions. In that sense it
belongs to what Bellah and his colleagues (1985: 152) call "the
language of commitment," a language characterizing communities
that are "in an important sense constituted by their past"
(p. 153). These communities are "communities of memory"
which "carry a context of meaning" that "turns us
towards the future" (see also Middleton and Edwards 1990: 5).
This language of commitment has long dominated Israeli society, while
the opposite language of the "self-reliant individual" has
only recently emerged during the 1980s (Eisenstadt 1985; Lissak and
Horowitz 1989). As the Israeli routine of military conflict (see
Kimmerling 1974, 1985) created both collectivism and bereaved
families, these two became interdependent. The collectivity glorified
its fallen soldiers and financed their bereaved relatives, while
bereaved families committed themselves to the collectivity and to the
ethos of sacrifice and the standardization of bereavement entailed by
its ideology. For the bereaved families as well as Israeli citizens
in general, collectivism was perceived not as threatening the
autonomy of the individual but rather as an emancipatory force (see
also Zerubavel 1980; Katriel 1991). The Jewish-Israeli experience in
the twentieth century encompasses the transition from a state of
dependency and dispersion in the diaspora to a state of sovereignty
based on the existence of a military and national power, which is
therefore perceived as emancipatory. The ongoing interplay of the
language of commitment and the language of individualism--in
different words, the discourse of standardization versus the
discourse of uniqueness--is currently changing the Israeli culture of
commemoration as it is changing other forms of Israeli life.

employ the notion of sacredness to politico-national sphere after
Durkheim (see Gephart 1998)”

מסגורו של הספר
וכן התרומה
של הספר עצמו
לחוויית הקדושה
דוגמה להיבטים
של טקסי ההשתתפות
, ובצורתה
מודגשת בהקשר
הצברי בפרט
את המושג
אני קושר
לעבודותיו של
רוברט בלה
לרעיון הדת
& Tipton, 2006).
“The religious dimension that exists in the life of every
nation through which it interprets its historic experiences in the
light of its transcendental reality.” (Bellah, 1975, p. 3).
זה הוכח כרעיון
פורה במיוחד
בבחינתם מיתוסים
ממלכתיים בהקשר
של הלאומיות
רבים בחנו את
הזיקה שבין
המורשת והדת
והסמלים הלאומיים
האופנים בהם
עשתה ועושה
הישראלית שימוש
במערכת המשמעויות
של מערך חוויתי
של זהות לאומ
כפי שציינו
ליבמן ודון יחיה
(Liebman & Don-Yihya, 1983), “The
major symbols of Zionist-Socialism, its myths and ceremonies, were
laden with traditional motifs and representations” ,
כי ספר המבקרים
באתר ההנצחה
בתוך היכל קדושה
לאומית ובו בזמן
גם ממסגר אותו
, מהווה
דוגמה מובהקת
לענין זה
גם ליבמן
2001 Handelman, 1998; Katriel, 1995; Zerubavel, 1995).

concept is powerful because it put a critical mirror in the face of
republican nationalism,

concept has also been relatively widely used in relation to Israeli
nationalism, i.e. Zionism. Critical observers of Zionist ideology
argue that from the start, that is from sometime in the first half of
the twentieth century, “[t]he major symbols of
Zionist-Socialism, its myths and ceremonies, were laden with
traditional motifs and representations.” This is nowhere more
evident or accentuated . than in the multidinious/numerous ??
national rituals, days of commemoration, and sites of memorials,
celebrating the partnership/conjoin of nationhood and militarism
evident in Israel.

“national cult of memorializing the dead”

A. 1995. Dry bones: Nationalism and symbolism in contemporary Israel.
Anthropology Today,

also , ,

Ethnography of (inscribed) commemoration

Mantion tha many ceremonial and
commemorative activities tnat take place there thuotrhogut the uera,
and notable in the High Day of Commeoration, around the Independence
Day, the Day of the Unification of Jerusalem, etc.
סט המבטאות
בלבול וערבוב
של צבאי עם אזרחי

--such sites of
national-patriotic commemoration sites have studied in such works as
. These works confirmed the symbolic and iconic nature of
commemoration sites, as well as the tight relations they hold with
religious beliefs, perceptions and practices. However, I am presently
less interested in the icons themselves than in the overall
aesthetics of ethno-national commemoration in Israel.

This study took place at the Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site
(AHNMS), which is a war commemoration complex located in the northern
parts of West Jerusalem. Inaugurated in 1975, the site honors Israeli
soldiers who died in the battle on Ammunition Hill during the 1967
War. The site also celebrates the victory of the Israeli Army over
the Jordanian Legion, and the “liberation” of East
Jerusalem and the “unification” of the city. The complex
comprises a number of spaces and structures, including an outdoor
site that includes commemorative monuments and the original trenches
in which the fighting took place, as well as an indoor museum.

The museum is a typical site that embodied, materially and ideology
the Israeli “cult of commemoration” . It presents
exhibits and information about the battle on Ammunition Hill and the
overall campaign for Jerusalem, that is surrounded by a venerated
atmosphere changed with a perfusion of symbols and icons: the museum
is a half sunken dimly lighten building, of which halls and corridors
are build of local stones, so as to produce an authentic impression
of war trenches, such as those located at the outdoor space nearby.
Most of the features are commemorative devices, such as the Golden
Wall of Commemoration, engraved with the names of the 182 soldiers
who fell in the battle for Jerusalem and a short film about the
Ammunition Hill Battle. In addition, many maps and pictures are
employed to illustrate the battles for Jerusalem, and a variety of
discursive artifacts, such as the soldiers’ letters and
personal journals, serve to enhance the display’s authenticity
and to personalize the soldiers.

The research at the AH site was conducted mainly over four weeks of
ethnography, which took place during the summer and autumn of 2006
(repeated visitors to the sites were —conducted for follow-up
purposes). During this period I conducted observations and informal
(unstructured) interviews with visitors, which addressed their
impressions of and activities in the site, and specifically their
views of the commemorative visitor book therein and their
interactions with it. These observations and interviews indicated
that the majority of the visitors were either (local) Jewish
Israelis, or Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish tourists-pilgrims,
mostly from North America. These were usually on organized trips to
Israel, usually organized by the Jewish Agency, the Taglit Project
and similar organizations that promote Zionist ideology. Both
populations of visitors expressed their general support of Israel’s
national militaristic-Zionist ideology. Additionally, interviews were
also conducted with the site’s staff in order to learn about
the ideological approaches to national commemoration and how
commemoration is effectively exhibited.

addition, a study of visitor book entries was conducted. Two volumes
supply the case study of this examination. These volumes were chosen
because they were the most recent ones to be completed, and because
they are typical of the AH visitor books in all respects (cf. Noy,
2008). Each of these books contains 100 pages, took about one year to
fill (the first volume between ?? 200?? and May 2005, and the second
between June 2005 and June 2006), and includes over 1,000 entries.
Given this considerable number, and the fact that these entries were
written over a long period of time, and is located at a National
Commemoration Site, the books arguably provide a representative
sample of inscribers’ actions at a symbolic site. The entries
in the book vary in length, ranging from one-word inscriptions to
short paragraphs, with the majority written in Hebrew (50%) and the
rest written mostly in English (45%, but also in French, Spanish,
Russian and more). The entries were examined in light of the
performative appreciation of the book and its function, whereby it is
viewed as a stage for visitors (inscribed) performances (more on that
see below). In their analysis I avoided employing rigorous and
systematic procedures (“content/discourse/text analyses”
of sorts), and preferred a context sensitive reading, that enjoys
sensitivities promoted by the fields of (critical) discourse analysis
and multimodality studies .

(top-down) construction: The visitor book as a sacred Jewish stage

the museum is located with Jewish spaces (of West Jerusalem), and
because its visitors are solely Jewish, we may fruitfully think of
the site and of the stage that the visitor book affords therein in
terms of Jewish spaces and stages.

ethno-nationalism and ethno-militarism

because of the socialized nature of these visits, that is that
visitors are typically accompanied by members of groups and family,
most of these decisive moments are not embodied by individuals.
Instead, they are a somewhat spontaneous and haphazard consequence of
a number of interactions among visitors, which might (or might not)
lead to attending the VB. As a result of this type of non-lineal
social decision-making (arrived at the level of the group), visitors'
behaviors hardly evince any signs of the solemn-ness or of the
sacredness that this densely symbolic site is supposed to bestow. In
other words, already here (and this will be much clearer later in the
inquiry) we can observe that the social dynamics are such that little
room is left of the type of aura that is typical of rituals of
national religion and sanctity .

spaces/Jewish Media.

these spatial and material features amount to a symbolic statement
which establishes connections between traditional Jewish spaces and
practices and national-Israeli-militaristic ones.

this section I argue that the commemorative VB at the AH serves as a
sacred stage that invites inscriptions, or inscribed
performances of participation in the Zionist ethno-national civil
religion. While I argued elsewhere for a performative view of this
visitor book , my present claim is that the book functions as a stage
insofar as it functions as a holly apparatus in a national shrine of
militaristic commemoration. In other words, the dialectics of
performance, on the one hand, and national sacredness and
commemoration, on the other, are brought to the fore as the notions
of “scared” and of “stage” are mutually
confirming. This condition is created by the following framing cues
by which the sacred and the performative functions of the visitor
book are joined, both materially and symbolically.

while visitor books are typically located near the exit of sites and
attractions, where they allow visitors to recapitulate their
experiences and comment on their overall visit, this commemorative VB
is located in one of the museum’s innermost halls. It is
positioned near the Golden Wall of Commemoration
and the eternal flame, where a low and solemn voice of a male
narrator is continuously heard, reciting the names of all the fallen
soldiers and their military affiliation and rank.

unique location, inside the museum’s commemorative “holy
of holies,” endows the book with the semiotic status of a
sacred device that is an organic part of the museum’s authentic
commemorative exhibit . Conceptually, the book’s unique
location is the complete opposite or reverse of the typical places
where VBs are positioned, because it invites acts of ideological and
emotional participation, rather than reflections on a visit that has
been completed. The book’s position in the heart of the
commemorative space suggests that it is metonymic to the museum. As
will be demonstrated below, the practices of interacting with it
(basically reading and writing), are essential elements of the ritual
of the visit to a commemoration site, and not a reflection or
commentary about it.

the book’s unique framing as a scared stage is further
augmented by the structure on which it rests. It is installed on a
large and impressive structure, consisting of two columns of black
steel, each of them about one meter thick (Figure 1 below). The
shorter column, approximately one meter tall, functions as a kind of
pedestal on which the book rests, and beside it is another pillar
some four meters tall. The pedestal is made of thick and impressive
wood, giving the platform on which the book rests a particularly
impressive and respected appearance. The entire structure rests on a
base that is slightly elevated from the floor, so that those wishing
to read (or write) in the book must step up and enter a specially
designated zone.

1: Book and Hall: Ethno-national solemn spaces

again, the sacred function of the book is cued. The special
construction suggests that it is not a bureaucratic document that is
meant to capture information about visitors (names, dates, etc.), nor
impressions regarding the visit, but a cherished medium that invites
ritualistic acts in which visitors may engage in situ as part of
their adherence to and embodying of national commemoration. This
framing is further augmented by the fact that the VB is the central
exhibit in the hall where it is located. This arrangement, too,
frames the book as a unique medium, which demands special attention
on behalf of the visitors.

as a notable exhibit in a special public space in the museum, it can
be easily realized that the inscriptions visitor write therein
immediately become parts of the commemorative and authentic
at the site. Here is a transformative medium, where
individual inscriptions (of the genre of visitor book entries), are
instantaneously granted a public nature, and become collective acts
of embodiment of the commemorative ideology at the site.

the metonymic association between the tangible device and the
intangible ideology of ethno-national commemoration is established
not only through the spatial positioning of the book, but is also
reiterated from “within”: through the material and the
design of the book’s pages (or inner spaces). In terms of
materiality, the book is a heavy and sizable volume that includes 100
thick pages made not of paper but of parchment. In terms of
(inscribed) performance, the size and material of its pages are a
point of interface between text and texture, or the embodied acts of
writing and reading in the book. Ostensibly, the parchment material
indexes authentic and esteemed scriptures and holly inscription,
echoing the views in both Islam and Judaism of the sacred nature of
scripture as such.

terms of visual design, each of the pages in the book is printed with
a vertical line of four symbols (Figure 2, below), specifically (in
descending order) the symbol of the State of Israel (the Menorah or
candelabrum), the symbol of the City of Jerusalem (a lion), the
symbol of the Israeli army (a sword and olive branch in a Star of
David), and the logo of AHNMS (three arches). These symbols are
repeated on large flags that hang near the installation, and
correspond with other ethno-national and military emblems that are
profusely exhibited throughout the site. They reiterate the
connection between the ethno-sanctity of the spaces/stages of the
museum as a whole, and the same with regards to the spaces/stages of
the visitor book, stressing the tripartite bond between Zionism,
Judaism and militarism.

2 also evinces that fact that the book’s pages actually have no
dividing lines or any other directions as to where visitors should
inscribe their entries. This is highly consequential in terms of the
inscribed performances therein, because it is now up to the visitors
to take care of each and every aspect of the entry they wish to
inscribe: from where on the book’s pages and in the spaces of
the book’s openings (the conjoined surface of two adjacent
pages) the entry should be inscribed, to what it should include
(content, graphics, length, etc.), and even to the writing utensil
with which it should be produced (which is not supplied), the
possibilities are there for the visitors to materialize.

2: From within: Logos and inscriptions on parchment

we proceed to examine the visitors’ entries themselves, a final
point is due with regards to the very nature of the book (and much of
the display in the museum), which concern literacy and literacy
related activities (reading and writing). I mentioned earlier that
the AH museum displays many texts, including handwritten letters sent
by soldiers to their families, personal journals and war journals,
commemorative devices that have the appearance of books and more.
These inscribed exhibits amount to the largest category of displays
the museum exhibit. This pervasiveness of inscribed (textual)
displays is not coincidental and bears meaning in and of itself. I
shall briefly touch on these meanings, which I view as illustrations
of a particular linguistic ideology held be the AH museum .
These meanings are relevant to our exploration because visitors’
inscribed entries join the abundance of inscription in situ and
contribute—and sometime also resist and contradict—its
linguistics (inscriptional) ideology.

presenting handwritten documents is an effective way of claiming and
performing authenticity. In tourism in general, handmade
products have a special value because they index their creators. This
is true for handwriting as well, which supplies the institution with
the much sought after “aura of authenticity” in
(late-)modern times .

quality has cultural hues, as it is particularly salient in Sabra
(native Israeli) culture, where informal and un-institutional modes
of communication, such as handwriting, are highly esteemed . These
cultural preferences have their roots in Jewish religion and
tradition. Although the Zionist pioneers to Palestine have envisioned
a revolution that would reject traditional perceptions of the image
of the “exilic learned Jew,” the notion of the “learned
Jew” and with it its corresponding image of the moral
come in very helpful in the attempts to mitigate the
aggression repeatedly performed by the Israeli army. What is
commemorated at and by the AH museum is a battle, an obvious instance
of institutionalized brutality and violence. Commemoration is often
concerned with moralizing past events, and for the Sabra worldview,
which aspires to liberalism and humanism, the events suggest a moral
issue that requires an adequate resolution .

generally, however, the construction of the visitor book and with it
the linguistic ideology index for the (Jewish) visitors Jewish
practices . In an interview with the Kahaner, who is the Head of the
.. He indicated that there are strong ties between the AH site and
the Western Wall, located a ten minute drive from the site. This
association is something that I have heard visitors too discuss, as
they visited at the Western wall before they came to the AH site, or
intend to visit it later. Indeed, within the visitor books there was
a few occasion where visitors did no write on the book but instead
left notes they write and tear from other sources. While this is
speculative, it does seem to echo the religious ritualistic practices
of note-writing in the Western Wall and other Jewish practices that
concern writing and reading.

cultural appreciation of literacy sits nicely with the notion of
literacy as a highly charged and value-ridden western ideology. This
type of ideology concerns a Judeo-Christian bias against illiteracy,
where literacy is viewed as correlative to progress, liberalism,
modernity and the like, while illiteracy is viewed critically and
condescendingly as correlating with the opposite . In this respect,
too, the museum effectively employs texts and specifically warriors’
handwritten texts in order to produce an image of educated, moral and
pure character and conduct. Such authentic(ating) inscriptions
express the romantic conjuncture embedded in such phrases as “officer
and gentlemen,” and “the noble and the savage.” The
warriors commemorated in the Ammunition Hill are portrayed as
literate and educated; “men of the sword,” but also “men
of the pen.”

from the perspective of national identity we are reminded of
Anderson’s famous work, which also focuses on acts of reading,
and how literacy (in the form of books and newspapers) allows the
creation of imagined communities and consequently nationhood across
large spaces. In ritual sites of commemoration, the spread, which in
Anderson’s work is geographical, is temporal: different people
arrive at the same place (to read and write) in different times. In
any case, these are the texts and their qualities of endurance and
(im)mobility, that allow different people in different spatiotemporal
positions to imagine their identity and belonging together.

performances: Sanctities and blasphemies

is interesting and paradoxical about these violation is that they do
not origin with or express secular (liberal) worldviews amidst the
“forest of (nationalist) symbols.” Instead these
violations, and the critiques they hold, are expressions of
fundamental ideologies of sorts, which

of desecration are visible at the museum to an ethnographically
sensitive eye. Before attending to the inscriptions within the VB, I
wish to attend to instances of desecration, or purposeful violations
of the ideology promoted and presented at the AH. These violations
are apparent, for instance, in crosses (X marks) that are inscribed
on national symbols. For instance, on the very bottom part of the
national Israeli flag depicted in Figure 1, a 3X3 inches X has been
drawn (it is not visible in the picture in figure 1). Another cross
is engraved on a picture that is part of the Uzi Narcis exhibition,
located in the first corridor in the entrance to the museum. The
picture depicts the figures of General Narcis, who was in charge of
the Jerusalem Front during the 67’ War, and of Army Chaplain
(General Goren), exchanging embraces. The X engraver, which is
noticeable when observing the picture up-close, is located right on
the spot where men’s bodies are touching. This desecrative act
is significant because it corresponds with and rejects the multiple
meanings this image carries. First, these are men who are embracing,
and for homophobic visitors this in itself may be viewed as
unacceptable display.1
Moreover, in the context of the 67’ War, the embrace of these
particular men has a notable symbolic value, as it embodies a
particular historic moment where the unification of militaristic and
Orthodox ideologies took place. As indicated above, the 67’ War
was a watershed event in terms of the widespread interpretations of
the Zionist project, representing a shift from ethno-national terms
to fundamental-orthodox and messianic terms. The violation of the
image of the embrace is therefore an ideological graffiti that may
express a rejection of the joining of Jewish Orthodoxy with the
Jewish State.

we continue to desecration performances inside the pages of the
visitor book, the above examples beseech two comments. The first
comment concerns that fact that these and other acts of desecration,
which take place in the outdoor spaces of the Ammunition Hill
premises and inside the museum, present similar critical and
offensive objections on behalf of Ultra-Orthodox protestors in
Jerusalem more generally. For instance, in many street signs in
Jerusalem—notably in the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the
center of the City—the Arabic written inscriptions are
systematically erased (covered). Further, the notorious and
aggressive Ultra-Orthodox groups called the Modesty Squads (Mishmarot
), which are informal and basically anonymous,
systematically injure and damage people and images that are viewed as
violating the Ultra-Orthodox codes of modesty. The point being that
practices that concern protest and erasure, which occur on the
premises of the Ammunition Hill site (and, as we shall shortly see,
also in the visitor book), echo and resemble those acts that occur
outside, in the larger (conflict ridden) spaces of West Jerusalem.
Both are instances of destructive acts of inscription of smilar
idkeogical perspectives.

put more accurately, what are described above are not instances of
violation but rather traces thereof. Being able to
ethnographically trace these marks brings to mind the point raised in
the prologue by the colleague with who I had the exchange, regarding
the neglect on behalf of the staff of the AH site. Indeed, if the
flags would have been cleaned occasionally, or the pictures in
display attended to more closely and restored, the site would have
evinced less occurrences of violation. In other words, what we
observe are actually two types of profanity performed
simultaneously and complementarily: the management’s (passive)
neglect and the visitors (active) acts of desecrative inscription.
(Observe that this parallels what goes on outside the site’s
premises, where the systematic erasure of street names written in
Arabic is not attended by the municipality or it is attended but very
slowly and ineffectively).

inattention to the appearance and maintenance of the national site is
not secret, and is clearly observable. The museum has not been
renovated since its opening back in 1975, and it is severely in need
of paintwork and repair work of sorts. In addition, it is also not
very clean. The management of the site is aware of this condition. In
one occasion, as we were walking in the museum, the curator told me
cynically, “this is the hall where we have the alternating
exhibitions; we change them every 25 years…” The
museum’s director, while walking with me around the site’s
grounds, had repeatedly complained about trash being thrown
throughout the site, blaming the “populations” of
visitors for their “manners” (implicitly referring to
large Ultra-Orthodox families who enjoy the spacious premises
freely), and the lack of budget from which the site suffers.2

Ammunition Hill site is admittedly ill-kempt. It has

the article will turn to examine inscriptions in the visit book, or,
in terms of the discussion above, acts of desecration that are
inscribed within the Jewish spaces (premises, perhaps) of the visitor
book. Yet the first illustration will be of a normative
visitor book entry. By the term normative I suggest that this entry
is highly representative of VB entries that are confirmative, that is
they perform voice the ideological agenda of the site through the use
of the discourse of sacred ethno-national commemoration. After
examining this entry, other entries will be examined, which do not
perform confirmative voices
; rather, they express violations of
the ethno-national ideology, and have their origins with different
worldviews and ideologies.



Recall the protest made by some Ultra-Orthodox visitors at
Yad-Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum some years ago (and the
commotion that it raised), regarding the presentation of exposed
body parts of Jewish women in the Holocaust.

Unlike many military museums in Israel, and museums that depict
underground military movements prior to the establishment of the
State of Israel (1948), the Ammunition Hill is not
subordinated to or financially supported by the Ministry of Defense,
and its funding relays predominantly on contributions.