Sanctities, Blasphemies and the (Jewish) Nation
Commemorative Inscriptions at a National Memorial Site in Israel
Keywords:Discourse, commemoration, collective identity, writing
In this article I rematerialize discourse that is articulated in the shape of commemorative visitor book entries, in a national-military commemoration site in Jerusalem, Israel. The materiality and communicative affordances of the commemorative visitor book, the physical environment in which it is situated and which grants it meaning, and the modes of interaction and inscription that it affords are examined. Located in a densely symbolic national commemoration site, the impressively looking book does not merely capture visitors' reflections. Instead, it serves as a device that allows participation in a collective-national rite. While seemingly designated as a visitor book, the discursive device functions performatively as a portal or interface between visitors, on the one side, and the nation and the dead and living soldieries, on the other side. Expectedly, the inscriptions that populate the book's pages are instances of iconic discourse (texts with graphic additions of sorts), that embody one of the heightened ideological and experiential moments of "civil religion" (Robert Bellah). They illustrate the resources used by nationalism in establishing sacred contexts and rituals. Also, they illustrate how different discourses of sanctity (and profanity), are juxtaposed on the same (Jewish) space. Specifically, while local Israeli sightseers present their appreciation for and participation in commemoration of the nation-state in terms of "civil religion," most of the international tourists, who are mostly north American Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, perform their notions of sanctity and sacredness in messianic and primordial terms, which look through or beyond the nation state.
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