Borders and bordering in Jewish geopolitical space

Tamar Arieli, Amos Israel-Vleeschhouwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Cultural and religious concepts of space inform contemporary social and political identities, confirming the inherent embeddedness of borders in social life. This study analyzes concepts of borders and bordering processes in socially heterogeneous and politically sensitive environments, as portrayed in classic Jewish texts. Jewish-legal rabbinic writings dated from the first to the fifth century reveal perceptions of both concrete and metaphysical aspects of a territorial homeland and of social-spatial bordering. These perceptions are echoed in contemporary debates of national sovereignty and borders. Like most legal systems, Jewish law prefers clear spatial separations and creates dichotomous spatial-legal distinctions. Yet textual analysis through lenses of geopolitics and law reveals nuanced concepts of borders and surprising perceptions of flexible and permeable borders despite this preference for clarity. This adaptability stands in contrast to widespread presumptions of rigidity of religion. Classic texts enrich social and political discourse in multi-cultural societies, particularly regarding holy territory. Their interpretation offer prospects of de-linking concepts of sanctity from sovereignty, thus presenting innovative channels to perceive and experience one’s homeland. Paradoxically, religious texts offer pragmatic geo-political insights, which could enrich contemporary discourse, challenged by over-simplistic perceptions of borders and bordering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-988
Number of pages20
Issue number4
StatePublished - 8 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

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