Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Review of Ben-Eliyahu, Identity and Territory

Ames on Ben-Eliyahu, 'Identity and Territory: Jewish Perceptions of Space in Antiquity'

Author: Eyal Ben-Eliyahu
Reviewer: Tracy Ames

Eyal Ben-Eliyahu. Identity and Territory: Jewish Perceptions of Space in Antiquity. Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. 216 pp. $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-29360-1.

This volume examines changing ideas related to perceived territorial boundaries and ethno-national identity as reflected in Jewish literature from the Second Temple period to the Roman Byzantine period. Through close readings of biblical, Second Temple, and rabbinic literature, the book focuses on the reciprocal relationship between fluctuating notions of geographic borders and differing views of identity in postbiblical Jewish society. Eyal Ben-Eliyahu presents a pioneering approach to the literary sources he investigates with the application of the spatial theory of history, widely employed in the humanities and social sciences. The central arguments of the book are that identity influences territorial perceptions and that territory, itself, is one of the factors involved in shaping identity. In addition, the treatment of ancient sources related to deliberations about perceptions of status, scope, and the nature of territory among different groups demonstrates that these issues continue to be part of internal and external dialogue about the status of the territory of Israel.

The review mentions that this book includes material from an earlier book by Ben-Eliyahu: Between Borders: The Boundaries of the Land of Israel in the Consciousness of the People of the Second Temple and the Roman-Byzantine Periods. For a review of it, see here.

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