Rachel’s Tomb: Narrative Counterspaces in a Military Geography of Oppression
Rachel's Tomb
Israeli checkpoints
Israeli occupation
Palestinian Christianity
Palestine Marathon
Wall graffiti
narrative politics

The Rachel’s Tomb area and nearby checkpoint 300 in the north of Bethlehem have become an arena of cultural opposition to an Israeli geography of oppression that excludes, fragments, shrinks, and closes off Palestinian space. The article describes how a spatial-narrative politics – articulating counter-narratives through the strategic use of space – has helped to rewrite the Israeli military geography of power and control. Over the last fifteen years both locals and foreigners in the area have inscribed narrative discourses of home, freedom, and welcoming into this geography in rhetorical contrast to the discourse of military power. While opposition to the Wall is important in all these  practices, Van Teeffelen considers the Wall as part of a broader military geography rather than standing by itself. Oppositional politics is illustrated by analyses of statements of daily life sumud or steadfastness, examples of Palestinian Christian religious practices, the Palestine marathon in Bethlehem, and the iconic graffiti of British artist Banksy. The author reflects upon the potential of a spatial-narrative politics consisting of three stages: affirmation of rootedness, creative opposition, and border-crossing. The arts, religion, sports and political struggle, while fundamentally different human experiences, have in principle a potential to transcend borders toward a more hopeful horizon while connecting local and global narratives.

Author biography: 

Toine van Teeffelen, who holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam, is an anthropologist conducting studies in discourse analysis on Palestine-Israel. He also serves as an educational adviser at the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem.