“Jackie Feldman’s book presents a fascinating and robust ethnographic study of Israeli youth voyages to Poland. Utilizing a most impressive array of methods, including participant observation, group discussion, content analysis of student diaries, and questionnaires, Feldman proposes that youth voyages may be unpacked as state-orchestrated civil religious rites of passage serving to transform Israeli youth, many of whom cannot trace their familial lineage to Shoah survivors, into carriers of ‘authentic’ Holocaust memory.” · Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
“Feldman’s book is to be recommended unreservedly: as an encouragement for empirically based research into the practice of memory, but also in regard to the often mentioned ‘future of memory’ of the NS crimes.” · H-Net
“...this at moments brilliant book is always intelligent and in-depth. It is written with scholarly integrity and erudition. The importance of Feldman's contribution to the scholarship of contemporary Israeli identity and the representations and the memory of the Holocaust is undeniable...It opens up fresh questions about the relationship between nation-state bureaucracies, textual and bodily experiences, and the pursuit of nationalism. And it asks where the limits and risks are of this conscious cultivation of nationalism in today's Israel.” · H-Soz-u-Kult
“Jackie Feldman’s study is a mandatory book, not only for teachers of history, but also for every educator and educational administrator. By means of methodical anthropological research, Feldman describes the components and construction, of the visits by young Israelis to the death camps in Poland, organized on behalf of the Ministry of Education since the 1990s, and their consolidation into a ritual construct of pilgrimage which strengthens and integrates mythical, religious, and national features.” · Journal of Israeli History
“The study offers an important contribution to an understanding of dealing with memory in Israeli society and creates a basis for a well-grounded and objective debate on a highly sensitive topic, the significance of which reaches well beyond the Israeli context.” · Newsletter of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Frankfurt/Germany
"Jackie Feldman’s extensive research and absorbing analysis of Israeli youth voyages to Poland result in a compelling and unsettling argument about the meanings of Holocaust memory in Israel. This brilliant contribution will make us rethink the use of Holocaust memory in Israeli culture and society and beyond." · Alon Confino, University of Virginia, author of Germany As a Culture of Remembrance: Promises and Limits of Writing History
"Above the Death Pits, Beneath the Flag offers rich ethnographic data and evocative observations on the transformative power of Israeli youth trips to the death camps in Poland and explores how they shape the youth’s historical consciousness. Jackie Feldman’s study is a must read for anyone interested in collective memory, tourism and pilgrimage, and the intricate meanings of the Holocaust in contemporary Israeli life." · Yael Zerubavel, Author of Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition. Professor of Jewish Studies & History and Director, The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, Rutgers University
Israeli youth voyages to Poland are one of the most popular and influential forms of transmission of Holocaust memory in Israeli society. Through intensive participant observation, group discussions, student diaries, and questionnaires, the author demonstrates how the State shapes Poland into a living deathscape of Diaspora Jewry. In the course of the voyage, students undergo a rite de passage, in which they are transformed into victims, victorious survivors, and finally witnesses of the witnesses. By viewing, touching, and smelling Holocaust-period ruins and remains, by accompanying the survivors on the sites of their suffering and survival, crying together and performing commemorative ceremonies at the death sites, students from a wide variety of family backgrounds become carriers of Shoah memory. They come to see the State and its defense as the romanticized answer to the Shoah. These voyages are a bureaucratic response to uncertainty and fluidity of identity in an increasingly globalized and fragmented society. This study adds a measured and compassionate ethical voice to ideological debates surrounding educational and cultural forms of encountering the past in contemporary Israel, and raises further questions about the representation of the Holocaust after the demise of the last living witnesses.
Jackie Feldman lectures in Social Anthropology at Ben Gurion University, Beersheba, Israel. His areas of interest are anthropology of religion, collective memory, pilgrimage, and tourism. He has published on Holocaust memory and pilgrimages to the Second Temple and worked as a tour guide for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land.