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Saint of Beersheba, The

Alex Weingrod

Publication Year: 1990

Weingrod presents an anthropological study of the development of a new Jewish saint, or zaddik, in Israel and of the annual pilgrimage to his enshrined grave by thousands of North African Jews. It is the fascinating story of how Rabbi Chayim Chouri, an aged Tunisian rabbi, became famed as the “Saint of Beersheba,” after his death in the 1950s. The author focuses upon the meaning of this event in the lives of the participants, and interprets the relevance of mystical-religious traditions to present-day Israeli society, politics, and culture. It includes a photographic essay that brilliantly evokes the joyful events that occur during the ritual and festivity of the pilgrimage.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies

Half Title Page

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

This book is about a new Jewish zaddik, or "saint," and the pilgrimage to his grave. How a new saint and holy shrine have recently been created makes a fascinating tale, and along the way this process also illuminates some major features of present-day Israeli society and culture. What sparked the research, and how it subsequently unfolded, is ...

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1 Zaddik

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pp. 1-22

Each year, during the spring season, large crowds gather to take part in the pilgrimage to the grave of a new Jewish saint, or zaddik, Rabbi Chayim Chouri. The pilgrimage itself takes place in the municipal cemetery of the city of Beersheba, located in Israel's southern Negev region. People come from all over Israel: they arrive by bus, taxi, or private ...

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2 Text

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pp. 23-46

"The culture of a people," writes Clifford Geertz in a well~known passage, "is an ensemble of texts, themselves ensembles, which the anthropologist strains to read over the shoulders of those to whom they properly belong" (1973,452). This is an appealing image: like poems, myths or paintings so, too, events can be imagined as texts, that, when ...

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3 Performance

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pp. 47-68

If, as was argued in the last chapter, the yearly pilgrimage to Rabbi Chouri's grave can be thought of as a text, then the critical issue is how to understand and interpret it. Texts of whatever kind may be precious, but they need to be explained - "rendered comprehensible." As with paintings, novels, or symphonic works the problem becomes how ...

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4 Process

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pp. 69-91

Behavior can, as we have been suggesting, be interpreted in a variety of different ways. Rarely if ever do "the data speak for themselves" or with a single voice; if the truth be told, they do not speak at all. We explain events, render them comprehensible, by the questions we ask and the theories we construct. ...

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5 Comparison

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pp. 93-111

This has been a lengthy journey-from lerba to Beersheba, rabbi to saint, and from a small family gathering in the cemetery to a giant pilgrimage. The focus throughout has been upon Rabbi Chouri and his hillula; nearly all of the emphasis has been upon a single instance, a unique chain of circumstances. There are, surely, many ...


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pp. 113-116


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pp. 117-122


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pp. 123-143


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pp. 145-148

Back Matter

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p. 160-160

E-ISBN-13: 9781438423593
E-ISBN-10: 1438423594
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791401385
Print-ISBN-10: 0791401383

Page Count: 148
Publication Year: 1990

Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies