Mapping Exile and Return: Palestine Dispossessionism and a Political Theology for a Shared Future

by Alain Epp Weave (2014), reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

1948 in Palestine saw the Nakba (catastrophe) which accompanied the creation of the state of Israel and resulted in the destruction of 500 Palestinian villages and the creation of refugees, a ‘deliberate displacement’ of the Palestinians by Israel as a matter of policy (p 17).  This policy has continued with land confiscations (from Palestinians) and the construction of physical and legal barriers separating Palestinians from Palestinians, ‘resident aliens’.  This has been reflected in Israeli mapping practices.

It is in this perspective that the Nakba provides a counter memory to Israeli policies, an attempt to resist  erasure of the communities that once were home to the now displaced.  Mapping Exile is a look at the Israeli attempt to remove cartographic (mapping) reminders of villages that once stood here but have since been bulldozed by the Israeli army.  It is also a look at the concept of exile, built on the writings of Palestinian Christians.  Weaver also acknowledges his own location as a descendant of European immigrants who settled on land held by Pawnee and Cheyenne nations.

Kufr Bir’im is one of over 120 destroyed Palestinian villages over which tourism and recreation sites have been established (p 97).  Summer camps in these villages for children and youth descended from the original inhabitants map the memories across generations, emphasizing rootedness in the face of uprooting (p 106).

A powerful book using traditional concepts of exile and land, attempting to see how these can grow into possibilities of reconciliation among the sons and daughters of Abraham.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.