The veneration of womb tombs: Body-based rituals and politics at Mary's Tomb and Maqam Abu al-Hijja (Israel/Palestine)

Nurit Stadler, Nimrod Luz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article examines the social dynamics at sacred "womb tombs" in an effort to discern this architectural form's impact on contemporary religious experience, politics, and landscapes. With this objective in mind, Christian veneration at Jerusalem's Tomb of Mary is compared with Muslim worship at Maqam Abu al-Hijja in the Galilee. Drawing on our ethnographic findings, we posit that the ancient structure of these shrines mimics the poetry of the human body as well as death and regeneration. While pilgrims to these womb tombs seek preternatural intervention for infertility, sickness, pain, and other misfortunes, the venues concomitantly serve as an outlet for voicing indigenous claims to the land and help minorities bolster their sense of belonging. In the process, we have taken stock of a wide range of ethnographic findings: the sites' architectural representation of the human body, the manner in which the tombs are venerated and experienced by local Christians and Muslims, and the politicization of fertility and well-being rituals by minorities within the context of sociopolitical struggles over, above all, territorial rights.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)183-205
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © by The University of New Mexico.


  • Muslim and Christian holy sites in Israel/Palestine
  • Pilgrimage
  • Politics of sacred places
  • Religion and the body
  • Religious revival
  • Tomb veneration
  • Womb tomb


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