Israel Studies Seminar: A tale of sand and snow: Bar-Lev line and the Hermon ski site as material fantasies

Convener: Professor Yaacov Yadgar

Speaker: Dr Moriel Ram, SOAS

My paper examines how sand and snow produce potent imageries and physical realities which both solidify and undermine social hierarchies, cultural imagination and power relations.   Focusing on Israel’s fortification campaign in the Sinai Peninsula and touristic schemes in the Golan Heights between 1967 and 1973, I examine two projects which utilised sand and snow to shape contested spaces into geopolitical fantasies. First, the Bar-Lev line, built on a massive sand wall on top of the Eastern Bank of the Suez Canal and designed as the state's ultimate barrier. Second, the ski resort at the peak of Mount Hermon that was formed as a gateway to an imagined Europe. I argue that in both cases, the materiality of sand and snow, was mobilised to normalise the act of occupation, but at the same time challenged this very effort due to the fluidic nature of these materials which are constantly "on the move" changing in shape, structure, and volume. Hence, an analysis of how sand and snow “act” is also a call to read them as more than natural elements that are part of a silent landscape for human interaction, but as political matters that matter.  


Moriel Ram is a political and cultural geographer and my main interest lies in exploring how matter matters in unstable environments. Past and present research include the militarization of natural resources in contested territories in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The infrastructure of faith and religion in Israel's contested urban environments. The interaction between human lives and medical equipment in the development of clinical aid to African states and the representation of dead matter in popular culture through the figure of the zombie.