Indonesian pilgrims in Jerusalem. Photo by Mirjam Lücking.

Since the most recent conflict erupted between Israel and Gaza following the October 7 Hamas’ attacks and Israel’s subsequent mass bombings of the Gaza strip, the Indonesian public and government have overwhelmingly condemned Israel’s actions. Like most Muslim nations around the world, Indonesia’s solidarity with Palestine is long-standing and deeply felt. Large solidarity gatherings held over the past few months and Indonesia’s diplomatic efforts on the world stage, demonstrate the importance of Palestine for how Indonesia sees its role internationally, but also in relation to politics, security and social harmony at home.

With no formal diplomatic recognition, relations between Israel and Indonesia are facilitated between third parties, and therefore direct interactions between the two peoples is rare. Yet, for Indonesians, be they Muslim or Christian, this part of the world and the idea of ‘Arabness’ holds special and sacred meaning and has a strong pull. As Indonesia’s expanding middle classes enjoy greater access to international travel, religious tourism has enabled both Muslim and Christian Indonesians to encounter Israel and Palestine firsthand.

How are movements between the two countries without official relations negotiated? What are its impacts on those who participate – the tourists, the agents and the local businesses? For those Indonesians who visit, have in-country encounters shifted perceptions and pushed back against a binary view of the Israel-Palestine conflict? What effect might the current war have on long held hopes that Indonesia can play a role as a bridge between the two sides in this intractable conflict?

Jemma Purdey explores these questions with Mirjam Lücking, who is an anthropologist working on various forms of globalized mobility, such as migration and tourism, intercultural encounters, modern religious lifestyles (in particular, Muslim and Christian), and social media in the context of transregional connections between Indonesia and the Middle East. She is the author of Indonesians and Their Arab World: Guided Mobility among Labor Migrants and Mecca Pilgrims (Southeast Asia Program Publications by Cornell University Press, 2020) and has published several articles on Muslim and Christian pilgrimage-tourism from Indonesia to Jerusalem. Her insights stem from ethnographic research in various places in Indonesia and in Israel and Palestine. Mirjam is assistant professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Munich.

In 2023, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Tito Ambyo from RMIT, Dr Elisabeth Kramer from the University of New South Wales and Dr Jacqui Baker from Murdoch University.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or listen via your favourite podcasting app.

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