University of Illinois at Chicago

Rachel HavrelockRachel Havrelock is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained in Hebrew Bible, Rabbinics, Folklore, and Middle East Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, her research concerns three distinct areas and the overlap among them.

Her work on gender and the Bible began with a co-authored book, Women on the Biblical Road (University Press of America, 1996), that introduced the idea of a female hero pattern based on evidence from the Hebrew Bible. She elaborated on the notion of female heroism in an article, “The Myth of Birthing the Hero,” published in Biblical Interpretation in 2007 and in her commentaries in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss, Union of Reform Judaism Press 2007). Rachel’s recent work on female political leadership in antiquity is forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Biblical Interpretation and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies, for which Havrelock is serving as editor of the Early Judaism section.

Rachel’s book, River Jordan: The Mythology of a Dividing Line (University of Chicago Press, 2011) illustrates her distinct methodology of combining biblical studies, literary and political theory, and the politics of interpretation. River Jordan examines the long history of the Jordan as a border, as well as the moments when it was not a border. It argues for five coexistent national myths in the Hebrew Bible and examines which of these myths have had political currency and which have been repressed. River Jordan shows how biblical interpretation impacted the formation of early Christianity and Judaism and, in more recent times, the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the spirit of River Jordan, Rachel is currently working on the political interpretation of the book of Joshua for a monograph entitled The Joshua Generation: Politics and the Promised Land.

Rachel’s work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and modern Middle East has been published in the journal National Identities and in Understanding Life in the Borderlands: Boundaries in Depth and in Motion (University of Georgia Press, 2010). Her current research in this area focuses on the oil pipeline that once ran from Kirkuk to Haifa. During a 2013 sabbatical, Rachel has pursued research on the pipeline at the British National Archive, in Israeli and Jordanian archives, and by traveling the pipeline route and interviewing those living on and around it. She plans to publish this research as a book entitled Pipeline: How Oil Created the Modern Middle East and How Water Can Transform It. She is involved with efforts on the part of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) to develop a transborder ecological peace park at the Jordan River.

Her research has been supported by FLAS, the US Department of State, the UIC Institute for the Humanities, the UIC Dean’s Research Award, the American Academy of Jewish Research, and the University of Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).

Rachel blogs for The Huffington Post and is the writer and director of the hip-hop play From Tel Aviv to Ramallah about the daily lives of young people in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She co-hosted Who Was Jesus, the Discovery Channel’s series on the historical Jesus and appears in the History Channel’s show about the book of Joshua.


  • Home at Last: Female Political Agency in the Hebrew Bible
  • Local, National, and Imperial Politics in Deuteronomistic Literature
  • Pipeline: Oil, Water, and the Formation of the Modern Middle East
  • The History of the Map of Israel
  • The Joshua Generation: David Ben-Gurion and Israeli Biblical Interpretation