Final Reflections on Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis

This is the fifth and final blog post in our series on the book Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis. The series was inspired by a panel discussion at UAA. Previous posts were written by Anne Shlay, Zachary Neal, Deirdre Oakley, and Rachel Garshick Kleit.

By Elena Vesselinov

It was a great privilege to participate in the Author Meets Critics panel about “Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis,” by Anne B. Shlay and Gillad Rosen, at the Urban Affairs Association meeting in San Diego. I enjoyed very much our discussion and am happy we have a chance to continue the conversation online, through this blog.

I would like to make three points here: one, as someone who has conducted comparative urban research, I would like to remind all of us that it takes real gumption to embark on a new territory – physically and intellectually. It is not easy being an outsider looking in, asking questions, always on the verge of offending someone just by being yourself.

Secondly, the book resonated with me on a very personal level, because one of the very strong messages is about the making of a place through the process of claiming it as your own. As an immigrant, I continue to struggle to find ways to fit in, often uncertain of my own rights to cities and places. After reading the book I now have a better understanding about why different groups make such vocal claims to Jerusalem as a place. The cognition of these claims is helped on theoretical level by Shlay and Rosen’s interrogation of the production of space through Lefebvre’s notion of the Rights to the City.

One prominent example of competing territorial claims in Jerusalem is The Kotel, also known as the “Wailing Wall.” This is the Western Wall (the HaKotel), a retaining wall of the temple built by Herod, located within the Old City. Between 1947-1967 it was a part of Jordan, and then Israel annexed it after the 1967 war. As one of the most significant religious and national symbols, access to The Kotel was secured by demolishing over a hundred Arab homes. “Each spatial expansion has been viewed as an incursion upon Palestinian territory, a form of Israeli imperialism akin to the occupation of the West Bank” argue Rosen and Shlay (2014).

In order to further legitimize the rights to this site, the Israeli government established a Heritage Foundation, registered as a non-profit organization in 1988. It is tasked to excavate tunnels underneath the Kotel, which tunnels are considered by some to be the holiest aspect of the Kotel. At the same time, the Israeli government left control of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif (where Islamic holy places are located, e.g. the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock) in the hands of the Wakf, the Islamic trust responsible for administering the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. This led to a divided sovereignty arrangement, although formally Israel controls the entire area. In practice, the Wakf controls the Temple Mount while the Western Wall and access to the Temple Mount is under rabbinical control. Therefore, this area appears to be a major contested ethno-national political space, claimed by Palestinians, Orthodox Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, as well as by newer organizations like Women of the Wall, seeking equality of access for men and women.

Even in this brief example, we can have a glimpse into the many competing claims – is the Kotel a historical site, operated by the Israeli government, where the national history is continuously remade with the help of archeological discoveries? Is it a religious holy site, with a determination to remain under rabbinical control? Is it a site, where perhaps new progressive claims are going to be made, of equal access to it by various social groups? Is it all of the above and more?

The growth machine framework, as also employed by Shlay and Rosen, gives us some further insight into the intense and powerful production of space in Jerusalem. And this is my third point, because in the final count most claims to places, sacred or not, are driven by a combination of political and economic interests. In the specific case of Jerusalem, the political and economic interests in urban development are interwoven with the building of the Israeli nation-state. Thus, unlike the more local presence of the urban growth coalitions in the U.S., in Israel the national government is actively involved in the redevelopment of urban and supra-urban areas. The interplay of private interests in urban growth is further transformed into ethno-national coalitions. The specificity of spatial politics notwithstanding, Shlay and Rosen also show that many common urban processes envelop everyday residential lives: urban sprawl, housing shortages, infrastructure investments, gentrification, securitization of place, which has taken place along two major pathways: through the building of security wall/barrier, as well as the proliferation of fortified, gated communities (Rosen and Grant, 2011). The book accomplishes a very important goal in revealing the constant interaction between the uniqueness of the historical ethno-national conflicts on the one hand, and the universal urban processes, on the other.

In conclusion, let me briefly recount another example from the book, the Safdie Plan, tying it back to the Rights to the City. As Shlay and Rosen point out, the Safdie plan set an urban agenda of expanding Jerusalem westward, towards lands already part of Israel, by way of new housing construction, commercial and industrial development. Undoubtedly, this decade-long urban strategizing had gone through various stages, with many political actors and groups being involved. But what stood out for me was the fact that over 16,000 objections were filed against the plan. While several environmental groups worked against the project, it also seems that in 2007 the project was cancelled because of the sustained public opposition to it. It is hard to write about Jerusalem without recognizing the increasing violence in the Middle East, related to ISIS, the threats against the Israeli state, and the continuous state of warfare. While the book does not deal with the larger quite grim geo-political context, it does provide, I think, a glimmer of hope, that in such mundane, everyday actions, as in the Safdie plan, successful peaceful coalitions could be formed – coalitions that can, perhaps only on a small scale, cut across ethnic, national and religious boundaries.

Elena Vesselinov is Associate Professor of Sociology at Queens College, City University of New York


Rosen, G. and J. Grant. 2011. “Reproducing difference: Gated communities in Canada and Israel.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(4):778-793.

Rosen, G. and A. Shlay. 2014. “Whose Right to Jerusalem?” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(3):935-950.

Shlay, A. and G. Rosen. 2015. Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis. Polity Press.

More Thoughts on Jerusalem

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts on the book Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis. Previous posts were written by Anne Shlay, Zachary Neal, and Deirdre Oakley.

By Rachel Garshick Kleit

Anne asked us to think about how the book helps us to think about the problem of Jerusalem’s future–does it help? I think so. I know it has provoked an emotional response that has moved me to think differently about Jerusalem.  This book has caused me to laugh, to cringe, to feel shame. It has made me take a step back to look at Jerusalem from an academic perspective, from a simultaneously inside and outside view. By inside I mean the dual perspective of Israelis and Palestinian Jerusalemites on the inside and the outside perspective of American and international policy towards Israel. It surfaces issues of social exclusion, of nationlessness, of economic and social segregation that I find difficult to confront.

While well written and evocative, I found this book hard to read. It was hard because it caused me to remember my own path to understanding Israel and Jerusalem, and my own identity as a Jew. For me, being Jewish is being a Zionist.  I was brought up to be a Zionist. I went to Hebrew school where we learned about Israel. I remember when the Western Wall was called the Wailing Wall, pre-1967. I remember my surprise when people I knew started to call it the Western Wall. I did not hear the term Kotel until I was an adult.

The first time I went to Israel and Jerusalem was in 1992. I was 27. I went on a mission where we went to Ma’ale Adumim–one of the strategic settlements that Anne and Gil talk about as part of a triangle of defensive neighborhoods around Jerusalem–to ulpanim where immigrants get a crash course in Hebrew, to refugee absorption centers, and I was elated.  It was the first time I had been to a country where I immediately felt like I was on the inside.  Rather than my Jewishness having me masquerade as a white person, I was welcomed.  I completely embraced the idea that Jews had a 3000-year claim on the land, that the Arabs had done little to the land, and that “we” were better stewards–this is one of the narratives that Anne and Gil relate and contrast to that of the Palenstinian Nakba–the tragedy.

Over the years, I have become a lot more nuanced about this story, and have come to understand this story as a classic colonization myth (eg:  Australia: the land was empty and the British colonized it; U.S.: manifest destiny means that North America was available by right).  So, as I read this book I re-experienced the progression of my own learning about Jerusalem and Israel.

I’ve also never thought about Jerusalem in the way that Anne and Gilad do.  For me, what is fascinating about this book is that it focuses on Jerusalem as one might try to focus on any other metropolitan area’s social and political identity and place.  The exposition of the Jerusalem from three theoretical perspectives:  from the perspective of political hegemony and cultural domination, from the perspective of Le Fevre’s right to the city, and from the perspective of Molotch’s growth machine brings home the more troubling aspects of Israel’s nationalist attempts to create a unified Jerusalem where Jews dominate.

At the same time, I felt as I read this that in order to focus on the production of space, the book sometimes feels like Jerusalem had been plucked out of history. To talk about cultural hegemony of Israel, of planners’ power overwhelming Palestinian rights to the city, without the historical context of consistent threats to Jews over the centuries felt incomplete.

The book walks a careful line as it tries to contain the story of Jerusalem within the bounds of metropolitan Jerusalem.  Anne and Gil made choices about separating the geosocial story of Jerusalem from the general Arab-Israeli conflict.  They try not to blame, but rather to present perspectives and actions.

My emotional response is to want to continue a larger tit-for-tat about the logic of why Israel acts to create “facts on the ground” and new neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that much of the rest of the world and international Law see as illegal. This means that when they recount the 6 day war (1967) or the Yom Kippur War (1973) or the first or second intifada, I want to add the 1972 Munich Olympics to the record (where Black September kidnapped 9 Israeli Athletes, all of whom with the kidnappers died by the end), 1976’s hijacking of the Air France airplane at Entebbe, I want to add the tragedy of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer who was murdered and thrown overboard the cruise ship of the Achille Lauro in 1985.

I have a historical filter that shapes my reactions.  And, my reaction reflects the continuing tit-for-tat record keeping that goes on for both Jews/Israelis and Palestinians.

As I was writing this, I learned that the leader of the raid that freed the Entebbe hostages was killed during the operation–he was Bibi’s (Benjamin Netanyahu’s) older brother.

I say this to remind us all how deeply personal this all is. That while the city is being shaped and we have to interact with it (as Anne and Gilad demonstrate in their conclusion where they guide us on a 24-hour tour of the city) there are intensely personal histories that shape the all the actors on both sides.

The most difficult part of the book for me was Chapter 3–What is Jerusalem? In it, Anne and Gilad recount the British Mandate and the plan for a unified Jerusalem under UN control, the division of Jerusalem and the construction of the Green Line after 1948, the subsequent settlements (I have cousins who live in a new neighborhood in East Jerusalem). I kept wanting to say, but wait a minute–yes Israel has settlements, and yes these create facts on the ground, but also remember that Jews had to leave Gaza and the Sinai for peace.

Chapter 4 is what one might call a guide to Jerusalem for the perplexed (yes a play on Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed). That is, in the U.S. being Jewish is a religion, but in Israel one can be Jewish without being religious, or religious without being a Zionist.  Identity and religiousity can be independent of each other. The statelessness of Palestinian Jersalemites casts a shadow over the marvelous complexities of what Gilad and Anne inventively call Jewish tribal groups–Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, Russians, Ethiopians, Haredi. In discussing this point, the book, I think, really speaks to American perspectives on religion.

I do think that the meaning of Jerusalem is understated. Anne and Gilad emphasize the importance of Jerusalem to Jews with the mention that we say on Passover “next year in Jerusalem” and that Jews pray facing east—Jerusalem.  The tie is stronger–indeed, Jewish daily prayer evokes visions of the return to what the prayer calls the holy city of Jerusalem.

I am a scholar dedicated to poverty alleviation and social justice.  I am also a Jew with 4000 years of history of peoplehood and who has looked at the surprising continuation of my people, my tribe in the context of what my mother repeatedly tells me is the expectation that in every generation there rises up a leader who attempts to anniliate the Jews.  Thus, the focus is on survival.  The Palestinians have the Nakba–their tragedy of the founding of the state of Israel.  These two catastrophic truths shape the motivations for what has proven to behaviors that do not promote peace.  For now, both types of Jersulamites live among each other in their separate worlds.

Does the book help us to think about the problem of Jerusalem?  Yes.  My fear, however, is the both sides will see the focus on the metropolitan area as omitting important events that comprise a history that feeds the perspectives presented.

Rachel Kleit is Professor and head of the City and Regional Planning section at the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University.

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Some Relections on Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis

This is the third in a series of blog posts evolving from a panel at UAA 2016. In Part 1, Anne Shlay introduced her book Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis, co-written with Gillad Rosen. In Part 2, Zachary Neal shared his thoughts on the book.

By Deirdre Oakley

I’ll begin by saying that I think this is a great book addressing some very complex and challenging issues of a truly divided city and I’d like to share a few reflections on the book.

But first I’d like to share a little anecdote. When I got to page 102 of the book, I came upon the paragraph about the 1960 epic film Exodus staring Paul Newman as Ari and Eva Marie Saint as Kitty. During my early teenage years in the 1970s I had been big fan of Leon Uris who authored the book Exodus on which the movie was based. In my 13-year-old head Ari was tall, dark and handsome, brooding, complex but fighting for a just cause with a faintly European accent. The kind of character any 13-year-old girl would have an imaginary crush on. So I decided to watch Exodus not only because I had never seen it but because on page 201 the authors state that the movie didn’t really accurately portray Israelis. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was really disappointed in the blonde Paul Newman with a heavy New York City accent as Ari, as this was so unlike my image of Ari from the book. Of course Newman did a great job in the role, but he just wasn’t my Ari. In fact one of the only characters in the movie that seemed true to the book was Kitty – the stereo typical non-Jewish pretty blond.

In a way this very point is made in the book: few Israelis have heavy New York accents and the country is very diverse in the terms of race, ethnicity and religion. So in this sense Jerusalem sets the record straight and this is important because for most of us what we know about Jerusalem is what we read in the papers and watch on television – all of which focuses on the seemingly endless conflicts and violence.

The book also very skillfully demonstrates that Jerusalem is the ultimate city of contested development – not only between the Israelis and Palestinians but also between and among the secular, ultra-orthodox Jewish citizens as well as the Zionists. So who controls what land and how development is shaped is intricately tied to various National identities and ultimately who controls Jerusalem.  Therefore in the Jerusalem context urban development and growth are not secularized processes as illustrated in John Logan and Harvey Molotch’s treatment of the growth machine in the United States context (1987).  Indeed, unlike the growth machine evoked by Logan and Molotch – one that is always in search of greater exchange values at the expense of use values – i.e. value-free – in Jerusalem’s case such processes are value-laden because the goals are about geo-political control.

However, in both the U.S. and Israel, government matters in terms of how urban development is shaped and who wins and who loses from it. So while the growth machine manifests itself very differently in Jerusalem as the authors argue, we can also see some similarities in terms of the role of government. Perhaps U.S. cities don’t have a wall like Jerusalem, but they do, because of the 1950 and 1960s urban renewal policies, have massive highway systems that have divided cities and destroyed once vibrant and economically prosperous Black communities.  I would argue that such urban renewal was just as blatantly geo-political containment efforts as how development has occurred in Jerusalem, only in the U.S. case it’s continually about containing poor Blacks or invading their neighborhoods for redevelopment, which most of the time means displacement.  Thus, while the U.S. case might not be directly linked to the dominance of one political party, it is indeed racialized – for example in Atlanta it may not be between the Jewish and Palestinian factions, but between Blacks and whites, with (like Jerusalem) the poor minorities being most vulnerable to lose the most.

In closing, I would like to mention that I assigned my graduate Urban Sociology class Jerusalem as one of the readings and it significantly contributed to a very dynamic and engaged semester.  I highly recommend the book.

John Logan and Harvey Molotch 1987. Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Deirdre Oakley is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University. She is also one of the Managing Editors of the Journal of Urban Affairs. Her research focuses primarily on how urban social disadvantage is often compounded by geographic space and place-based social policies.

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Jerusalem: Response #1

This is the second in a series of blog posts evolving from a panel at UAA 2016. In Part 1, Anne Shlay introduced her book Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis, co-written with Gillad Rosen.

By Zachary Neal

In March, I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussing Anne Shlay and Gillad Rosen’s new book, Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis. I was reluctant to join the panel at first because I know so little about Jerusalem, but reading their book offered an excellent introduction to the issues in the region. It also raised a number of questions for me, which were the focus of my comments on the panel.

Zero Sum Games
Early in the book, Anne and Gillad argue that “The struggle for Jerusalem is viewed as a zero-sum game, in which there are only winners and losers” (p. 7). But as they explain through the book, there are actually multiple “games” being played in Jerusalem, and I wondered, are all of them zero-sum?

First and foremost there is the game, or competition, over physical space. Because physical space is finite and can only be used by a limited number of people at any given moment, this game is almost by necessity zero-sum. But, there is also a competition over place, that is, over the emotional and sentimental bonds that people and groups attach to physical spaces. It is much less clear that this game is zero-sum; the fact that Muslims attach meaning to the Temple Mount does not diminish the ability of Jews to also attach meaning to the Temple Mount. While space may be finite, place is not. In the game for place, perhaps it is possible for there to be only winners and no losers. Conversely, there is also a competition for social services. As Anne and Gillad explain, poverty in the region is widespread, and found among both Jews and non-Jews. If poverty and limited access to social services is widespread, this may be a case where there are only losers and no winners.

It is easy to claim that a competition is zero-sum, and it is an appealing claim to make because zero-sum competitions are easy to understand since participants can be cleanly divided into winners and losers. But, I wonder whether the situation in Jerusalem is simply too complex for this kind of dichotomy.

Growth Machines
Anne and Gillad also use the notion of “Growth Machines” to help understand development in Jerusalem. This gets complicated because the vast majority of theorizing about growth machines, and the vast majority of empirical evidence behind this theory’s predictions, come from cities in the United States. Jerusalem, as they note in multiple places throughout the book, is different and unique. To what extent, then, can the theory of growth machines be stretched to work in that context?

They explain that unlike in many U.S. cities, in Jerusalem “metropolitan growth is managed extensively by members of the public sector and, in particular, it is orchestrated by the national government” (p. 35). However, while “For Israelis, the growth of Jerusalem represents the normal expansion of a thriving metropolis, For Palestinians, Jerusalem’s development is nothing short of imperialism” (p. 45). This left me wondering, what is the relationship between growth machines and imperialism?

Anne and Gillad seem to argue that imperialism is a special type of growth machine in which the machine is driven entirely by state actors. But, I’m not sure that imperialism and growth machines can be so easily collapsed. Instead, it may be useful to distinguish these two mechanisms of urban growth because the state differs from traditional growth machine actors in important ways. First, the state has a monopoly on the use of force, while traditional growth machine actors may use force, but only illegitimately. Thus, while traditional growth machine actors may attempt to force individuals out of their homes, perhaps through eminent domain, they cannot threaten those individuals with death for lack of compliance…the state can. Second, the state has final and sovereign legal authority, while traditional actors are subjects of the state (e.g. corporations are chartered by the state). Thus, while traditional actors can use the law and exploit loopholes to their advantage, the state can make, remake, and reinterpret the laws themselves to its advantage.

Given these differences, I wonder whether imperialism and growth machines are simply different, or whether one is merely a special case of the other.

Now what?
During the panel, Anne admitted to struggling with articulating the purpose of the book. It is challenging not only because it deals with complex issues for which much is at stake, but also because the authors themselves have a significant personal and emotional connection to the region and to those issues. Nonetheless, they offer some hint about their goals toward the end of the book, noting that “The credo of science is to provide facts, not to tell people what to do with those facts” (p. 188).

Maybe this has been the credo of science, and maybe is hasn’t. But, I felt like I wanted to challenge Anne and Gillad with a harder question: should it be the credo of science, and should it be the goal of their book? Certainly there are risks to telling people what do to, to making proscriptions: they may be annoyed, offended, angered. However, there are also risks to going to the great lengths Anne and Gillad have to collect and present the facts, but then not telling people what to do with them. The facts may simply be ignored and go unused by anyone, calling into question the purpose of having collected and presented them in the first place. Or, more dangerously, the facts may be misunderstood or purposefully distorted to justify inappropriate actions.

Telling people what to do about Jerusalem is, no doubt, an eggshell-walking feat. But, if (social) science can’t provide a guide for action, what can it do?

Zachary Neal ( is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University.

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Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis

This is the first in a series of blog posts around the book Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis.

By Anne B. Shlay

Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis Anne B. Shlay and Gillad Rosen Polity Press, 2015

In 2006, I received a Fulbright Research Scholarship to study Israeli housing markets.  I was fascinated by the high density levels in which Jerusalemites lived and thought that knowing more about the ideologies promoting housing density would be a great intellectual contribution to fighting sprawl and the American curse of lauding low density single family homes.

Yet as a nice Jewish girl growing up on the south side of Chicago, all I knew about Jerusalem was that that it was evoked in many prayers.  To me, Jerusalem was more a mantra than a place but I needed a change of scenery and thought Jerusalem seemed like a good a place as anywhere else.  I got an appointment in the Geography Department at the Hebrew University and off I went.

Yes, I epitomized naiveté, in fact, so naïve that I learned later that people predicted that I would go over to the dark side, one always framed as the opposite side from the one they were on.  My absence of a position on the conflict seemed dangerous to some.  But as a scholar trained in the positivist tradition, how could I take a position on something I knew nothing about?

So I set about studying Jerusalem in the way I knew best: reading.  One day, as I sat in my apartment, I read an article about the Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 war.  East Jerusalem, acquired by Jordan in the 1948 War, was now part of Israel.  A major post-1967 goal was what was called the “unification of Jerusalem.”  To unify Jerusalem, Israel devoted most of its public housing resources to developing what it called “new neighborhoods.”  These new neighborhoods housed Jews, not Palestinians and were part of a political process to solidify Israeli control over all of Jerusalem.

While Israeli planners called these places neighborhoods, the international community called them illegally occupied territory, in short, settlements.  One of these new neighborhoods/settlements was French Hill (Gvat Savratit) – the very place I lived and sat while reading this article.  Alarmed, I asked the question, “where am I?” Call it an epiphany or just waking up to reality. My mission was clear. I had to go find what is Jerusalem?  And I could not do it alone. I put out a call for someone, anyone, to drive me around Jerusalem and talk to me about it.

Two days later, then graduate student (now lecturer at Hebrew University) Dr. Gillad Rosen showed up at my office and we joined forces in looking for Jerusalem.  Within a short amount of time, we realized that Jerusalem as a mantra was an ideological manifestation of shifting boundaries.  Even the U.S. State Department was confused about where Jerusalem began and ended.  Furthermore, confusion about Jerusalem was simply ubiquitous, based on non-fact-based ideology.  This prevailed in Jewish and non-Jewish communities but was particularly consequential for the Jewish community.

With an arrogance that comes from the naiveté we brought to this project, we sought to obtain objective truths about Jerusalem – to tell a Jerusalem story that would educate, not inflame, that would be informative without arguing a particular political position. We interviewed people from all over Jerusalem and from parts of the West Bank, 90 in all over the course of eight years.  Several articles later and with an entire course designed and taught about Jerusalem’s spatial politics, we were approached by Polity Press to take the plunge into writing our version of the Jerusalem story.

Our book lays out that there are basic disagreements about every aspect of Jerusalem.  What is considered true for some about Jerusalem is treated as ideology and lies by others.  There are no neutral questions – none.  How big is Jerusalem?  It depends on how you define it.  It is a political question.

Who are the groups who live in Jerusalem?  That depends on what one means by groups.  Race?  Israelis do not count race in their census taking.  There are only three groups: Jews, Arab and Other.  And difference among these groups do not count.  This is political.

What does it mean to be a resident of Jerusalem?  Palestinians living in post-1967 East Jerusalem have residency papers that can be revoked although many have lived in Jerusalem for generations.  This is political.

What does it mean to be Jewish in Jerusalem?  In the U.S., Jews are members of a religious/ethnic community.  But in Israel, Judaism is less a religion – it is a nationality with a monopoly on Israeli citizenship.  To whom does Jerusalem belong?  That is the most political question of all.

In the book, the questions keep coming.  And rather than definitive answers, we provide analysis based on evidence.  We try to simplify understandings of Jerusalem by writing clearly and cautiously about this city and its people.  And importantly as urbanists, we have attempted to treat Jerusalem as a city that is a complex physical infrastructure incredibly tied to its political and social structures.  Yes, all cities connect the physical with the social and political.  But Jerusalem in almost every manifestation takes this to the extreme.  As much as we tried to “normalize” the Jerusalem story, it is not normal.  And that is political.

With maps, photographs and more, the book’s goal was to contribute a social science analytical framework for looking at Jerusalem.  It blends urban theory with a variety of methods of data collection and analysis.  The chapters focus on what is Jerusalem, who is Jerusalem, resistance in Arab Jerusalem, and downtown place making and growth in Israeli Jerusalem.  It ends with a guided 24 hour tour of important political landmarks, essentially concluding that clarity about Jerusalem is often illusionary.

Taking on the Jerusalem story is not for the faint of heart.  And our story of Jerusalem is less what is in the book and more in the messages and ideas that people take away from the book.   There is no one reading of Jerusalem but many takeaways that are personal, intellectual, and political.  We would not have it any other way.

To hear how our book is read by some of the more prominent urbanists in the U.S., I created a panel for the most recent Urban Affairs Association conference.  Their responses to the book reflect the complexity of Jerusalem politics, the emotionality associated with Jerusalem as an idea and a place, and the massive need for better political leadership and policy on the Jerusalem conflict.  All of this and more is represented in the incredibly thoughtful comments of these scholars: Rachel Kleit (Ohio State University), Zak Neal (Michigan State University), Elena Vesselinov (CUNY Queens College) and Deirdre Oakley (Georgia State University).  You will hear from all of them in future blog posts and we hope to hear from you as well.

Anne B. Shlay is a Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University.

Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided City was reviewed for JUA by Yona Ginsberg. That review is available in Early View.

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