Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Michael Dumper's "Jerusalem Unbound"

Michael Dumper is professor in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter and the author of The Future of the Palestinian Refugees; The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem and the Middle East Conflict, 1967–2000; and The Politics of Jerusalem Since 1967.

Dumper applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City, and reported the following:
In the case of Jerusalem Unbound, the p. 99 Test is not bad. The page deals with, on one hand, the holiness of the city
...chockablock with religious sites: synagogues, churches, mosques, prayer rooms, seminaries, monasteries, convents, hostels for pilgrims, mausoleums, and cemeteries. The Old City alone, an area of not more than 1 kilometer square, is reputed to have between 225 and over 300 holy sites—an incredible one holy site for every 3 to 4 square meters! In fact, Jerusalem must be the holy city per se. Residents and frequent visitors or long-stayers like myself frequently overlook a blindingly obvious fact: Jerusalem is not just holy to one religion, but is holy to three. And it is not just holy to any three, but holy to one of the oldest religions in existence—Judaism—and holy to two of the largest religions in the world—Christianity and Islam. .... Layer upon layer of faith and belief has been deposited upon the city.
At the same time, the page also tries to put Jerusalem into a broader context by comparing it to other so-called holy cities to see what it is about such cities which are deemed holy:
Is it just the number of holy sites themselves? If so, how many sites make up a holy city—five, twenty, two hundred? And what proportion of holy sites to land area or population defines its holiness?
This snapshot of the book is part of my overall argument that Jerusalem is a city of many borders and that its formal political borders reveal neither the dynamics of power in the city nor the underlying factors that make an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians so difficult. This argument is based on the fact that the lines delineating Israeli authority are frequently different from those delineating segregated housing or areas of uneven service provision or parallel and overlapping Israel and Palestinian electoral districts or competing and overlapping Israeli and Palestinian educational jurisdictions. There is a lack of congruity between political control and the everyday use of the city which leaves many areas of Israeli occupied East Jerusalem in a kind of twilight zone where citizenship, property rights, and the enforcement of the rule of law are ambiguously applied.
Learn more about Jerusalem Unbound at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue