by Meron Benvenisti ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 1996
A wonderfully lucid historical, sociological, cultural, and religious guide to the world's most revered and conflict-ridden city, where ""the myths of the ancient fathers are the essence of local politics."" A former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and author of, most recently, Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land (1995), Benvenisti notes how both Jews and Arabs have greatly expanded Jerusalem's borders since Israel and Jordan agreed to divide the city in 1948, and particularly since Israel's conquest of East Jerusalem and the city's reunification in 1967. He is especially interesting on the anthropology of urban development, noting how ""every house built and every tree planted came to be seen as a quasi-military stronghold in the national struggle for spatial and demographic dominance."" Benvenisti parcels out blame to all sides for the interreligious suspicions and neighborhood balkanization that characterize the city's political and socioeconomic life. For example, although longtime Mayor Teddy Kollek preached the glories of an ""urban [ethnic] mosaic,"" his administration practiced otherwise: Only six percent of his proposed 1992 budget was earmarked for Arab neighborhoods. Yet Israeli rule has benefited the Arab population economically and must be seen in the context of the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem (1948--67), when 80 percent of the 50,000 Jewish gravestones on the Mount of Olives were desecrated. Benvenisti writes especially well on the intricate spiritual politics of the Temple Mount (site of the city's two great mosques, as well as the Western Wall, its sacred revered Jewish site), and clearly summarizes the major approaches to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over Jerusalem, while wisely steering clear of endorsing any single approach. This well-written, clear-headed work is a significant contribution to the pursuit of a diplomatic agreement on Jerusalem.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996
Page Count: 283
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996
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