Contested Cities in the Modern West

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Additional Information University of Hawaii Press. It would be fair to say that today the spaces which Israelis and Palestinians inhabit in Jerusalem are radically different from each other, although the divisions between them are not always simple or obvious.


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Division of the city is rooted in the period, when the ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan became an international border running north-south through the centre of the city; during this time, the two countries each had their own institutions and jurisdiction over their own half of the city. Then, it was possible to speak of two halves of the city; effectively, Jerusalem was two truncated but autonomous urban centres with UN supervision of the border and crossings closed to Arabs and Israelis.

The border areas became derelict, and as might be expected, the two halves of the city shrank away from each other; one side was oriented westward to Israel whilst the other focused east on Jordan. This changed with the war. After capturing Jordanian Jerusalem, Israel annexed it just ten days later.

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It was a bold move, one not recognised by any other state or international body, and today the large majority of Palestinians remain opposed to any sort of unification under Israeli rule. But what sort of city is it that Israel has so desired to unify and the Palestinians have resisted?

Introduction to City Planning 1: Ancient Times to the Modern Age (7,500 BC to 1900)

First of all, it is worth remembering that traditionally Jerusalem, as is typical in the Middle East, has been a city of quarters. Various ethnic and religious groups often lived in close proximity, sometimes separated by only a residential wall or an alley, or else different communities were defined by streets with market stalls, coffeehouses, baths, bakeries and workshops.

By simply catering to the needs of everyday life, the activities on the market streets structure and nuance urban differentiation. From , British planning continued to develop Jerusalem neighbourhood by neighbourhood; but unlike the older quarters, these were regarded as autonomous communities, primarily oriented to their road systems, for modern efficiency, and separated by green space, employing a modern planning practice based on buffer zones. Israeli planning between and 67, and especially after followed in this direction, 4 and many of the new suburbs continued to be designed as individual enclaves, accessed and structured by primary road systems and separated by open landscape.

It would be wrong to see British planning apart from colonial interests where much of it was initiated to Westernise the city. But after , this sort of modern enclave planning was used once again to serve a new purpose, this time nationalistic. Extensive and large suburban settlements, growing to populations of 40, — 50, and intended for Jewish residents only, were built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.

It is when the configurations of settlements and villages are viewed three-dimensionally that their true impact emerges.

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The settlements are located on high ground, fortress-style architecture with heavy stone walls, buttresses and towers, so that they look down on the lower Palestinian villages that traditionally cover the slopes rather than the peaks of the hills. Due to the open valleys between them, Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages are always separated, but at the same time, each is visible to the other. With rare exceptions, direct physical links are absent and especially vehicular connecting roads do not exist.

That this expansion into Palestinian Jerusalem was intended to maintain unity of the city under Israeli rule seems assured; again, the material prepared for the Jerusalem Committee makes clear:.

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Such a vision seems to have been regarded by the Israeli authorities as an innovative means for asserting their hegemony; the document goes on to say:. In the last few years Jerusalem has been moulded into a greater Jerusalem. Moreover, whilst the idea of bilateral partition between Israel and Palestine has lingered at least in abstract terms, the spatial configurations of post Jerusalem are now probably too complex for this possibility in any way that offers urban viability to both sides.

This situation is now reflected in the contorted and inequitable path of the Israeli separation barrier or wall. In many ways, surveillance cameras, barbed wire, and fortress-like architecture have produced introverted and bounded Israeli settlements around Jerusalem, creating a local form of gated communities determined by politics and manipulation of the topography. Yet, despite the autonomy of each of these neighbourhoods, the planning strategies have focused upon spatial contiguity between them.

Reciprocal with this has been the truncating and isolation of Palestinian centres. Hence, for example, the addition in the s of the Har Homa settlement to fill a gap in the initial ring of Israeli suburbs in southern Jerusalem also provided a huge block between Palestinian Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Particularly controversial today are plans for the E1 area east of the Israeli-imposed municipal border; with extensive infrastructure in place but above ground construction halted, this is a settlement in waiting. Clearly, these huge planning moves intended to consolidate Israeli spatial contiguity and have the opposite effect on Palestinian space, causing severance, fragmentation and even obliteration.

So, to summarise: the legacy of forty years of Israeli planning is a series of physically autonomous Jewish residential enclaves connected and structured by arterial roads that are interspersed to shadow Palestinian villages and neighbourhoods in a way that is fragmented, oriented by the distant gaze, and allows no direct contact. Spatial complexity is a primary feature of the occupation; the separation barrier has not caused this situation, rather it reflects it.

Clearly a great chasm exists between Israelis and Palestinians and in the varieties of popular imagination there is the idea of two sides to Jerusalem; especially strong are cognitive borders which dictate where one believes that he or she can or cannot go.

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But proposals for bilateral division, that assume two sides, Israel and Palestine, do not reflect the complex spatial reality that can be seen in maps and that exists on the ground. Moreover, because of a highly controlled planning ideology and process, there is not just extreme urban fragmentation, but the quality of the space itself differs; as we shall see, this has become characterised by what can be described as boundedness and mobility determined by ethnicity and national identity.

One of the major results of the Israeli separation barrier in the Jerusalem area has been the creation of artificial Palestinian enclaves, enclosed by the wall with guarded checkpoints. In modern times, the villages continued to be linked symbiotically to Jerusalem enjoying economic outlets in the city for village agricultural and manufactured goods, and institutional support such as hospitals and the main al-Aqsa mosque; the villages supplied residential neighbourhoods for Jerusalemites wishing extra-urban housing.

A recent study describes what had been the positive impact of these links, and the widespread social and economic deterioration of the villages since they have been severed from Jerusalem.

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The Space of Contested Jerusalem

The traditional correspondence of socioeconomic factors with spatial settings no longer exists: the socially primed economic connections have gone dead, houses lie empty, the Ramallah hospitals cannot cope with the crowds, and villagers cannot get to al-Aqsa mosque. The isolation and reorientation of the Bir Nabala enclave is dictated by the transportation system as much as by the separation barrier.

Linked one to the other by a road with checkpoints only at either end, the villages are like beads on a string; a problem in one village -- any road block or stoppage -- means difficulties in all, resulting in an imposed and unnecessary system of dependencies. Two transportation infrastructures, one wrapped around the other, have been carefully constructed to create discrepant and segregated spatial systems; the inner Palestinian route passes slowly through built areas, subject to controls and dependencies whereas the outer Israeli ring road has been built for speed and efficiency.

While the stated Israeli rationale for security regards severance primarily as separating Palestinians from Israelis, in actual fact Palestinians are just as often cut off from each other or their property. One of the most observed and reported breaches of Palestinian territory by the barrier is through Abu Dis, a village-become-town on the east side of Jerusalem. The two lane route through Abu Dis, known as the old road from Jerusalem to Jericho, has been bisected by the wall and no longer links these two cities.

Its opposite number is a bypass road that reflects Israeli needs, connecting West Jerusalem to Maale Adumim and other settlements east of Jerusalem. A major feature of the new four-lane divided carriageway is a tunnel built under the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at Mount Scopus to assure a speedy journey in and out of the city. It is an impressive route, where Israeli drivers enter the tunnel from a busy Jerusalem neighbourhood catching sight of the Hebrew University silhouetted on the hilltop above, and they emerge to be presented with a full panorama of the desert and the settlements beyond.

Curiously, both these Jerusalem universities are defined, at least in part, by the spatial conditions produced by their roads, one severed from much of its hinterland by barriers and checkpoints and what has become the sheer struggle for access, and the other, its prominent position in the landscape enhanced as it towers above the tunnel and speeding cars that lay beneath.

For the residents of Maale Adumim and other settlements that are effectively bedroom suburbs of Jerusalem, the bypass road system is critical, providing a speedy motorway to connect them not just to the city, but to the centre of the country, and for that matter, to Ben Gurion Airport and the rest of the world. In Jerusalem itself, an extensive road system of inner city motorways, tunnels, bridges and causeways reflect a city dedicated to the automobile; a tram system is years behind schedule. Many of the huge construction projects are part of an inner city transport infrastructure built to connect the settlements to the city.

Most importantly, these multi-laned, slip-road accessed motorways link point A to point B without local impedances on the way.