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The Future of Arab Jerusalem

  • Rashid Khalidi
Chapter
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series (STANTS)

Abstract

Seen from the hills which surround it to the north, east and south, Jerusalem is visually dominated by the magnificent golden-colored dome and blue tiles of the octagonal Dome of the Rock, the nearby grey cupola of the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the spacious Haram al-Sharif which surrounds them. These are highlighted against the background of the large domes of the Holy Sepulcher and of the synagogues of the Jewish quarter, innumerable smaller domes, and the imposing Ottoman walls and characteristic light-colored stone buildings of the Old City, punctuated by minarets and church steeples. Seen thus, or seen from any of the narrow streets within its walls, Jerusalem has the unmistakable characteristics of a traditional Arab-Islamic city, encompassing and including Jewish, Christian, and earlier pagan elements. It still retains this character, in spite of the massive and hideous modern constructions which now march along the tops of many of the hills surrounding its ancient core.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    ‘Jerusalem in the Bronze Age, 3000–1000 BC,’ in K. J. Asali, ed., Jerusalem in History, New York: Olive Branch Press, 1990, p. 12.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Moshe Gil, in A History of Palestine, 640–1099, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 90ff., argues that Muslim veneration for Jerusalem began quite late, but fails to account for many indications of its sanctity to the earliest Muslims. These include the attention supposedly paid to Jerusalem and to the Haram by the caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab, which Gil describes at length, including the building of a large mosque on or close to the site of the present al-Aqsa mosque, traditionally ascribed to Umar, but historically datable to before 670, when it was described in an account by a Christian pilgrim, Bishop Arculf; the sanctity attached to Jerusalem by the Prophet Muhammad in making it the first direction of prayer before Mecca was finally chosen; and the reference to al-Masjid al-Aqsa (‘the farthest mosque’) in the Qur’an (17:1). Gil argues that traditions relating this verse to Jerusalem are late ones, begging the question of how the earliest Muslims understood this verse, if not as referring to Jerusalem. In ‘If My Hand Forget Thee’, Pipes makes the same assertions in a far less nuanced fashion.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Thanks to the scholarship of Oleg Grabar, in The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, and the photography of Said Nuseibeh, in The Dome of the Rock, essay by Oleg Grabar, New York: Rizzoli, 1996, we now know a great deal more about the construction of these great monuments of Islamic architecture, and about how the Dome of the Rock looks today and may have looked in the late seventh century, when it was constructed.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Meir Ben Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple: the Discovery of Ancient Jerusalem, Jerusalem: Keter, 1985, gives the best published description thus far of these discoveries. See also Dan Bahat, The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990, pp. 82–3, for a reconstruction of this massive and impressive building complex. The latest interpretation of the function of the buildings uncovered in excavations headed by Ben Dov and his colleague Benjamin Mazar is that of Grabar, The Shape of the Holy, 128–34.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    The Shape of the Holy, 135–69. Grabar points out that, like the early Umayyads, the Fatimids did not control the holy cities of Mecca and Madina, which may have added to the ideological and practical importance of control and adornment of the holy city of Jerusalem to them. He bases much of his interpretation on a close reading of the account of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1046 by Naser-e Khosraw. This has been translated by Wheeler M. Thackston, Jr., Naser-e Khosraw’s Book of Travels, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    This is the central thesis of the highly perceptive work of Malcolm C. Lyons and D. E. P. Jackson, Saladin and the Politics of the Holy War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Michael Hamilton Burgoyne, Mamluk Jerusalem: an Architectural Study, London: for the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem by the World of Islam Festival Trust, 1987.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See Ibrahim Mahmud, Fada’il Bayt al-Maqdis fi makhtutat ’arabiyya qadima, Kuwait: Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, 1985, especially pp. 85ff; as well as Kamil al-Asali, Makhtutat Fada’il Bayt al-Maqdis, Amman: Majma’ al-Lugha al-’Arabiyya al-Urduni, 1981, and Amikam Elad, Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship: Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage, Leiden: Brill, 1995.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Among those who have made this claim are the otherwise careful F. E. Peters, in Jerusalem and Mecca: the Typology of the Holy City in the Near East, New York: New York University Press, 1986, and, not surprisingly, Daniel Pipes in ‘If My hand Forget Thee’.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    The was a disciple of Obadiah of Bertorino, cited in F. E. Peters, Jerusalem, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985, p. 477.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    See Ibid., pp. 527–9, and A. L. Tibawi, ‘Jerusalem: Its Place in Islam and Arab History,’ in Ibrahim Abu Lughod, ed., The Arab-Israeli Confrontation of 1967, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970, pp. 24–30. Grabar, The Shape of the Holy, p. 168, cites a Talmudic source to the effect that the ‘Divine Presence … had moved from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives’.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Yehoshua Ben Arieh, Jerusalem in the 19th Century, Jerusalem: Yad Itzhak Ben Zvi, 1984, p. 314.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    The reference is to Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.Google Scholar
  14. 24.
    Figures in Sami Hadawi, Land Ownership in Palestine, New York: Palestine Arab Refugee Office, 1957, pp. 29–31. From 1937–48, Hadawi was Chief of the Land Taxation Section and Official Value of land of the Palestine Government. He was the official primarily responsible for compilation of the Survey of Palestine presented to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946.Google Scholar
  15. 25.
    As with almost everything relating to Jerusalem, there is a controversy over how long the city has had a Jewish majority. Using wildly inflated Western estimates of the Jewish population some argue for a date as early as the mid nineteenth century. The leading authority on the demography of Palestine, Justin McCarthy, states in The Population of Palestine: Population Statistics of the Late Ottoman Period and the Mandate, New York: Columbia University Press, 1990, p. 5, that: ‘Ottoman statistics are the best source on the Ottoman population. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the only ones who can properly evaluate population numbers are those who actually count the population. For the Ottoman Empire, it has been shown that no population statistics but those of the Ottoman Empire provide usable demographic data.’ The Ottoman data for Palestine, and for Jerusalem in particular, are imperfect. Nevertheless, they are better than any other data, and the figures provided by McCarthy, and by another recognized authority on the subject, Kemal Karpat, in Ottoman Population, 1830–1914: Demographics and Social Characteristics, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, based on two Ottoman censuses and other official Ottoman statistics, show clearly that there was probably an Arab majority in Jerusalem until after World War I, when the British gerrymandered the city’s boundaries to include distant Jewish population concentrations and exclude nearby Arab ones.Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    For an account of the evolution of this policy through the Reagan administration, see Yossi Feintuch, U.S. Policy on Jerusalem, New York: Greenwood, 1987, pp. 136–9. This position was repeated in the U.S. Letter of Assurance delivered to Israel at the outset of the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations at Madrid in 1991.Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    Figures in Hadawi, Land, p. 29, and Abd al-Rahman Abu Arafa, al-Quds: tashkil jadid lil-madina, Jerusalem: Arab Studies Society, 1985, pp. 97–8. See also Samir Jiryis, al-Quds, Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1981, p. 97.Google Scholar
  18. 34.
    For a brief description of Mamilla, see Arif al-Arif, Tarikh al-Qiids, Cairo: Dar al-Ma’arif, 1951, p. 285. What Burgoyne describes as ‘the sole surviving Mamluk tomb outside the Old City, ʾal-Kubakiyya, is described, with a photograph, in his Mamluk Jerusalem, pp. 141–3.Google Scholar
  19. 35.
    Cited in A. L. Tibawi, ‘Special Report on the Destruction of an Islamic Heritage in Jerusalem,’ Arab Studies Quarterly, 2,2 (Spring 1980), pp. 184–5.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • Rashid Khalidi

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