In accordance with the online campaign (#Blog4Quds) of devoting January 16th to the 31st to blogging about Jerusalem, or Al-Quds, I've compiled below a few paragraphs taken from my academic papers.
What has made Jerusalem the object of such violent conflict and reverence through thousands of years? It is not a strategic locale to capture-- as it is exposed in the north-- nor a prosperous trade city, nor is it situated near a river or the sea, nor does it harbor any natural resources. To grossly generalize, the city is an amalgamation of holy sites and objects, which ironically has made it an epicenter for intolerance and brutality in contrast with its toted name of “City of Peace”, as when the Crusades killed 65000 in 1099 in the name of holy war, or when Hadrian completely destroyed the city in 130 AD as a result of the Jews revolting and causing unrest.
The city is a mixture of myth and holiness, the basis of monotheistic religions, the location of destructive sieges and massacres, of invasion and piety, home to the splendor of a few chief architectural monuments and contrastive geography.
The signs of Israeli permanence through its occupation and colonization are enough to make one feel fragmented and confused, as Israel is intent in siphoning off any remnants of Palestinian identity, but the fact of the matter is that it has ironically, refurbished the very definition of what it means to be a Palestinian, either living under the hands of the occupation or living in the diaspora. Much in the same way that Jews for centuries mourned Jerusalem, their Zion, and never failed to commemorate any aspect of it during occasions, their Palestinian counterparts inculcated Jerusalem as a romanticized symbol for the whole of Palestine into their children and future generations’ consciousness, always expressing hope that it will be theirs again.
Edward Said suggests in his article Invention, Memory, and Space: “People now look to this refashioned memory, especially in its collective forms, to give themselves a coherent identity, a national narrative, a place in the world, though, as I have indicated, the processes of memory are frequently, if not always, manipulated and intervened in for sometimes urgent purposes in the present” (p 179).
Overall, the city of Jerusalem is contested not just in its corporeal being/physical space but in its imagery as well. There is no doubt of course that the cultural, religious, and historical significance the city holds is insurmountable but the grave error the people hold in their views towards it is the magnification and the blowing out of proportion of its representational value, to the extent that Jerusalem has ceased to become an “authentic” city and is closer to the belief of its celestial counterpart directly above it. Israeli narratives can paint a quasi-description of the city without mentioning the occupation, but the Palestinian accounts are steeped into the figurative envelopment that contains the occupation and religious discourse which are juxtaposed to each other. In order to gain a more profound and realistic understanding of Jerusalem, it must be exposed as a city of men on a ground level, and not one of a dominant ethereal icon.