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  You are in: Home > Middle East Studies > Contesting Symbolic Landscape in Jerusalem  

Contesting Symbolic Landscape in Jerusalem
Jewish/Islamic Conflict over the Museum of Tolerance at Mamilla Cemetery

Yitzhak Reiter

Yitzhak Reiter chairs the department of Land-of-Israel Studies at Ashkelon Academic College and is a senior fellow of the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. He participated in a number of Track 2 diplomacy teams with Palestinians and has been a visiting scholar throughout the world. He has published extensively, most recently War, Peace and International Relations: Muslim Scholars on Peace Accords with Israel.


In 2006 a dispute broke out regarding an initiative by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles (backed by Israeli authorities) to construct a Museum of Tolerance (MoT) in West Jerusalem. The museum was to be built on a plot of land that in the past had been part of the historic Muslim Mamilla Cemetery, which since the 1980s has served as a municipal parking lot. Debate centred on whether construction of a museum dedicated to human dignity on Muslim cemeterial land was justified.

The Northern Islamic Movement and a group of 70 academics and eight Israeli civil society organizations (including rabbis) opposed the project, but their petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice failed. Yitzhak Reiter presents the public and legal dilemmas at the individual level (an act of insensitivity to the Muslim minority in Jerusalem); at the political level (the right of equal treatment by the state and the right to administer holy properties [waqf] according to religious law and rulings of shari’a [Islamic law] courts); and at the universal level (can conflict over a holy place be addressed objectively from the ideological/political positions that the place symbolizes, and is a secular civil court competent/appropriate to adjudicate a religious conflict). Research for this book integrates a multi-disciplinary approach involving history, identity politics, and conflict resolution. Sources include documents obtained from the Shari’a Court of Jerusalem and Israel’s High Court of Justice, as well as Islamic law and Israeli civil law literature, reports of experts submitted to the courts, and personal participation of the author, including discussions with key players and informants. The Mamilla dispute reflects a microcosm of conflicts over religious and national symbols of cultural heritage as well as Jewish majority–Arab minority tensions within Israel.

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Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
July 2014
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£40.00 / $55.00
Paperback Price:
£22.50 / $29.95

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