Overlooking the Border (Paperback)
Narratives of Divided Jerusalem (Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology)
Wayne State University Press, 9780814344927, 336pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2018
Overlooking the Border: Narratives of Divided Jerusalem by Dana Hercbergs continues the dialogue surrounding the social history of Jerusalem. The book's starting point is the border that separated the city between Jordan and Israel in 1948-1967, a lesser-known but significant period for cultural representations of Jerusalem. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the book juxtaposes Israeli and Palestinian personal narratives about the past with contemporary museum exhibits, street plaques, tourism, and real estate projects that are reshaping the city since the decline of the peace process and the second intifada. What emerges is a portrayal of Jerusalem both as a local place with unique rhythms and topography and as a setting for national imaginaries and agendas with their attendant political and social tensions.
As sites of memory, Jerusalem's homes, streets, and natural areas form the setting for emotionally charged narratives about belonging and rights to place. Recollections of local customs and lifeways in the mid-twentieth century coalesce around residents' desire for stability amid periods of war, dispossession, and relocation-intertwining the mythical with the mundane. Hercbergs begins by taking the reader to the historically Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem, whose streets are a battleground for competing historical narratives about the Israeli-Arab War of 1948. She goes on to explore the connections and tensions between Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians living across the border from one another in Musrara, a neighborhood straddling West and East Jerusalem. The author rounds out the monograph with a semiotic analysis of contemporary tourism and architectural ventures that are entrenching ethno-national separation in the post-Oslo period. These rhetorical expressions illuminate what it means to be a Jerusalemite in the context of the city's fraught history.
Overlooking the Border examines the social and geographic significance of borders for residents' sense of self, place, and community, and for representations of the city both locally and abroad. It is certain to be of value to scholars and advanced undergraduate and graduate students of Middle Eastern studies, history, urban ethnography, and Israeli and Jewish studies.