cover image THE NEXT JERUSALEM: Sharing the Divided City

THE NEXT JERUSALEM: Sharing the Divided City

, . . Monacelli, $50 (431pp) ISBN 978-1-58093-100-7

"When such powerful markers of an urban landscape—the ones that root a people to a place and a land—absorb this facile brand of hopelessness and inevitability, they have the power to make corrosive myths become concrete.... How do you heal a city rent by myth?" So asks one of the 25 contributors to this visionary collection, dedicated to reimagining the physical and ideational space of Jerusalem, or (in Arabic) Al Quds. Responding to a 1997 Jerusalem architectural conference that excluded Palestinian participation, New York architect Sorkin organized a second conference on the fate of the city that took place in Bellagio, Italy, in 1999, with 25 Palestinians, Israelis and "others" (mostly Americans) participating in equal numbers. Taking an eventual two-state solution as a given, the participants came up with some ingenious plans for mutual cooperation and healing via architecture—everything from "displacing" contested sites in Jerusalem and relocating them elsewhere (such as moving the Western Wall to Safed and the Dome of the Rock to Nablus) to taking the informal sites of Arab and Jewish same-sex encounters as starting points for imagining interfaith relations. While the conference took place before the second intifada began, and thus also before September 11th, Sorkin finds that even looking at the book through those lenses, "nothing in its feeling or analysis shifts. A just and equitable peace remains the only hope." (Dec.)

Forecast:A recent New Yorker piece written by a Jerusalemite depicted a city in which the secular middle class has departed and which is increasingly left to religious factions. Yet this book's site-specific visions could find their way into round-up reviews on the deepening conflict, and might serve as a basis for discussion and outreach among differing groups.