Jerusalem: City in Conflict (PG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This module presents the main issues in Israeli society through the unique case study of Jerusalem. The argument is that by understanding the major issues, actors and processes at play in Jerusalem, although an extreme place with very particular features, one can learn a lot about Israel and Israeli society as a whole. Jerusalem shall be presented as a divided/contested city, along the lines of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, where politics and geopolitics play a major role for the city and its residents. Furthermore, various walls, borders and boundaries are present in the city, separating people from different religions, national belonging (Israelis/Palestinians), levels of religiosity, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and more.

Is Jerusalem an occupied city, or a "united capital"? The social demography of Jerusalem is a mosaic of most groups in Israeli and Palestinian societies, all condensed in one space, living together but separately. Although Jerusalem is often presented and imagined as a "holy" place for all three monotheistic religions, the aim of the module is to show that Jerusalem is also just a regular city, where people live, shop and struggle in their everyday lives. As many other cities, Jerusalem also deals with neoliberal economic forces and their effects on urban space – gentrification, urban renewal and so on. Yet, Jerusalem's ethos as a religious city and its religious and political importance introduces other problems for its residents who face issues like gender, religion, housing rights and basic freedoms more extremely and more fiercely than other places.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Understand the religious importance of Jerusalem.
  • Understand and critically discuss the historical events, politics and geopolitics that have shaped the city and the lives of its residents.
  • Recognise the various groups residing in Jerusalem and their perspectives on the city.
  • Identify and comment on the main conflicts in Israeli society as a whole and in Jerusalem as a case-study.
  • Understand the uniqueness of Jerusalem on the one hand, but also it being a hyper-example of Israel/Palestine, on the other.
  • Understand some of the current issues in urban studies, such as gentrification and regeneration.


This module will be taught over 20 weeks with a 1-hour lecture and a 1-hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

  • Week 1: Introduction
  • Week 2: Jerusalem in the Abrahamic religions.
  • Week 3: The burden of history. Jerusalem before 1948, and between 1948-1967.
  • Week 4: Divided / contested spaces and the case of Jerusalem, the political aspect (borders, the separation wall, Oslo, planning in Jerusalem, geopolitics).
  • Week 5: Divided / contested spaces and the case of Jerusalem, the social aspect of living in a divided city.
  • Week 6: The Ultra-Orthodox community.
  • Week 7: Jerusalem in an Israeli context: Jerusalem vs. Tel Aviv.
  • Week 8: Urban dynamics in Jerusalem: gentrification and urban regeneration in a sacred, divided city.
  • Week 9: Class and Ethnic inequalities in Jerusalem.
  • Week 10: Gender in Jerusalem.

Method of assessment

  • 70% - Essay 2,500 words
  • 30% - Group presentation, 10 minutes
  • Exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page.

Suggested reading

  • Abowd, Thomas Philip (2014). Colonial Jerusalem: The Spatial Construction of Identity and Difference in a City of Myth, 1948-2012. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
  • Adelman, Madelaine and Fendius Elman, Miriam (eds.) (2014). Jerusalem: Conflict and Cooperation in a Contested City. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
  • Alfasi, Nurit, Flint Ashery, Shlomit, Benenson, Itzhak (2013). Between the Individual and the Community: Residential Patterns of the Haredi Population in Jerusalem. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(6), 2152-2176.
  • Bell, Daniel A. and De-Shalit, Avner (2011). The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 1–55.
  • Charmé, Stuart L. (2005). The political transformation of gender traditions at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 21(1), 5-34.
  • Golan, Arnon (2015). The 1948 Wartime Resettlement of Former Arab Areas in West Jerusalem. Middle Eastern Studies, ahead-of-print, 1-17.
  • Goldhill, Simon (2008). Jerusalem: City of Longing. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  • Greenberg Raanan, Malka and Shoval, Noam (2014). Mental Maps Compared to Actual Spatial Behavior Using GPS Data: A New Method for Investigating Segregation in Cities. Cities, 36, 28–40.
  • Hasson, Shlomo (1993). Urban Social Movements in Jerusalem: The Protest of the Second Generation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press in cooperation with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, pp. 15–52.
  • Heilman, Samuel C. (1992). Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, Chapter 2: "Who are the Haredim?", pp. 11–39.
  • Jadallah, Dina (2014). Colonialist Construction in the Urban Space of Jerusalem.The Middle East Journal 68(1), 77-98.
  • Klein, Menachem (2005). Old and new walls in Jerusalem. Political Geography, 24, 53–76.
  • Klein, Menachem (2014). Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron. London: Hurst.
  • Pullan, Wendy (2013). Conflict’s Tools. Borders, Boundaries and Mobility in Jerusalem’s Spatial Structures. Mobilities, 8(1), 125–147.
  • Reiter, Y., Eordegian, M. & Abu Khalaf, M. (2000). Between Devine and Human: The Complexity of Holy Places in Jerusalem. In Moshe Ma'oz and Sari Nusseibeh (eds.), Jerusalem: Points of Friction – and Beyond. The Hague: Kluwer, pp. 99–164.
  • Sebag Montefiore, Simon (2011). Jerusalem: The Biography. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  • Shlay, Anne B. and Rosen, Gillad (2015). Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis. Cambridge: Wiley.
  • Tamari, Salim (2000) (ed.) Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, second edition, Jerusalem: The Institute of Jerusalem Studies, pp. 1–67.
  • Yacobi, Haim (2012). God, Globalization, and Geopolitics: On West Jerusalem’s Gated Communities. Environment and Planning A, 44(11), 2705–2720.
  • Zaban, Hila (2014 draft). City of Go(l)d: Spatial and Cultural Effects of High-Status Jewish Immigration from Western Countries on the Baka Neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Urban Studies. ‏


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules