CASRN220 Fall 2010

Holy City:

JERUSALEM in Time, Space, and the Imagination

Time: Mon,Wed,Fri  12:00pm - 1:00pm         

Room: TBA

Instructor: Michael Zank, STM PhD

Office: 147 Bay State Road, Room 407. Hours TBA.

Contact: Tel 3-4434, or

Office hours: TBA.

[Disclaimer: This is a syllabus in progress. Most recent update: May 26, 2010]

Brief course description (as proposed for CAS Bulletin)

Transformation of an ordinary ancient city into the holy city of Jews, Christians, and Muslims; and development of modern Jerusalem, as shaped by British rule, Zionism, and Palestinian nationalism.  Jerusalem's past, present, and meanings considered through analyses of religious and secular rhetoric.

Note: The course counts toward concentrations in Religion and Judaic Studies and toward the "Africa and Middle East Track" in IR, and meets the COM freshmen/sophomore foundation requirement in History.

Course description

The subject of this course is Jerusalem, one of the most ancient continuously settled cities on this globe, a city "holy" to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, a bone of contention in the national struggle between Israelis and Palestinians for sovereignty, legitimacy, and national identity, and a point of public interest and emotional value frequently invoked in international media. (This list of meanings is incomplete; part of what we will practice in this course is to become aware of the assumptions implicit in this type of summary!)

There is no city about which more has been written from more different perspectives and over a longer period of time. No city of the ancient southern Levant has been more thoroughly excavated and yet no other city is more controversial when it comes to its history and meaning. It is therefore impossible to learn everything there is to know about this city in a single semester. Here is what the course will focus on, how it will proceed, and what students may expect to get out of it.

Students may expect to gain basic knowledge of Jerusalem"s past and present, its religious meanings in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and its role in the modern conflict in the Middle East. Instead of simply "covering" the long history of this city in chronological fashion which, though valuable in its own right, would be both exhausting and unilluminating, this course aims to provide students with the tools needed to subject this and similar topics to critical analysis. In other words, the major question this courses raises is, how does one study something like Jerusalem?

As we are dealing with a city (What is a city? How does one study a city?) with a long history (What is "history" and how can one interrogate it critically?), with different meanings for a plurality of religious traditions and with different connotations in the respective historical memory of a plurality of national and religious communities, our approach to the course subject must draw on a number of theories and disciplines. These may include urban studies, "metahistory" (interrogating the "emplotment" of historical narratives), comparative religion and others. This is not untypical for the study of religion. However we define it, religion entails the historical memory, ritual practice, literary sources, and the values and beliefs of political and linguistic communities that are internally and externally differentiated from other "proximate" communities. To make sense of religious data (including oral and written texts, visual images, architecture, rituals, customs, and ideas) we must engage in comparison and critique. For this we need to draw on various critical disciplines, such as historical and rhetorical critique, art history, political theory, anthropology, ethnography, etc. The focus in this course will be on how the city is configured in the respective historical memories and religious/national rhetoric of Jews, Christians, and Muslims and on how their respective attitudes toward the city play into the formation and dissemination of Zionist and Palestinian national narratives.

On the theoretical level, the course introduces students to current theories of comparative religion, as well as to the rhetorical analysis of religious and political "speech" using, among others, Jacques Ellul"s by now classic theory of propaganda and Hayden White"s "metahistorical" analysis of different types of historical "emplotment." We will also explore the usefulness of communication approaches such as "city branding" in thinking about this holy and conflicted city. Theoretical approaches will be applied to major religious, political, historical, and historiographical moments in the history of the city and in its religious and secular representations from antiquity to the present.

Course goals

Level A: Acquire information

Level B: Practice critical reading of sources

Level C: Apply theoretical approaches

Criteria for the evaluation of success in this class

Full success in this class means that a student meets all three levels of course goals. The difference between an excellent and a good grade is determined by the sophistication with which a student handles the material, successfully integrating information (Level A), critical reading of sources (Level B), and theoretical approaches (Level C). In order to get full marks in this class I expect a student to be able to synthesize, transfer, and expand on what s/he has learned in this class applying it to areas or problems not covered by the course readings and lectures. This requires evidence of independent research using the library and going beyond the internet. Someone who handles Level A ("information") competently but has trouble with Levels B and C may expect a C in this class. The "B" grade range indicates a demonstration of aptitute on all three levels of course goals that is somewhere in the middle between outstanding demonstration of the ability to transfer course material to new areas and merely reproductive competence.


There will be a midterm (25%) and a final exam (25%). Since this course is not about "coverage" but about critical engagement with a basic range of information acquired and practiced throughout the semester, the final exam will cover the entire range of issues raised throughout the class. In that sense it is cumulative.

Homework and brief quizzes

There will be brief quizzes pertaining to readings and lectures and I will assign homework exercises that aim to deepen your comprehension of subjects covered in the readings and lectures. (Ca. five quizzes and five homework assignments, each earning you up to two percentage points for a total of 20%.)

Reading and participation

Students need to read assigned readings ahead of the class for which they are assigned. Basic comprehension of the readings is expected since not every aspect of the readings can be discussed in class. On the other hand, you should feel free to ask comprehension questions. Please do so at the beginning and/or end of each class. I will either answer these questions immediately or at a later point. You are also free to post comprehension questions on the discussion board (Blackboard8). By the end of each week, facts and pertinence of information should be clear in your mind and you should be able to handle the week"s subject in an appropriate homework exercise. Active participation in the classroom and on the discussion board will earn you 10%, taking into account both quality and quantity.

Attendance is a must. Lectures are as essential as the course readings. They are not interchangeable. I will lower your final grade by one percentage point for every missed class beyond two unexcused absences. Weddings and funerals, except for immediate family (parents, siblings), are not valid excuses for absence. Absences for reasons of illness or jury duty require written attestation.

Research paper

You will write one substantive research paper. The paper will ask you to demonstrate basic research skills, such as identifying an engaging topic, building a solid bibliography, writing an abstract and outline, and presenting your work-in-progress in form of a short in-class presentation (using power-point or other appropriate presentational aids), as well as a fully written paper, due on the last day of classes. You will be working on the various stages of this paper from the beginning of the semester so that, by the second half of the term (after mid-term), we can have brief in-class presentations of research-in-progress. To get you started I will require a 10-minute individual conversation during office hours. A sign-up sheet for these meetings, as well as a schedule of due dates for the stages of this paper (topic, bibliography, abstract, outline, in-class presentation) will be handed out by the end of the first week of classes.

The paper needs to draw on class-related topics, address class readings as well as information found through independent research that demonstrably goes beyond using the internet, and it needs engagement with theoretical problems that are pertinent to the topic (critique of sources and ideological tendencies, theory of religion, international relations, politics, etc.). A list of suggested topics will be posted on blackboard. (20%)


Asali, K. L., Jerusalem in History (New York 2000).

Goldhill, Simon, Jerusalem. City of Longing (Harvard Belknap 2008).

Khalidi, Rashid, The Iron Cage (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006)

Wasserstein, Bernard, Divided Jerusalem (Yale University Press, 3rd edition 2008)

Recommended but not required:

The following books on Jerusalem and related subjects are recommended, not necessarily for purchase (some are forbiddingly expensive) but for further reading. I will try to have all of these placed on reserve by September. These titles should be helpful in guiding the research for your term paper. (* = BU libraries do not yet own) I will periodically recommend literature for further reading and hand out bibliographies in class or post on blackboard.

Abu El Haj, Facts on the Ground (Chicago 2002) (An anthropological study of the modern Israeli community of archeological scholars responsible for excavating in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, their cultural practices and ideological commitments. A much debated, controversial book.)

Amirav, Moshe, Jerusalem Syndrome (Sussex 2009).* (Translated from the Hebrew. Author is a former right-wing, now left of center political maverick who advised then Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Jerusalem issues during the failed Camp David negotiations of 2000. Lays out policy goals articulated by the State of Israel in the wake of the 1967 conquest of East Jerusalem and explains why they failed.)

Bar Yosef, Eitan, The Holy Land in English Culture 1799-1917 (Oxford 2005). (An exquisite study of British cultural infatuation with the Holy Land; juxtaposes how ideas about the Holy Land shaped British attitudes toward their own country and national destiny as well as the manner of their engagement with the Palestine previous to its conquest during the Great War.)

Eliav, Yaron, God"s Mountain. The Temple Mount in Time, Place, and Memory (Johns Hopkins 2005). (Studies the emergence of the focus on the Temple Mount that has become particularly contested since 1967 and shows how the mount itself became a surrogate sacred place only after the destruction of the second temple.)

Gerber, H., Remembering and Imagining Palestine: Identity and Nationalism from the Crusades to the Present (Palgrave 2008).* (Written by an established scholar of Islamic history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, this book shows how Palestinian identity preceded and endured beyond its conflict with modern British colonialism and the advent of Zionism. Excellent work in that it critically engages recent theories of nationalism as "invented traditions.")

Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days (The Free Press 2000) (Popular, journalistic account of the Jewish "underground" and its desire to hasten the building of the "third temple" and the apocalyptic eschatologies, both Christian and Jewish, that fuel this desire.)

Grabar, Oleg,  The Dome of the Rock (Harvard Belknap 2006). (Written by a preeminent historian of Islamic art.)

Grabar, Oleg, The Shape of the Holy (Princeton 1996). (Quite possibly the most illuminating book on the Haram ash-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem.)

Morris, C., The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West. From the Beginning to 1600 (Oxford 2005) (Excellent historical study by a professional medievalist.)

Wharton, Annabel J., Selling Jerusalem. Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks(Chicago 2006).* (Written by an art historian; reflects on how Jerusalem has been represented outside of Jerusalem through the ages.)

All other readings will be available either on the internet or on reserve at Mugar Library.

Course websites

Blackboard: Syllabus, study guides and other course documents (incl. pdf versions of powerpoints), grade book, etc. will be available at (login required). Please make it a habit to check the syllabus and related course information online for any updates. I will post an announcement on blackboard if I add or make changes to course material. Press the "Reload Current Page" button of your browser to renew pages from server to make sure you are looking at the most recent version of any of the pages you have visited before.

Other websites: This course has its own web-resources. You should familiarize yourself with these at your leisure, whether or not assignments spefically require it.

Historical outline (timeline) and links to basic research material are at and at These sites augment the printed readings by providing a variety of maps, timelines, brief summaries, historical sources, images, and links to selected external resources.

A virtual tour of the Old City is at

Links to research tools are found at

The websites I maintain are searchable through a customized search engine at  Test-drive this search engine by searching for key-words (e.g., David).

Outline of course content

The course divides into three units.

Unit I introduces geographical, historical, and democraphic information on Jerusalem and presents a range of theoretical approaches that should help us analyze what it means to speak of Jerusalem as a holy city in the sense of a real place as well as a political and religious symbol.

Unit II looks at the three major traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that consider the city "holy." Though brief and rather constrained, this unit serves to highlight the partially different, partially similar ways in which religious attachments and symbolic meanings of the city took shape within these traditions. In each case we look at history, meanings, and particularly revered or focal sacred places. This unit deals with the pre-modern city and its enduring meanings.

While Unit II deals mostly with what is generally referred to as the "Old City" or the "sacred basin" that, in geographical terms, was Jerusalem until the middle of the 19th century, Unit III deals with the modern or new city that developed since 1865, when—not unlike other major and minor cities elsewhere—the city began to grow beyond the walls of the Old City. In addition to getting acquainted with the role of foreign powers (especially the British Empire) in shaping this modern city, the unit introduces to the competing narratives and aspirations of modern Zionist and Palestinian national movements, including a review and analysis of Israeli and Palestinian developments since 1967. The focus is on Jerusalem"s role in political rhetoric and propaganda.

Note: Just as Unit II ends with a range of cases, Unit III looks at a number of aspects and cases that provide significant examples of the intersection between historical fact and a rhetorical analysis of the casting of these facts. The course as a whole does not aim at a resolution of the conflict in the Middle East but aims to prepare students to handle some of the complexities of thinking about and analyzing information on this ongoing conflict.

Meeting and reading schedule

Unit I: Introduction to the study of Jerusalem (facts and approaches)

Week One

Sept 3 Facts about Jerusalem I: geography and politics

Reading: Handout "Facts About Jerusalem" ch. 1 (on blackboard)

Browse and familiarize yourself with the interactive timeline and study resources at

Sept 6

Labor day (no class)

Sept 8 Facts about Jerusalem II: history (overview)

Reading: Handout "Facts About Jerusalem" ch. 2 (on blackboard)

Power point ( slides 1-9. Again, consult the major timeline for this course at

Sept 10

End of Ramadan/Jewish New Year (no class)

Week Two           

Sept 13 Facts about Jerusalem III: demography

Reading: Handout "Facts About Jerusalem" ch. 3 (on blackboard).

"Democraphic Trends and Projections" A powerpoint presentation, based on Dellapergola 2001, Benvenisti 1996, and Amirav 2007 (on blackboard and also at and

Sept 15 Theoretical approaches I: religious rhetoric

Comparative religion; the holy; sacred place; sacred history; verbal and non-verbal forms of religious rhetoric.

Reading: Numa Denis Fustel de Coulange, The Ancient City, Book Third, Ch. I-IV, pp. 96-117 (available as pdf online); Hayden White, Metahistory, Introduction (pp. 1-42) (on reserve & blackboard); handout on "Religious Rhetoric" (on blackboard).

Sept 17 Theoretical approaches II: secular rhetoric

Rhetorical analysis of political speech (verbal and non-verbal); theory of propaganda; "city branding."

Reading: Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, pp. 3-87 (on reserve & blackboard); handout on "Secular Rhetoric" (on blackboard).

Unit II: The pre-modern city, or: "Romancing" Jerusalem

Week Three Jewish Yerushalayim

Sept 20 History, biblical and post-biblical

Reading: Zank, Jerusalem, ch. 1 and 2 (on blackboard)

Recommended: Asali, ch. I and II.

Sept 22 Meaning: royal (messianic), cultic, mystical

Reading: Goldhill, pp. 45-91.

Sept 24 Sacred place: city and temple (mount)

Virtual tour of the "Wailing Wall" at

Week Four Christian Hagiapolis Ierousalem/Hierosolyma

Sept 27 History: From martyrs and saints to emperors, warriors, and pilgrims

Reading: Asali ch. III and V.

Sept 29 Meaning: Negative space, marker of absence

Reading: Goldhill, pp. 1-43.

Recommended: Colin Morris, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West. From the Beginning to 1600 (Oxford 2005).

Oct 1 Sacred place: Holy Sepulchre

Virtual tour:

Week Five Muslim Al Quds

Oct 4 History: From Abd al-Malik to the Ottomans

Reading: Asali, Ch. IV and VI.

Oct 6 Meaning: Abrahamic authentication

Reading: Goldhill, pp. 92-129.

Recommended: Oleg Grabar, The Dome of the Rock (Harvard Belknap 2006)

Oct 8 Sacred place: haram ash-sharif

Virtual tour:

Week Six Analysis: How did Jerusalem become holy?

Oct 12 Case studies

1)        The siege of 701 BCE in Judahite and Assyrian historiography. Reading: W. Hallo, "Jerusalem under the Assyrians" (pdf on blackboard).

2)        The destruction of 70 CE in Flavian propaganda. Reading: Zank, Jerusalem, Ch. II, 2.3.2 (pp. 196-207).

3)        Constantine the Great and the Holy Sepulchre. Reading: Eusebius, Vita Constantini (Life of Constantine) (excerpts on blackboard)

Oct 13 (Case studies continued)

4)        Abd al Malik and the Dome of the Rock. Reading: Chase Robinson, "Abd al-Malik (excerpts on blackboard).

5)        Urban II"s call to liberate the holy places (1095). Reading: Internet Medieval Sourcebook at

Oct 15 Discussion: Representation of absence/the city as a sign

(Architecture of spatial and/or temporal transcendence)

Homework: "City Branding" (instructions on blackboard; due Oct 18)

Week Seven

Oct 18 Discussion of homework exercise          

Oct 20 Midterm prep

Oct 22 Midterm (in class)

Unit III: The modern city and the rhetoric of legitimacy

Week Eight Late Ottoman Jerusalem and the rhetoric of modernization

Oct 25 Palestine under the Ottoman Empire

Reading: Asali, Jerusalem in History, ch. VII; Wasserstein, Divided Jerusalem, ch. 1; Goldstein, pp. 130-185.

Oct 27 19th-century reforms and awakenings

Reading: Asali, Jerusalem in History, ch. VIII; Wasserstein, Divided Jerusalem, ch. 2.

Oct 29 Urban Development 1865 to 1914

Reading: Ruth Kark and Michal Oren-Nordheim, Jerusalem and Its Environs (excerpts on blackboard); Goldhill, pp. 226-275.

Week Nine British rule and the rhetoric of romantic realism

Nov 1 Great Britain and the "Biblification" of Palestine

Reading: Wasserstein, Divided Jerusalem, ch. 3.

Recommended: Bar Yosef, The Holy Land in English Culture 1799-1917 (Oxford 2005).

Nov 3 Religionization of indigenous communities (divide et impera)

Reading: Wasserstein, Divided Jerusalem, ch. 4.

Nov 5 Discussion: British policies in the Middle East: success of failure?

Week Ten Zionism and the rhetoric of redemption

Nov 8 Herzl"s Utopia

Reading: Herzl, The Jewish State (1896). Available as pdf at and elsewhere on the internet, and the library.

Nov 10 Jerusalem v. Tel Aviv

Reading: Uri Ram, "Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Bifurcation of Israel"

in International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 19, Numbers 1-2/ December, 2005 (pdf on blackboard); Nurit Alfasi, "A tale of two cities" (pdf on blackboard).

Nov 12 "From pioneering to terrorism: Gush Emunim and the Underground"

Reading: Ehud Sprinzak, Brother against Brother, ch. 5 (on blackboard).

Recommended: Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days (The Free Press 2000)

Week Eleven   Palestinian nationalism and the rhetoric of self-determination

Nov 15 Palestinian national identity: real or imagined?

Reading: Haim Gerber, Remembering and Imagining Palestine (select chapters, on blackboard)

Nov 17 The Notables and the "Iron Cage"

Reading: Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage. Introduction and chapters 1-4 (pp. 1-139)

Nov 19 Palestine Liberation Organization: terror as political rhetoric

Reading: Khalidi, The Iron Cage, pp. 140-181; Handout Israel-Palestine annotated timeline (on blackboard). View (six episodes).

Week Twelve

Nov 22 The future of Palestine

Reading: Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage, pp. 182-217.

[Fall recess 11/24-28]

Week Thirteen After 1967: rhetoric of unification, literature of attachment (tsumud)

Nov 29 The failed policies of unification

Reading: Menachem Klein, "Jerusalem as an Israeli Problem. A review of 40 years of Israeli rule of Arab Jerusalem" in Israel Studies vol 14 nr. 2 (pdf on courseinfo).

Recommended: Moshe Amirav, Jerusalem Syndrome

Dec 1 Jerusalem in the modern Arab novel

Reading: Achmad Harb, "Representations of Jerusalem in the modern Palestinian novel" in Arab Studies Quarterly (2004) (pdf on blackboard).

Dec 3 Discussion

Week Fourteen Undermining Al Quds: the case of biblical archeology

Dec 6 Reading: Nadia Abu El Haj, Facts on the Ground (on blackboard).

On the internet: Research the controversy on El Haj tenure case at Columbia University.

Dec 8 Case study: The City of David Archeological Park

Reading: On the modern history of the ancient "City of David:" Goldhill, pp. 186-225. Omar Karmi, "In the City of David" in Jerusalem Quarterly 29, 5-12 (pdf on blackboard).

Website analysis of

Contrast with

Dec 10 Final prep; research paper due

Total of 39 class meetings (40th meeting needs to be rescheduled to make up for Jewish New Year). Make-up through required scheduled film screening, guest lecture, or other co-curricular event.