Jerusalem the Homeland and Spirit

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Jerusalem: Place and Significance

The identity of a place cannot be isolated from the meanings and ideas that humans have ascribed to it. There is no ‘pure reality,’ only interpretations reflecting sociopolitical and historical contexts bounded by power relations.

Jerusalem can be seen as both a ‘place’ and an ‘idea’. At times, the idea surpasses the place, dominates the interpretations, and becomes the place’s essence. In the past, a certain conceptualization about Jerusalem prevailed over other notions, or over the ‘actual presence of that place’. Issam Nassar writes: ‘Jerusalem was an idea before it became a place in the material world’. He argues that this idea was generated by the “European memory and imagination” in the era of colonialism that was grounded on scriptures and Orientalist visions. Other notions converge with it, extend through it (and some resist it), for example, Zionist ideology, and the ideology that confronts it – the Palestinian national ideology, or the Arab-Islamic ideology.

Perceptions of Jerusalem as a place were formed within the context of conflict, and the war of ideas. With this understanding, we present the following two documents; each propose a certain ‘vision’ that demonstrates the ‘different interpretations’ within the Palestinian vision. First, the official ‘authoritarian’ and traditional Palestinian discourse, is an introductory curriculum book ‘Jerusalem… The Homeland and Spirit – A Reference Plan’, published by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education, for Palestinian students. The second document titled ‘Between the Symbolism of Life and Logic of Politics’ is based on a seminar held by the Qattan Foundation in 2008 to review the curriculum book, and attended by Palestinians with cultural expertise and deep experience with the daily social life in Jerusalem. The discussion led to the launching of cultural and political studies based on confronting the ‘other’ and their policies, claims and perceptions of Jerusalem and its identity.

“Palestine from Above” exhibition 2021, A.M. Qattan Foundation.

The English part of this boklet only includes the translation of the Seminar “Jerusalem between the Symbolism of Life and the Logic of Politics”, in addition to the commentary of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.