Future Social Planning in Mixed Cities


1st Plenary Session: Future Social Planning in Mixed Cities

October 21st 2015                                                

Moderator:  Prof. Haim Yacobi, Chairperson, Department of Politics & Government, Ben Gurion University of the Negev;

Speakers:

Prof. Amia Lieblich, President of The Academic College of Society and the Arts and Prof. Emer., Department of Psychology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;

Malka Greenberg-Raanan, PhD Candidate, Geography Department, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;

Dr. Hannah Sweid – Former MK, Arab Center for Alternative Planning;

Jerusalem 2015: Not a sudden escalation, but part of a distinct policy

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Prof. Haim Yacobi: The violence that has occurred in Jerusalem over the last few days, what the media refers to as an “escalation” as if we are talking about a natural occurrence, without any context, is a warning sign. Observation of planning procedures in Jerusalem in recent years points to the political and oppressive power of the municipal and state regime in Jerusalem. Jerusalem as a colonialist city that “united” through asserting Israeli sovereignty, created ghettoization of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, and into that space Israeli sovereignty is implanted.

Planning and Architecture in Jerusalem plays a central role in these processes as planning action is embedded in the power structure (planning committees or planning divisions in local municipalities for instance). The state’s power is at the root of the creation of the Palestinian ghetto, and therefore it manifests the sovereign interest, while pretending to be professional and neutral, and later furthering its control to create an urban fringe.

Three stages can be observed in the geo-political history of the city. The planning policy in Jerusalem since 1967 is acting diligently and efficiently to force the Palestinian population out of the city while working to Judaize the city. This policy –for which city planning is one of its affective tools – was backed by all the Israeli governments and by all Jerusalem mayors. The first stage of the colonization of East Jerusalem included expanding the municipal area by legal annexation of 70 thousand dunams from the West Bank (including the Jordanian city), followed by the expropriation of approximately a third of these lands for Israeli settlements (known as the satellite neighborhoods of Jerusalem) as well as determining 22% of them as green areas, forbidden to Palestinian building. Indeed the intensive planning and building of neighborhoods and infrastructure created a demographic revolution in the metropolitan area of Jerusalem, where 38% of the Jews are living. These geopolitical changes are at the basis of the ghettoization process of the Palestinian area in the city where other governmental mechanisms functioned in areas such as education, healthcare, welfare and infrastructure (although unequally).

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The second stage in this process has been happening throughout the past decade – the erection of the separation wall which should be perceived as part of the spatial planning process in the city, and not solely as a security arm; as it produced spatial validity to the ghettoization and to the blockage of outlets to the Palestinian metropolitan area.  The third stage, which we are witnessing in recent years, seems less blunt, but is no less aggressive – buildings are planned at the heart of neglected Palestinian neighborhood that are the subject of decades of discrimination.

I will demonstrate using the example of the Jerusalem Local Committee for Planning and Building decision made a few months ago. The committee approved a plan for deposit to build the “Ohr Sameach” Yeshiva in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah in East Jerusalem. The plan includes nine floors above ground for a yeshiva with study halls and dormitories for the students. It is important to stress that the plan was approved for depositing despite the ruling of professional bodies in municipal planning policy that the area is unsuitable for a yeshiva and should be designate for social and cultural building which will serve the neighborhoods residents. In this way a planning project which robs the land-reserves will be implanted into the Palestinian space of Sheikh Jarah and will bring a conflictual site into its heart.

Another example is the “Kedem Compound”, a huge “visitors’ center” bending over archeological remains located about 20 meters from the Old City walls. The “Kedem Compound” blatantly breaches planning principles and rules. Executing these plans will         cause irrevocable harm to the appearance of the Old City and its architectural heritage and more importantly, will deprive additional lands from the residents of Silwan village. These planning activities are administrative-planning violence towards the city’s Palestinian population that is already disinherited from its land as a consequence of the former two steps I mentioned earlier.

The way the state privatizes its sovereignty and the right to use violence against NGOs such as Elad or Ateret Cohanim cannot be ignored. These organizations are responsible for overtaking Palestinian houses, settling in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods, developing projects like the Mt. Scopus Slopes and the Zurim Valley national parks and the “King’s Garden” in the Kidron river, with the political aim of exclusion and dispossession of the city’s Palestinian population and affirming their exclusive control of the area.

The escalation in Jerusalem is not an evolutionary outcome. This is a direct product of strategy and policy that endanger all the city residents; the distribution of municipal territories to narrow and radical interest groups – in the Sheikh Jarah case the “Ohr Sameach” Yeshiva and Elad in Silwan. In all of these cases we are looking at sites in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods, located in the focus of international interest due to the tensions between the Palestinian residents and the authorities.  In  all the instances these are large dimension projects that are not up to the professional planning criteria because of  the mass of building, the planning program and the addressing of the texture of the built-up area in its surroundings. Despite the political and planning improbability of realizing these architectural spectacles, the decision makers are determined to continue consuming the Palestinian lands, dispossessing what is left of the Palestinian city space, excluding the Palestinian population from the city and impairing any possibility for future solution.

The violent planning currently undertaken in East Jerusalem ignores the city’s importance and its political sensitivity. The planning procedures are not managed for the sake of the common good, including the Palestinian residents of the city, but in the service of the interests of political power groups, that despite being a minority are politically powerful and very close to the centers of power.

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Prof. Amia Lieblich

I wish to talk about a small community called Neve Shalom Wahat Al-Salam. It is a rare occurrence on the spectrum of possible mixed communities. My research on Neve Shalom is based on discussions with over 60% of its residents, about 50 families. Half of the interviewees were Jewish and half of them Arabs.

The Ideology of the double-named community (Jewish and Arab):

1. A mixed community that is joined voluntarily and wasn’t formed through historical events like Akko or Yafo. There are no real-estate considerations in it. It was established in 1977 and started growing in the ‘80s.

2. There are equal numbers of Jewish and Arab families. Most of the centers of power are in Arab hands but that is because of the Arab’s income options whereas the Jews have better income options outside the community.

3. Education – a Bi-national and Bi-lingual school. There are 6 such schools in the country. Bi-national education was a condition for receiving the land from the Latrun Monastery. Nevertheless, some of the Arab families feel the bi-national education blurs their children’s Arab nationality and that the children’s Arabic is inadequate.  For that reason they sent their children to schools outside of the village, in Ramleh for instance.

The Community’s Borders and Limitations

Hebrew:  It is our fault as Jews that we haven’t learnt Arabic. Inequality exists merely in the fact that the Arabs are fluent in Hebrew and the Jews are not fluent in Arabic. Only Hebrew is used in members’ meetings.

Civil obligations: Army service, national service – compulsory or not. What is the model for educating youngsters? The army service is problematic from both the Israeli and Palestinian points of view.

Calendar: When is it a holiday? How does one run a schedule in a mixed population with three distinct calendars: Jewish, Christian and Muslim? Additionally, how does one celebrate the holidays? What does one talk about on Hanukkah, Christmas, and Ramadan? How are Remembrance Day and Holocaust Memorial Day commemorated? How does one celebrate the Day of Independence?

In Practice

Despite all the problems, there is an exemplary community and neighborly life at Neve Shalom, including at times of the highest tensions. There are regular lives, daily routines. Friendships among the children are cross-national. In the swimming pool it is impossible to tell who is Arab and is who is Jewish.  They are all friends and the two languages are mixed. It is obvious that people are making efforts to avoid disharmony and that there are topics on which there is no agreement. There are many explosive issues lying under the surface, but in Neve Shalom-Wahat Al-Salam people agree to disagree.

Some people wonder if that is the most that can be achieved regarding a mixed community, but it is still an achievement. Perhaps this isn’t the ideal model, but there are lessons to be learnt from their experience.

7Malka Greenberg-Raanan

Whereas Amia spoke about social negotiation between populations, my research deals with the spatial dimension, focusing on women and gender.

There is an importance in holding a discussion about shared living at the present time. It is our duty to offer alternatives to oppression. Jerusalem is undergoing significant processes that change its character, like the separation wall or the light-rail that travels through Arab neighborhoods. Some of the processes create encounters between the Ultra-Orthodox, Secular and Arab populations.  But we have to ask whether this creates a shared space in a city that has injustice and exclusion? Who appropriates this space, what are the practices of the city residents in that space?

The field work was done during 2013-2014. Since the murder of Abu Khdeir about a year ago, the two populations avoid each other and the level of fear in the city is high. Jerusalem is at the heart of an ethnic, religious, national and political conflict. It is defined as a polarized city and its urban structure since 1967 has been formed through a battle for control.

This lecture focuses on Gender in the public space. Ethnic groups wish to maintain borders and do it through gender. For example the Lehava group that guards the Jewish women. The female body is perceived as essential to the national project, guarding the national and geographic borders. For this reason the woman’s image in these cities is more controlled. On one hand, women are victims in the urban space but on the other, this space can also free them from rigid social expectations and enable them movement and independence from the patriarchy they succumb to at home.

Every participant in the research was requested to draw a geographic map of their daily activities. In addition they were asked to mark on Jerusalem’s geographical map the areas with which they are familiar and where they sense fear. They were also asked to mark how they divide the city ethno-nationally, how familiar they are with each neighborhood, and what level of belonging and security they have in each of them. Women participants received a GPS devise that transmitted their movements and in addition they filled an activity log with their movements.

All of the above created a “Mental Map” on which the research was based. For example:

  • A mental map of a woman from A-Tur:  Her neighborhood is marked in green, signifying security. Jerusalem’s center for her is Al-Aqsa, whereas the city’s west is red, threatening and complicated. She is not able to appropriate this area. The only place she has a feeling of belonging is in her neighborhood.
  • On the other hand, a mental map of an Israeli woman, a student who moves throughout the city to the university is different. She meets friends in the city and isable to appropriate the city as a space of belonging.

These maps demonstrate obvious divisions. How do those experiences and life stories become the perceptions of Jerusalem residents? How do such mental maps influence perceptions? I argue it has a great influence. If you live in a certain place, you adopt certain attitudes. In Pisgat Zeev for instance, there are more right-wing Jews, of Arab origin. Had the same woman lived in Rehavia, her views might have been less extreme.

Another map demonstrates that most of the Jewish women move around in areas that are not Ultra-Orthodox or Arab.  On the other hand, most of the Palestinian women moved around in the Jewish space too. What does that mean for those women? What where the themes which the women used to explain the spaces in which they moved around?

1. The Palestinian woman moving in Jewish space is not doing it out of choice but rather from the lack of alternatives. The separation wall creates a feeling of a physical barrier which bars the road to Ramallah and Bethlehem.

2. There is fear to talk in Arabic in the west side, but on the other hand, being there is emancipation from the patriarchal-Palestinian space. Sexual harassments in the Palestinian area encourage Palestinian women to go into Jewish areas to gain a certain sense of freedom.

In conclusion, the unequal balance of power in Jerusalem creates situations where different populations mix in the same space. Constructing the wall in the middle of Jerusalem created a substantial question that won’t be answered here. Palestinian women experience double fear – on the basis of nationality as well as gender. The mental maps reflect the attitude toward the space and influence dress and decisions on where to move and how to avoid spaces that are perceived as threatening.

Former MK Dr. Hannah Sweid

It is impossible in the Middle East, and especially here, to create a separate place of friendship, of shared living and mutual respect, as long as the area around us is in flames.

1H5ETxFMDTKtyYz3X8sNvg6IsyQEqhw3XpRownI4kXYThe current situation prompts us to work towards shared living in mixed cities, a situation that allows us to neutralize external influences and to achieve shared living in one urban space.  I want to stress the option of living together in a mixed city out of choice, and we have heard about the example of Neveh Shalom. I don’t think living there is motivated by real estate considerations but it is a genuine choice of change.

I want to stress the importance of free choice. Most of the mixed cities in this country weren’t created or developed out of free choice but out of historical events. Neveh Shalom is driven by choice and natural development.

In Israel, there is a need to plan 30-40 years ahead in accordance with the principle of separation, but together with equality. I don’t think we are ready to integrate.  I am an optimist but I think that even in another 30 years there will not be integration here. For that reason we have to plan for a situation with separation and equality. Even if there were total equality in Israel, I believe that riots would break out. In Jerusalem there are people who have it all economically and we still see instances like in the US where a well-off white young man shoots his friends. There is not always a correlation between one’s social and economic situations. People in East Jerusalem are motivated by the occupation and not the economy. They feel that their most important sites are endangered.

This is the reason cities should be planned on the principle of separate but equal. A suitable model is an urban confederation. We are used to thinking of this term as a political one – a few areas that cooperate on foreign and security issues. But it can also be applied to the urban context. An important point that can bridge and create equality is the knowledge of Arabic by all Israeli citizens and learning about both sides’ cultural heroes. You can’t dream about a situation where people are living together if you don’t know each other’s poets.

An example of governmental practice of living in mixed cities and shared living is the law of admission committees. This is an outrageous law. People want the freedom to choose with whom they will live and the administration cooperates with it. There are absurdities such as Jewish settlements built on expropriated Arab lands and the original land-owners are not able to live in those settlements. I claim that residences should be open to all. I don’t want to force anyone to live next to me unless he wishes to. Together with the policy of separateness and equality we should create spaces where people will be able to select their place of residence.