Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Lassner, “Medieval Jerusalem”

Next month, the University of Michigan Press will release Medieval Jerusalem: Forging an Islamic City in Spaces Sacred to Christians and Jews by Jacob Lassner (Northwestern University). The publisher’s description follows:

Medieval JerusalemMedieval Jerusalem examines an old question that has recently surfaced and given rise to spirited discussion among Islamic historians and archeologists: what role did a city revered for its holiness play in the unfolding politics of the early Islamic period? Was there an historic moment when the city, holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, may have been considered as the administrative center of a vast Islamic world, as some scholars on early Islam have recently claimed? Medieval Jerusalem also emphasizes the city’s evolution as a revered Islamic religious site comparable to the holy cities Mecca and Medina.

Examining Muslim historiography and religious lore in light of Jewish traditions about the city, Jacob Lassner points out how these reworked Jewish traditions and the imposing monumental Islamic architecture of the city were meant to demonstrate that Islam had superseded Judaism and Christianity as the religion for all monotheists. He interrogates the literary sources of medieval Islamic historiography and their modern interpreters as if they were witnesses in a court of law, and applies the same method for the arguments about the monuments of the city’s material culture, including the great archaeological discoveries along the south wall of the ancient Temple Mount.

This book will be of interest to a broad range of readers given the significance of the city in the current politics of the Near East. It will in part serve as a corrective to narratives of Jerusalem’s past that are currently popular for scholarly and political reasons.

Lemire, “Jerusalem 1900”

In April, the University of Chicago Press will release Jerusalem 1900: The Holy City in the Age of Possibilities by Vincent Lemire (University of Marne-la-Vallée, Paris). The publisher’s description follows:

uni-chicago-pressPerhaps the most contested patch of earth in the world, Jerusalem’s Old City experiences consistent violent unrest between Israeli and Palestinian residents, with seemingly no end in sight. Today, Jerusalem’s endless cycle of riots and arrests appears intractable—even unavoidable—and it looks unlikely that harmony will ever be achieved in the city. But with Jerusalem 1900, historian Vincent Lemire shows us that it wasn’t always that way, undoing the familiar notion of Jerusalem as a lost cause and revealing a unique moment in history when a more peaceful future seemed possible.

In this masterly history, Lemire uses newly opened archives to explore how Jerusalem’s elite residents of differing faiths cooperated through an intercommunity municipal council they created in the mid-1860s to administer the affairs of all inhabitants and improve their shared city. These residents embraced a spirit of modern urbanism and cultivated a civic identity that transcended religion and reflected the relatively secular and cosmopolitan way of life of Jerusalem at the time. These few years would turn out to be a tipping point in the city’s history—a pivotal moment when the horizon of possibility was still open, before the council broke up in 1934, under British rule, into separate Jewish and Arab factions. Uncovering this often overlooked diplomatic period, Lemire reveals that the struggle over Jerusalem was not historically inevitable—and therefore is not necessarily intractable. Jerusalem 1900 sheds light on how the Holy City once functioned peacefully and illustrates how it might one day do so again.

Shahar, “Legal Pluralism in the Holy City: Competing Courts, Forum Shopping, and Institutional Dynamics in Jerusalem”

In August, Ashgate will release “Legal Pluralism in the Holy City: Competing Courts, Forum Shopping, and Institutional Dynamics in Jerusalem” by Ido Shahar (University of Haifa, Israel). The publisher’s description follows:

This book provides an unprecedented portrayal of a lively shari’a court in contemporary West Jerusalem, which belongs to the Israeli legal system but serves Palestinian residents of the eastern part of the city. It draws a rich picture of an intriguing institution, operating in an environment marked by legal pluralism and by exceptional political and cultural tensions. The book suggests an organizational-institutional approach to legal pluralism, which examines not only the relations between bodies of law but also the relations between courts of law serving the same population.

Based on participant observations in the studied court as well as on textual and legal analyses of court cases and rulings, the study combines history and ethnography, diachronic and synchronic perspectives, and examines broad, macro-political processes as well as micro-level interactions.

The book offers fresh perspectives on the phenomenon of legal pluralism, on shari’a law in practice and on Palestinian-Israeli relations in the divided city of Jerusalem. The work is a valuable resource for academics and researchers working in the areas of Legal Pluralism, Islamic Law, and socio-legal history of the Middle East.

Conference: “The Making of Jerusalem” (Jerusalem, July 2-4)

The Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem in hosting a conference, “The Making of Jerusalem: Constructed Spaces and Historic Communities,” from July 2 to July 4:

Jerusalem is one of the most contested cities around the world with a rich and complex history. With its web of sacred sites, quarters, and neighbourhoods, it represents a polyglot of historical communities. Today’s Jerusalem is a testament to its temporal, physical and demographic transformations over the centuries. The purpose of this inter-disciplinary conference is to explore various aspects in the making of the city while focusing on historic communities and their concept of – and relationship with – space (be it sacred or secular). It brings together papers from different fields such as history, the social sciences, art, literature, religious studies and area studies, emphasising the Early Modern and Modern periods.

Details are here.

Movsesian at Fordham Law School: “Sharing Sacred Space In Jerusalem”

My colleague Mark will give a presentation at Fordham Law School on March 27, at 6:00 pm, as part of a panel on the subject, “Sharing Sacred Space in Jerusalem.”  Details here.  And for some of Mark’s reflections on this subject, see this post.

The Holy Sepulcher as a Collective Action Problem

Inspired by last month’s announcement of an agreement to repair the Church of  the Nativity in Bethlehem, over the break I read an interesting recent book on the church’s sister shrine, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which many Christians believe to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Like the church in Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulcher  is shared among monks from three different Christian communities, Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox, and Latin (Roman Catholic), according to something called the “Status Quo,” a kind of customary law dating to Ottoman times, which governs possession and use of the church in minute detail.

It is not an entirely harmonious relationship. Monks from the rival communities not infrequently come to blows in disputes about use of altars. Only a couple of weeks ago in Bethlehem, monks got into a fistfight about who had authority to clean parts of the Church of the Nativity in preparation for Christmas celebrations. You might think these fights are driven by theological differences, but those are somewhat secondary. Under the Status Quo, cleaning an area is an assertion of possession. So communities bitterly resent unauthorized attempts to tidy up. Similarly, because paying for repairs likewise indicates possession, the communities often block each other’s attempts to repair common areas of the church, like the roof. This can lead to delays in necessary maintenance that place the church in danger of collapse.

From a Christian or even conservationist perspective, all this is very disedifying. From the perspective of a secular lawyer, however, the Status Quo is fascinating. In Saving the Holy Sepulchre: How Rival Christians Came Together to Rescue Their Holiest Shrine (Oxford 2008), Hebrew University Professor Raymond Cohen describes the decades-long process by which Armenian, Greek, and Latin monks negotiated an agreement to make essential repairs to the Holy Sepulcher, which had reached a terrible state by the middle of the last century. Working within the Status Quo,  the three communities, each of which distrusted the other, somehow worked out a modus vivendi that allowed them to save the shrine. (One important prod: the communities’ fear that if they didn’t reach agreement on saving the church among themselves, secular authorities would intervene and upset the Status Quo in a way each would find unpleasant). The process led, if not to affection, then to a kind of  mutual regard among the monks – at least some of them. Cohen’s story is one of the triumph of rationality over a massive collective action problem: inspiring, no matter what one’s religious commitments.

%d bloggers like this: