In 1930, Jerusalem was
crowded with pious pilgrims from all faiths and countries. Dr. Heinz
Herman, a psychiatrist, discovered among his patients an exaggerate sensibility
for matters concerning religion and faith. He treated people who believed
they were reincarnations of the Messiah or were convinced that John the
Baptist or Mary of Magdala had chosen their bodies to live again and
preach the return of Jesus. He called the sickness Jerusalem Syndrome.
The symptoms of the sickness were an intense need to wash and to wear
white clothes. Many of them had arrived with their families or groups
who left them. They saw visions and heard voices that commanded them
to prepare the path for the coming of the Messiah; they had conversations
with Holy Mary and with the Holy Ghost. Nobody can be indifferent to
Jerusalem. Today, the holy city, holy for the three monotheistic religions
of the world, is a split city, going towards an uncertain future. Both
Palestinian and Israeli claim the city as their capital.
In 2002, the Israeli architects Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman won an
architectural competition organized by the IAUA (the Israel Association
of United Architects)
and were chosen to produce an exhibition of Israeli architecture at its
congress in Berlin. Their proposal was aimed to discuss the role of the
Israeli architecture in the Middle East conflict. But the proposal was
disliked by the IAUA and the exhibition was cancelled under the pretext
of a low budget. 5,000 copies of the printed catalogue were destroyed.
How could such an issue be so polemical? Eyal Weizman’s thesis is
called "The Politics of Verticality." There he develops the
idea that the Israeli architecture plays an important role in the conflict
started in 1949, when the state was founded.
In the mythology of the state of Israel, the kibbutz plays a central
part. It was there where the Jewish socialists created a country in
of nowhere--"a people without a land to a land without people," as
Golda Meir said. But this was not true; 600,000 Palestinians had lived
there for several thousands of years. They were farmers who had built
villages and cities. Jericho to Gaza Palestinians lived in this region.
sees Israel as an expression of the Modernity. They consider themselves
to be a European outpost against the wilderness. Islam represents the
Middle Ages and they must vanish to give place to shiny cities and
It was the dream of Marinetti and Futurists, a place where velocity
and space enable its people to reach happiness.
In the outlined Palestinian
state, which was discussed in Camp David, Oslo and Taba, the Israeli
kept control over the water
and the sky. The concept of sovereignty where a state exercises jurisdiction
over its land, and the minerals and waters below the surface, is abolished
by the Israeli, who demand future control over the Palestinian state’s
water resources and the sky.
With the help of a sophisticated matrix of roads, bridges, walls,
fences, and highways, the Israeli are constructing a system through
Palestinians are becoming enclosed in isolated strips of land without
any communication with others. Palestinians and Israelis are both pressed
into ghettos where high-tech fences protect the Jewish settlers and
checkpoints and soldiers stop the freedom of movement for the
In the little village of Qualqilya, on the West Bank, where 50,000 people
live, there is only one open gate to enter and exit the city. The gate
is controlled by Israeli soldiers and more than 65 percent of the arable
land is now outside the wall. Qualqilya has been totally enclosed by
the fence, which the Israeli call the "security fence" and
the Palestinians call the "apartheid wall."
Weizman gives a colorful description of how Israel changed their
architectural style after the 1967 war. The model of the city
of Tel Aviv, built with
the German school Bauhaus as inspiration and myth, was abandoned; Jerusalem,
with its oriental maze, became the prototype. The Great Jerusalem became
the dream of archaeologists, urbanites, and architects. The holy city--where
churches, graveyards, and walls melt in an organic and labyrinthian
architecture--should suddenly be the center of the administration
and give shelter and housing
to hundreds of thousands of new immigrants.
Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rocks are
situated, also cover the ruins of the Third Jewish Temple, destroyed
nearly two thousands years ago. To build the Fourth Temple is the goal
for both the Jewish and Christian fundamentalists. Only when the Fourth
Temple is built can the Messiah come back to mankind.
the religious and eschatological explanations, the architectural struggle
is fought on several levels. As the American-Jewish anthropologist
Jeff Halper writes in an essay, the water pipes and the sewage running
the West Bank and Gaza are also part of a meticulous "matrix of
control." To control the water sources and the facilities’ irrigation
is a way to suffocate a country and to prevent it from developing. For
thousands of years, Palestine has been an agricultural country where
the olive trees have been the source for the families’ wealth.
Suddenly, Israel has become a country with thousands of greenhouses,
producing tomatoes and cucumbers; oranges and avocados are exported while
Palestine’s water resources are drained. The opposition against
this has been called the "Water Intifada." In Gaza, the population
is obliged to buy bottled water, since the regular water contains too
much sea water to be drinkable.
Eyal Weizman’s essay is objective and gives us clues to understand
the long-term strategy used by cartographers and city planners, using the
settlements and borders to delay the construction of a Palestinian state.
The bulldozers are as important as the weapons in the West Bank and Gaza.
Their goal is to establish the Israeli domination over the region forever.
The settlements are often placed on top of the mountains, a significant
detail in the historical struggle for the place. At the beginning of
biblical time, when the Jews formed a nation, they lived up in the
Samaria and Judea. Their God promised them the land, the valleys where
sedentary people as the Canaanites cultivated the land and lived in villages
and cities. The nomadic Jews fought bitter struggles and won, becoming
farmers themselves afterward.
The mountains remain the mythological place from where
the people originated. Now the settlers emphasise the same feeling. The
Jewish settlers control the valleys where the Arabic villages built a web
of complex structure. The settlements are panoptical, with the same precision
Bentham described as the advantages of panoptic-um, where soldiers and
watchers can exercise nearly total control over the villages. Despite the
talks of disengaging, the colonising project grows all the time.
An architecture aimed at constructing lines and fences, bridges and roads
deliberately hindering contact between two populations is an aberration.
Urbanist Paul Virilio, who wrote an essay about the bunkers in Normandy,
the remains of the once-proud Line Maginot, pointed out that the fortresses
and the faith in the impenetrable defences were one of the reasons France
lost the war against Germany. The dream of a Great Jerusalem and of the
Great Israel, Eretz Israel, are still dominating the discourse in the
Eyal Weizman's essay, "Politics of Verticality," can be
read at www.opendemocracy.net
interview made by the
visual artists Cecilia Parsberg and Erik Pauser can be found at http://this.is/TheWall