Jerusalem Contested: A City’s History from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives
Jewish Studies xxx / History xxx
Location, Days Time
Professor Jonathan Gribetz
Office phone number
Fall Office Hours:
Day: Time, or by appointment
Students will become acquainted with the long and complex history of a city holy to three faiths.
Students will read contemporary news about Jerusalem with necessary historical context.
Students will develop their skills of communicating orally through classroom discussion.
Students will learn to read primary sources critically and will become sensitive to the challenges of reading polemical texts for historical purposes.
This course introduces students to the history of one of the world’s most enduringly important and bitterly contested cities. The Old City of Jerusalem, a miniscule parcel of land spanning less than one square kilometer, has changed hands repeatedly and as recently as 1967. Never has the conquest of Jerusalem been perceived as a purely political act; conquering and ruling Jerusalem, and no less, losing and departing Jerusalem, have been understood as acts of the deepest religious and theological significance. This course aims to excavate the causes for and evolution of the profound and sometimes extreme attachment of three faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—to the ‘Holy City.’ The course will follow a chronological trajectory, from antiquity to the present, and concludes with the contemporary debates over the status of Jerusalem in a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. The course will be of interest not only to students of Middle Eastern history, but to those eager to learn more about the history of religions, the history of conflict, and the relationship between land and faith and between religion and politics.
Students are required to attend every class and to participate actively and thoughtfully in our discussions. In order to participate actively and thoughtfully, students will need to read the weekly assignments carefully and critically and to engage with the instructor and their fellow students as we analyze the material. There may be unannounced quizzes during the semester; the grades received will be incorporated into the overall mark for participation.
Midterm Examinations (30%)
There will be two in-class midterm examinations. These exams will cover all course material through (and including) the class immediately preceding the examination.
Book Review (25%)
Books about Jerusalem abound—memoirs, histories, polemics, and more. At the beginning of the semester, students will receive a list of a number of recent books about the city and they will choose one to read on their own. Students will then write a 4-5 page book review of the book in light of what they have learned in this course. The book review is due in class in our twenty-fourth meeting.
Final Exam (30%)
There will be a final exam that covers the entire course’s material.
The following book is available for purchase at the Barnes & Noble/Rutgers University Bookstore (Ferren Mall, One Penn Plaza, New Brunswick, 732-246-8448):
Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths (Ballantine Books, 1997).
Students must purchase a required course packet [CP] from Pequod Copy Center, 119 Somerset Street.
Week 1: Introduction, Geography, Why Jerusalem?
Maps from Dan Bahat, Carta’s Historical Atlas of Jerusalem: An Illustrated Survey (2004) in CP
Week 2: Pre-Israelite Settlement and the Davidic Conquest
Selections from Genesis, Deuteronomy, II Samuel, I Kings in CP
Week 3: Remembering Jerusalem in Babylonia and the Second Temple(s)
Selections from Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and 1 Maccabees in CP
Week 4: Jesus and the Roman Conquest
Mark 10:32-34 in CP
Matthew 21:1-6 in CP
Mark 13:1-2 in CP
John 2:13-23 in CP
Matthew 27:39-43 in CP
Week 5: Rabbis and Midterm I
Isaiah Gafni, Land, Center, and Diaspora: Jewish Constructs in Late Antiquity (1997), selections.
Song of Songs Rabbah, Selections.
Lamentations Rabbah, Selections.
Week 6: Constantine and Christian Jerusalem
Oded Irshai, “The Christian Appropriation of Jerusalem in the Fourth Century: The Case of the Bordeaux Pilgrim” Jewish Quarterly Review 99:4 (Fall 2009), 465-486.
Eusebius, Life of Constantine III, Selections.
Theodosius, Topography, Selections.
Week 7: Muhammad’s Night Journey and the Dome of the Rock
Qur’an, Selections in CP
Abdallah El-Khatib, “Jerusalem in the Qur’an,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 28:1 (May 2001), 25-53.
Commentary of Tabar, Selections in CP
Ibn Isḥaq, Life of the Prophet, Selections in CP
Al-Fazari,The Book of Arousing Souls, Selections in CP
Week 8: Crusades and their Memory
Amin Maalouf, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (1989), Selections in CP
Francesco Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades (1984), Selections in CP
William of Tyre, Selections in CP
Week 9: Islamic Empires and Suleiman’s Walls
Felix Fabri, Selections in CP
Week 10: The Ottoman Sanjak of Jerusalem and Midterm II
Amnon Cohen, Jewish Life under Islam: Jerusalem in the Sixteenth Century (1984), Selections in CP
Week 11: Christian Missions in Palestine and the Jewish Mission in the Diaspora
Simon Goldhill, Jerusalem: City of Longing (2010), 227-277.
Paul R. Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World : A Documentary History, 3rd ed. (2011), Selections in CP.
Week 12: Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism
Muhammad Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism (1988), Selections in CP.
Arthur Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader (1997), Selections in CP
Week 13: The Six Day Way and the Al-Aqsa Intifada
Michael B. Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2003), Selections in CP.
Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 2nd Edition (2009), Selections in CP.
Week 14: Peace Prospects and Conclusions
Daniel Kurtzer and Scott Lasensky, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East (2008), selections.
If there are legitimate, extenuating circumstances that prohibit a student from submitting the book review on-time, he or she should contact the instructor in advance to request a limited extension (a doctor’s note must be provided for medical issues). Extensions are granted at the discretion of the instructor. Unexcused lateness will be penalized by a third of a letter grade (e.g., B to B-) for each day of lateness.
The assignments that students submit in this class must be the students’ own work prepared exclusively for this course. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with and observe Rutgers University’s rules of academic integrity. Any and all cases of suspected plagiarism will be referred forthwith to the appropriate university officials. Requesting an extension, even if it comes with a penalty for lateness, is always a better idea (ethically and pragmatically) than violating the rules of academic integrity.
Students are permitted to take notes on laptop computers during class. However, internet connections must be disabled for the length of our meetings.
Office Hours and Email
Students are welcome and encouraged to meet with the professor during office hours to discuss concerns and questions about course material, assignments, or broader interests. Students may also email the instructor (email address); please note that the instructor’s response time to email will vary but every effort will be made to reply within 26 hours. Students are required to check their Rutgers email regularly as course announcements will be delivered through this system.