Nine Quarters of Jerusalem

Nine Quarters of Jerusalem

New Paths Through the Old City

by Matthew Teller

Published by: New Internationalist

200 pages, 25 B&W maps and photographs

  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781780265469
  • Published: August 2020

$19.95

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In Jerusalem, what you see and what is true are two different things. Beyond the crush and frenzy of a few tourist sites, the Old City within its medieval walls remains largely unknown to visitors, its people ignored and its stories untold. Nine Quarters of Jerusalem lets the Palestinian and other communities of the Old City speak for themselves. Ranging from past to present, highlighting stories and personalities across faiths and outlooks, it evokes the depth and cultural diversity of Palestinian Jerusalem. Around the time the British arrived in the Holy Land, the idea began to spread that the ancient Old City could be divided by straight lines into four neat quarters, each defined by a faith community. The idea was false. Jerusalem’s people had always clustered together according to religious belief or ethnicity or geographic origin, but the city was undivided. Nonetheless, those divisions suited successive rulers, so today – more than a century on – they have become entrenched. Maps show ‘Christian Quarter’ or ‘Muslim Quarter’ as if they were real, defined places within borders. They are not. The reality of Jerusalem is a diversity and inclusion that belies imposed narratives of opposition, separation and exclusivity. This book evokes a sense of place through Jerusalem’s other, ignored quarters – its African and Indian voices, its Greek and Armenian and Syriac communities, its downtrodden Gypsy families, its Sufi mystics and its lost Moroccan Quarter. It discusses the sources of the city’s holiness and the ideas – often startlingly secular – that have shaped lives within its walls. It links discussions of the city’s finest mosques, libraries, churches and monuments through personal stories that, in many cases, have never been told before in English, and certainly not in an accessible, marketable form. This is not a travel narrative or an academic study, and it does not fall into the trap of showcasing the preoccupations of an observer. This is Jerusalem itself. It is an evocation of place through story, led by the voices of Jerusalemites.