Book

Women and the Holy City: the struggle over Jerusalem's sacred space (2021)

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Abstract

Jerusalem's Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif is the holiest place in the world for Jews, the third holiest place for Muslims and a constant feature in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the gendered dimensions of inter-communal disputes over sacred space in Jerusalem, as well as in other holy places around the world, have been largely neglected, as have women's roles in these site-specific conflicts. An implicit association of women with peaceful politics and syncretic religious practices has obscured the fact that women are often key actors in inter-communal contestation of holy places. This study looks to three contemporary women's movements in and around Jerusalem's Sacred Esplanade: Women for the Temple - a Jewish Orthodox movement for access to Temple Mount; The Murabitat - Muslim women activists devoted to the protection of Al-Aqsa Mosque from Jewish claims; and Women of the Wall - a Jewish feminist mobilization against restrictive gender regulations at the Western Wall. Lihi Ben-Shitrit demonstrates how attention to gender and to women's engagement in conflict over sacred places is essential for understanding what makes contested sacred sites increasingly 'indivisible' for