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Shared Narratives — Session 5

Session 5: Religious Nationalism and Conflict over the Holy Places

Discussion of a paper by Yitzhak Reiter (Ashkelon Academic College and the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University). The paper is in the printed volume of Shared Narratives.

JEFF HELSING: This is now the session on the growth of religious nationalism and the conflict over the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa.

YITZHAK REITER: I see some common elements between the Previous and this one, namely the role of religion and the term "historical rights" as well as the land, the right to the land. That is, the connection between religion and the land.

In the case of both Israelis and Palestinians we speak about religious nationalism. Religion, by definition - and I hope no one here will be offended by what I say - demands the totality of the belief of the believers. It also excludes the “other”, and delegitimizes the other by exploiting religious traditions and convictions. Of course, there have been different attitudes throughout history toward different religions, but in the text, the holy text, we find a lot of examples of how one religious denomination delegitimizes the other and our task is to examine the current narratives, which are related to the issues of land and holy sites in this Holy Land. I should note that I am primarily referring to the three great monotheistic religions.

Some other preliminary remarks. When we speak about the Haram al-Sharif, or the Temple Mount, or the Sacred Compound, we have three concentric circles, one encompassed by the other, in which the central one is the Temple Mount, or the Sacred Compound, the middle one is Jerusalem, and the outer one is Eretz Israel for the Jews, or Palestine for the Muslims and Arabs.

The inner circle, which is the central holy site, is being employed in order to serve those who are struggling for rights in the outer circle, which is the entire land of Palestine. In the context of narratives of the Temple Mount, what we find is that the site is being used by politicians and by clerics as well, to serve their political claims.


To read the entirety of Session 5, click here


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