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The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem in the Middle East Conflict

Michael Dumper
The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem in the Middle East Conflict
ISBN: 978-1-58826-016-1
ISBN: 978-1-58826-226-4
2002/185 pages/LC: 2001041793

"This is a good book .... filled with useful facts, revealing anecdotes, and insightful nuance. It is rich in detail, with excerpts from historical documents and discussions of significant events in the struggle for Jerusalem and its 'sacred space.' Both undergraduates and professors could learn from it." —Ronald R. Stockton, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"This is an important and timely book.... Dumper has offered students of the conflict in the Middle East ... an invaluable scholarly gem."—George Emile Irani, Middle East Journal

"This well-documented hisstorical and political study is a must read for students of Jerusalem's history and for scholars and politicians on all sides."—Issam Nassar, Journal of Palestine Studies

"Strongly recommended for its crucial background on one of the core issues in the Arab-Israeli peace process."—Choice

"Unbiased in his discussion, Dumper clarifies the issues and draws upon a lifetime of study, writing, and experience. His new book ... has exponentially increased this reviewer's understanding of the current situation in the Middle East and should do so for other readers."—Library Journal

"Mick Dumper advances our understanding of the role that the Old City plays in deciding the contours of any future Palestinian-Israeli relationship. He offers a powerful argument providing a template for future negotiations between the main parties."—Clive Jones


Sacred to three traditions, the Old City of Jerusalem is the Gordian knot at the center of the Middle East conflict. This book explores how religious and political interests compete for control of this sacred space, and how that competition affects the Middle East peace process.

Dumper analyzes the religious dynamics in the Old City in political terms, investigating rivalries and tensions at three interrelated levels: among regional and international interests, among the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish establishments, and among sects and factions within the religions. A revealing portrait emerges of an ancient city in the context of contemporary change, central to the attainment of a lasting peace in the region.


Michael Dumper is professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter.


  • Introduction: Studying the Old City of Jerusalem.
  • The Background to the Struggle.
  • The Jewish Community: The Role of Israeli Settler Groups.
  • The Muslim Community: Religious Endowments and the Awqaf Administration.
  • The Christian Community: The Growing Role of Laity.
  • The Old City and the Peace Process.