The Israeli Separation Barrier that increasingly divides Jerusalem remaps relations of Palestinians and the Israeli state in an increasingly provocative and fraught ways within the Holy City, by openly redefining an individual relation to it as a place. Organized by a network of checkpoints, ID controls, and incursions into land that was once Palestinian, some fifty years after the unification of the city in the Israeli state was defined by the 1967 war, the sheer concrete wall built to unilaterally and definitively remap the region continues to the remap–and mishap–the relation of the state to the country’s inhabitants.
The explicit purpose of the Separation Barrier was indeed to replace earlier maps of the city. The hope to ensure “[The barrier] gives order to space” and in giving a new order to the region of Jerusalem, as one of Ariel Sharon’s most senior advisor on the Wall’s construction put it, was to reshape how “people relate to places” in a region where human relation to place is not only very sedimented but particularly strong as it has been contested for so long. Is purpose is to erase history. This intent to force people’s relation to place was echoed in the reduction of Palestinian lands by almost a tenth and the apparatus of surveillance and oversight that constrain Palestinian presence and movement in the city to demote their motion to non-citizens excluded from the state. The treatment of residents as nationless refugees by the wall creates a new existential relation to place not visible on a map, and that prominently orients their relation to place. Mr Mani, a novel about one family’s relation to the settled space of Jerusalem, offers a deep history of the collective relation of the Jewish people to the place that has been so forcefully remapped as a center of the Jewish nation.
Yet he excavation of past precedents for the wall and the bounding the nation provide a way to historicize how the affective and emotional relation to place has led the Israeli state to redefine the relation of residents to place, and what led to the remapping of place in ways that exclude the threatening nature of “open space.” For the bounding of place haunt the state’s past and indeed its foundation, creating, the genealogy of attitudes to place in A.B. Yehoshua’s Mr. Mani suggests, a deep guilt in the redefining of people to places that needs to be excavated, and isnot tenable for the region’s future. The perspective of such a place seems among the most urgent forms of resistance to acceptance of the Separation Boundary as a new mapping of space. The book is an invitation to map the place of the individual in this remapping of space, and indeed to excavate the trauma that the author places at the roots of so forceful and deeply melancholic remapping of the individual’s relation to place.
1. The fencing or bounding off of land within the Israeli state with the creation of a monumental boundary wall–or Separation Boundary–created a new monument in the Holy Land and city of Jerusalem, as if a precedent that would erase the authority of earlier maps within the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, but call for a deeper historical unpacking of the remapping of Palestinian lands.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine might be dated from 1948 or 1967 as a compromising of human rights, before the 2005 building of the barrier’s construction as an “anti-terrorist fence.” But the lack of recognition of Palestinians during the occupation impels a deep remapping of the historical privileging of Israel’s presence in Jerusalem, over a far more extensive time; indeed the state-settlement of the Holy City might be imagined more evident as a stratigraphy of the collective mapping of the Holy City whose ruins have provided a logic for the settlement of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. What Palestinian author Ala Hlehel described the expansion of settlements in “occupied lands” as displaying “colonial features under the cover of the Torah narrative” in which what he terms the “occupation machine” of borders, surveillance apparatus, security arrangements that constrain geographic movement, and abridge rights “functions to exhaust those who are subject to it”: in the dynamic that exhausts all inhabitants, Hlehel argued, that increasingly the question of agency is obscured: “the wheels are so interlocked, . . . so tightly wound, integrated, and coherent that it is hard to distinguish its beginning from its end,” in an area where the deep symbolic and psychic ties to the ruins of biblical civilization create a new sense of rights of their occupation.
The attachment to the geography of ruins is not only one of a continued past, but an active present, that long exercised a potentially compromising relation to the present across time. Whereas Sigmund Freud took the historical layers in Rome as a figure to imagine the layering of time in individual memory–as he put it in Civilization and its Discontents, to imagine the “mental life” as the contemporaneous layering of an individual’s pasts in ways that might be made evident by an analogous excavation of their lost traces, the inhabitation of Jerusalem by Jews are based on rebuilding ruins. If Freud trusted the continued presence of the past in mental life allowed the past be “brought to light” through careful study and internalization of maps of the city, the basis of claims of state-sanctioned settlements on what are deemed “significant archeological sites” whose residents can be expelled suggest the paradoxes of building borders on ruins might lead one to see the occupation of Jerusalem as a rebuilding of a collective memory of the Jewish nation in borders that never existed among its “perpetual ruins” of the place.
The current danger of naturalizing boundaries of occupation that have existed over fifty years and restating claims to ownership of land around the holy city once seen as international proceeds from a new mapping of access to lands based on a narrative relation to rights to the ruins of a land. The special relation of Jews to the ruins of itself creates a uniquely compromised relation of Palestinians to the present of the city, depriving themselves of their present or indeed the passage of time, as it keeps time in check: if “Jews are better than Palestinians at living in ruins,” as Hlehel provocatively wrote in 2017, this is because the relation of the ruins is both so vitally present in their map of place, and because the ruins constitute a present that obscures the presence of other presents in particularly painful ways. Hlehel’s point is polemic: for is not the notion of “ruins,” “ruined dwellings,” “waste places” and “ruined cities” of Israel are translated from the Old Testament; the question of returning to rebuild old “ruins” or places as communities “gathered out of the peoples” and “brought forth from nations” were a guiding fiction in the collective imaginary that compelled the region’s rebuilding and settlement in recent times. If the promise of rebuilding the חָרְבָּה or “perpetual ruins” and ruined places of Israel described by Isaiah and Ezekiel 38:7-16 suggested a survival of places that are preserved for those returning from exile, central to the restoral of a community in Israel and Palestine.
The pain of its settlement and violence of defending its boundaries as signs of belonging were long omitted from this map Indeed, the recent project of building a “security fence” by the Israeli state–a term Ariel Sharon adopted in the sense of using its archaic meaning as a means of protection, and a barrier–sbelie the deeply divisive effects of such a Separation Barrier on Palestinian. Indeed, continued description by the Israeli Prime Minister of a “security fence” during 2003 was adopted by many Israelis concealed the effects of such a Separation Boundary or Apartheid Wall as if to cleanse it of its values as a militarized marker–although the Wall remaps the territory, of an eight-meter high sheer wall surmounted by wire fences, cyclone fencing, and electronic sensors with deep ditches on either side, and punctuated by watchtowers and firing posts, effectively remapping habitation of the land and the rights or mobility of Palestinians. Terms as a “fence,” “wall” or “barrier” omit questions of the unfairness of unilaterally remapping of Israel’s boundaries, and illegal remapping of rights of inhabitation and movement, as the word “security” justifies a need for its existence that justifies its illegality. (American media from CNN to Fox to AP to Washington Post to even the BBC adopted a similar set of locutions of a “security fence” or “separation wall” to downplay its civil rights offenses, as OSS Archivium noted, as a rewriting of territorial boundaries with the effect of confiscating long-inhabited lands.) The painful neglect to map–or recognize–inhabitants is examined as a theme of tortured relation to the land of Mani men who witnessed the remapping of the nation, and provide a narrative that resists and questions the finality of this map.
Avi Ohayon / Israeli National Photo Collection, 2003
In assembling isolated testimonies that recount attitudes to boundaries built around the nation or community of Jews in what has become Israel, the triumphant narrative of resettlement is not only undermined, but examined as rooted in a traumatic relation to place that turns a blind spot to the existence of inhabitants of place. The collective memory of ruins is recuperated by being situated historically in Yehoshua’s novel, in ways that the bulk of this post turns.
2. The particular pain of this relation to space–and to the boundaries of a new space of settlement in the area of Jerusalem and its Old City–have long animated settlement before the foundation of the Israeli state by members of the Jewish nation. The problem of remapping the city as a national capital raises deep questions of the preservation of received narratives of the site of Jerusalem as a place, and the telling of stories about its settlement and the narratives of its settlement. Remapping the unity of Jerusalem was long presented as a defensive act by the Jewish state: but it is a gambit to retain the centrality of the city to the Israeli state, and remains a mapping that obscures and erase the presence of Palestinians in the region. Rather than map the occupation of the region, or the refusal to recognize Palestinian presence, the collective remapping of Jerusalem was elaborated in collective memory most evident in its non-dramatic moments, however, but sedimented in its remapping, in a time when increasing numbers of Palestinians are born into the occupation, potentially naturalizing a situation in which a majority of Israelis are born into rule over areas of the city occupied by Palestinians, and accept their legal claims to settle ancient lands.
In deeply historical ways that have sedimented a map relating the Jewish people to the city, the ahistorical relation to place emerges in the photograph that accentuates the remove of the anonymous hilltop observer from his homeland: his very identity seems blurred by the prominent presence of the wall, even as his presence embodies the steep difficulties in mapping or envisioning “Israel” as a sovereign state within Jerusalem, in the manner it is being constantly remapped, as the complexity of cartographical overlays of the city’s post-1967 transformations have made clear, which obscure the life stories of its residents. Balancing the individual attachment of place–and the story of the individual–within the collective remapping of the city that has inflicted a regime on many of the region’s residents that they are regularly legally excluded from.
The persistence of the deep attachment to the unity of Israel–and to how the defense of its borders as a confirmation and embodiment of Jewish identity–extends across generations may be realized through maps, of which the exclusionary border of the Separation Barrier is perhaps the culmination; but it can only be fully excavated by the individual nature of the transmission from the diaspora in the deep psychic attachment to the land, by the way that the story about the territory is narrated by individuals in time.
The excavation of testimonies within this collective past is the subject of Israeli progressive novelist A.B. Yehoshua imagined in the testimonies from five generations of settlers of Israel that compose the five books of the 1980s novel Mr Mani, a fictive if almost archival version that juxtaposes individual testimonies of the Mani across five generations, to reveal how although each is rooted in distinct historical periods of global change, and notions of the ‘State of Israel,’ the deep affinities connecting them suggest the blindspots and pain in insisting to translate the Jewish nation into a bounded land. In moving across epochs, and untangling the migration story of Mani men, Yehoshua skillfully historicizes the arrival of Jews in Israel, on the one hand, and raises questions about the settlement of lands that have been defined as the uniting of ruins or sites of collective memory within the borders of the Jewish nation Israel, and the defense of these boundaries that were for the first time aggressively defended in the Lebanon War: the overwhelming impact of these stories is to suggest the extent to which the individual narratives of these men of an old Jerusalem family describe a fraught, rather than a natural relation to place, unpacking the hidden stories of settlement in ways that respond to the questions raised by the aggressive defense of the boundaries of the new nation-state in the 1980 war. The book begins in the words of a woman speaks to her mother as she describes her relation to the Mani who serves in the Lebanon War of 1982 that led to the military advance of the army to Beirut, and his father, uncovers and excavates layers of a stratigraphy of a collective relation to place, in individual testimonies that–while not Palestinian or including Jerusalem’s inhabitants–map the persistent problems of insistently remapping Israel’s presence in the city and in its boundaries.
The result of the layered narrative aims to excavate a collective memory inherent in Jerusalem’s divided quarters, as if by analogy to Freud’s adoption of a the coexistence of multiple epochs of time in Rome provided a metaphor and powerful figure for individual memory, that speaks to the construction of the Separation Barrier. The place of Jerusalem in collective memory of the Mani–and the trauma of the collective memory of Jerusalem’s occupation–becomes historically excavated from the time of the diaspora in Mr Mani, however, as if to offer a vantage point outside the received history of how Jerusalem has been remapped, and was remapped at individual historical moments as 1948, 1967, and 1980, less in terms of the narrative of the violence inflicted on Palestinians, to be sure, than as a problem of sustaining the transmitted remapping of a human relation to place. If literary questioning of the abilities for this remapping seem at the heart of Mr Mani, posing the question if indeed a single figure committed themselves to repeatedly mipmapping the relation of his family to the city,–and the human difficulties or possibilities of sustaining and indeed even envisioning such a tortured relation to place.
Although the Israeli Defense Forces who advanced to the Western Wall with hopes to “unify” Jerusalem fifty years ago, when the control of East Jerusalem was ended with the expansion of municipal boundaries of the city. Despite hopes for a peaceful unification of the long divided city, the expansion of the Israeli state to the holiest of Jewish places never fulfilled the image of a restoration of peace or end to the exile of a diaspora– as hoped by Israeli Defense Forces who advanced to its base in 1967. In a territorial drive that increased the territory of Israel by a third, the expansion of newly annexed lands raised questions of the problem of mapping the idea of a Jewish nation onto fixed bounds, now embodied in the fraught construction of the Separation Barrier that ostensibly seeks defensively to monitor the entry and exit of Palestinians from the largest city in Israel, but reveals the depth conflict between mapping a Jewish city and a democratic one that demand excavation as much as the monuments of the city.
The recent expansion of settlements along the West Bank that the ‘unification’ of Jerusalem rampaged the city. The wall made Jerusalem into the epicenter of an expansion of territorial expansion and the remapping of the state, even if it once had no clear part of the state. Yet the presence of the Separation Boundary must not be accepted as the definitive remapping of the state and of the relation between the state and Palestinians that it asserts. Expansion of settler communities on hilltop villages are is mapped below by the dark blue dots of settler communities–areas in light blue of settler-run municipalities and hilltop outposts, that have dramatically revised the boundaries where Israel administers law–and lighter tan areas where it administers security–that have so prominently made boundary crossing part of present-day Israeli life in ways that suggest a collective remapping of their occupation of the West Bank.
Economist: Boundaries and Jurisdiction of Israeli State after 1967 War/B’Tselsem
Each chapter of Mr Mani focusses both on the repeated history, almost compulsive, of boundary-crossing, by which a transmitted notion of the Jewish nation was preserved in the territories of other states. The translation of a people long crossing boundaries preceded the sovereign boundaries of their notional nation as a state, Yehoshua claims, as if to understand the difference of the recent assertion of new territorial bounds by the Israel. The ambitious scope of the novel is nothing less than an attempt to excavate the transition of a notion of a Jewish nation to the mapping of a state in which the presence of Palestinian settlers or non-Jewish presence has remained problematic from the start, but begins from the creation of Jewish-majority regions of Israel by the bounding of its borderlines, and the excision of Palestinian populations for the legal and demographic consolidation of West Bank in which almost 400,000 Israelis now live, including East Jerusalem, through the collective problem of the remapping the Jewish people in a territorial boundaries as a sovereign state, assembling the historically fragmented sections of the ancient city in an image of the lost integrity of the Jewish nation.
For Yehoshua imagines moments of this remapping as moments of re-enacting the longstanding almost obsessive compulsion to remap the Israeli nation as a state within the Mani family, and unveiling the dark origins of this remapping before the Israeli state and before Zionism, in the attempts to retell and remap the spiritual relation to the land, as if using individual testimony to suggest the possibilities of remapping as mismappings that stripped Palestinians of rights. If the Separation Barrier is emblematic of the walls that increasingly divide human populations in the world, unpacking the received histories of the state’s relation to the city reminds one of the impossibility of preserving the integrity of Jerusalem within an Israeli state, if that state undermines the possibility of a democratic and inclusive map, rather than one mapping boundaries that create lower-class citizens. The assembly of the fragmented pasts of Jerusalem are imagined to have had a very much longer prehistory in the Israeli historical novel, which while beginning from the present–or from the realization that the Jewish state is invading another country and bombarding the inhabitants of neighboring county, during the offensive advance into Lebanon in the devastating 1982 war. Fragments of progressively temporally receding dialogues with Mani men across five books examine the drives of the Mani to define their selves against Jerusalem to different degrees, examining in microcosm a collective transmission of ideals of settlement that extend to the family’s first ties to eighteenth-century city; each stands as a fragmentary half of a dialogue, but in an almost explicitly cartographic symbolism, their totality across time helps to survey the relations that the male members of the Mani family have to the city of Jerusalem.
3. In order to underline the repeated and recursive return to boundaries and boundary making that defined the relation of Jews to the land of Israel, before the founding of the state, Yehoshua seeks to appreciate the difference in the new relation of the Jewish state to boundaries–a relation quite distance from the relation to boundaries of the Jewish nation. For Yehoshua offers partial perspectives on the intensity of their ties to Jerusalem and the ongoing difficulties of defining a relation to the inhabitants of the sacred city from a family that has long lived in the diaspora, intent to identify itself with the city’s mythic past, less in terms of annexation than the constant rewriting of their relation to the map.
By recasting settlements as neighborhoods, appropriating land within East Jerusalem and beyond as “state lands,” and expanding jurisdictional lines as annexed to the municipal entity, the cartographic erasure of occupants of regions formerly inhabited, but which have lost all signs of previous inhabitation in the spread of over the settlements dispersed beyond Jerusalem on the West Bank, and policed by soldiers protecting settlers who have moved there, by prioritizing the rights of Jewish settlement, is excavated beneath the metropole within what seems a pained relation to the restoration of Jewish presence in a region that the boundary wall circumscribes.
Tensions between the Jewish nation and the state that acts as aggressively to guard borders as any nation arose in 1982–when Yehoshua’s novel was written and begins, when the mission of defending northern boundaries led to the aggressive occupation of Lebanon, conspicuously redefining Israeli forces to the land as occupying powers. The claims for such borders are effectively excavated in the city of Jerusalem across the five sections of an imagined genealogy uncover a complexly fraught relation of the family to the settlement of a space long inhabited by others, and the conceit of the demand to remap their own habitation of Jerusalem’s space stands figurally as a topos and exemplary case for the fraught difficulties of defining an individual relation to the land, as if to provide in microcosm the psychic understory and foundations for the repeatedly shifting boundaries of Jewish settlement that, not only since 1967, but long before, were imposed upon inhabitants of the land.
This is a story not only of maps, but of the fraught personal problems that lie beneath the torturous mapping of a “unified” sovereign space as if it was based on precedents or natural rights. The tortured red line of the Separation Barrier that snakes past the earlier frontier of 1967 and seems planned to include more recent hilltop settlements offers a boundary that defines as permanent the place of new incursions into Palestinian lands, increasingly difficult to accept as having any legal precedent. By examining the testimony about different periods of mapping and remapping these boundaries, Yehoshua’s novel serves to destabilize their unavoidable nature, and to open new spaces for narrating their creation.
The desperate sense of exclusion in the contemporary AP photograph is itself an odd artifact of a nation that long mapped the land of Israel from the pain perspective of exile: for the attempt to The sense of Palestinian exile was captured in the iconic photograph captured the blurred face of a Palestinian, as if rendered out of focus as if by the sheer concrete of the boundary and white houses of Jerusalem, the city from which he seems psychologically and physically remote. In ways that raise questions of how to map the relation of the historical homeland of the city to its inhabitants, the hilltop man seems excised from the city; the focus on the sheer concrete wall seems to blur his relation to place, now circumscribed by a wall, denoted in red below and punctuated with checkpoints, remaps one’s sense of a once-continuous place.
4. The haunted nature of that inhabitation exists jointly in a historical record and in a difficult to map deeply psychological relation to place and a symbolic–as well as an objective or actual–space. Tropes of redemption and return were the central motifs of metaphorically mapping the Jewish nation in the past, and the territorial claims of Israel in Jerusalem are particularly difficult to disentangle from this eschatological geography of the Jewish people. Yet telling a story about the difficulties of settlement–and the pain of settling Jerusalem–is a narrative that has been too often masked or repressed, and the retelling of the experience of such settlement is peeled away in the post-modern pentateuch of five different discussions with the male members of a fictional old Jerusalem family assembles a fragmentary narrative of expiation to a relation to space.
The fragmented stories of the Mani family assemble ties to place by moving backwards to a state of exile or diaspora across five historical periods, excavating an arc of Palestine’s almost compulsive settlement in order to assemble the mysterious psychology of Mani men and their tortured narratives about their relation to place, often encountered as if in different neighborhoods or zones of the historical city, that suggests psychological paradoxes of the depth of attachment to a city already inhabited by others. The historical arc cannot be reduced to a snapshot, as it unpacks a web of claims to boundaries and their crossing and assertion across the city in five historical periods, extending back to the early nineteenth century, but it may recover a sense of original sin to the land whose depth may lie at the deepest base of the Separation Barrier that creates the most painful remapping of the city–and painful confining of its inhabitants–today. The powerful narratives told in the diaspora of the Jewish nation cast the tragedy of exile of a nation–galut–as preparing for the possibility of a future redemptive return remains difficult to square with the continued pain that is cost by the removal of Palestinian residents from land.
Mr Mani unpacks and rewrites what might be seen as a received narrative of triumphal return, to a problematic occupation never clearly mapped in relation to the area’s occupants. In many ways, the Separation Barrier concretizes this pain, and is emblematic of the painful difficulty to create and defend the frontiers of Israel as a sovereign nation that the Israeli army who police this frontier–known as the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF–daily provide for many of the city’s residents. If the Separation Barrier is the he problems of excavating the pain of this resettlement and defense of lands in which one has a necessarily pained relation, embodied in the creation of the sort of boundaries that the Jewish people long crossed, but which now divides the city from its western half along a quite tortured path.
In ways, the definitive remapping of Israeli territory in the Separation Barrier is the culmination of a history of remapping long hostile homelands as the basis for a state, and may sadly reveal the contradictions of asserting statehood. Coex’s color photograph invites us to imagine the perspective of a blurred and unnamed Palestinian posed on a hilltop just bond the Separation Barrier that Israel has built in order separate the nation from the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and from Israel. His despair at physical exclusion from Jerusalem seems staged in order to emphasize exclusion: the impression of exclusion inverts the topos of exile that was long cultivated in the diaspora, an image of exile cultivated by the Jewish people from the time of Jews’ 1492 expulsion from Spain, in a narrative long predating Israel, and nourished in Salonika, Lublin, and Catalonia. But the galuth is deeply interior, a state of mind of exile defined by a remove more than empirically mapped, the photograph evokes the exile of the Palestinian from his homeland. It documents the rooted nature of an existential condition in place, transmitted over time with spiritual dimensions, in mapping the attempts to manage the intense subjective pain of exile more than measure an actual distance from a lost land.
5. In contrast to the image of protracted suffering that the photograph evokes and seems to condense, insight comes through the expansive if imagined historical reconstruction of an Jerusalem family, told in chronological reverse as if to excavate the tortured ties of the Sephardic Mani family that were encountered across five generations from when they first came to Jerusalem, in Mr Mani, whose disjointed narrative maps an interior torture of its own of the pain of not only exile but return. The pain is perhaps most compelling in contrast to the renewal of a Palestinian exile–not only against the 1948 trauma of the geographical displacement, or Nakbah–النكبة–but present in the earliest settlement of Palestine and individual pain that seems the remainder establishing Israel’s frontiers as if in recognition of a guilt of the claims to the land. Yehoshua delineates the scale of this mental pain through one-sided conversations with or about the actions of these resolute Mani men in their crossing of boundaries, to map the compulsive drive to define the borders of the Jewish nation as a state echoed in the contradictions of the Separation Barrier today as a new stage and emblem of the historical occupation of the region.
In the five testimonies that the reader discovers and indeed assembles from earlier generations to piece a story together of the men that came to inhabit Jerusalem–and who seem to have naturalized their relation to place in ways that have remapped the city’s region–Mr Mani exposes the pain of galuth as coexisting with the earliest stages of the settlement of the Holy Land, far more strongly than the possibilities of redemption that were transmitted from the diaspora to the first Zionist congresses. For from the earliest settlers of this Holy Land, the tenacity of the tie to a region or place, without acknowledging its inhabitants, created a deep unease, of deplacing and removing its residents, as much as inflicting despair. The formal similarity to the image of the pensive figure Rodin’s Thinker seems to be unavoidably recalled in the photograph of the man squatting across from the Separation Barrier, but rather than evoke timeless remove in a manner abstracted from place, the unnamed man perched before the international city of Jerusalem seems defined by his despair in relation to the city, now hidden behind sheer concrete walls by the Israeli state, as he contemplates his remove from his rocky perch and the exile that it captures.
Thomas Coex/New York Times