Hostile Homelands: A. B. Yehoshua Excavates Jerusalem’s Boundary Lines

The Palestinian mutely contemplates the sheer concrete expanse of the Separation Boundary as an exile from his homelands, as if pressed by the newly constructed boundary barrier that he rather stoically observes.  What passes through his head, we can’t say, but this blurred figure, captured as he rather eerily recalls Rodin’s Thinker, seems to contemplate the new future of a redrawn boundary to which he has an existential relation. The erection of poured concrete walls have created an apparently permanent border boundary across what he regarded as a homeland, and would contest. But the existential present of this moment conceals the depth with which such boundary lines were long historically contested and redrawn on maps, in a contest of wills that transcends the individual or present tense.   For the man outside the Separation Boundary contemplates a complicated map of shifting territories, difficult to bound, whose boundaries have been painfully renegotiated in the past as they are again rewritten in the present. And as we debate “border security” in the United States, contemplating an artifact that was imported in large part from Israel, we would be well to consider its prehistory, and the criminalization of the crossing of borders in the past. Does A.B. Yehoshua’s imagined archeology help us to do so?

Difficultis of discerning this face of the figure contemplating this Separation Boundary doesn’t conceal that his removal from the city of which he is resident, and the traumatic division among two halves of the city that he once knew as his home.  If the dream of Zionism parallels the time of the commission and production of monumental bronze castings of The Thinker, commissioned in 1880 from the sculptor who began to produce multiple versions from 1904, around the foundation of the political movement of Zionism launched in 1904, to establish the protection and international recognition of an Israeli stage, the fiction of deep affective commitment to the place and boundaries of Israel in the historically defined Holy Land is the subject of seductive palimpsestic unpeeling of the past of one family in A.B. Yehoshua’s Mr. Mani, a historical novel retrospectively stretched across five generations who seek their orientation to a Holy Land and to Jerusalem in ways that they cannot fully ever grasp–but which the reader begins to as he reads the novel’s five parts, as the boundaries of the state of Israel are peeled apart over time in what seems a modern pentateuch of the state, and a new genealogy of the Holy Land.

The boundary line that has been drawn over an area once easily and regularly crossed by foot suggests the deep stakes at claiming a tortured relation to the homeland by the Israeli state, and the threat that the rebuilding of this boundary creates not only in his psyche, but that haunts the psyche of the Israeli state.  The deep memories of a tie to place that the boundary barrier seems to defend cut off residents from their home, even as they intend to create claims. The contrast between the existential remove of watching the concrete separation barrier recently constructed in the city and the historical attachment to the land of Jerusalem prompts questions of archeology of boundaries, barriers, and attachments to place.  The tension between the most recent barrier and the deep historical ties to place seem to condense the repeated historical redrawing of boundaries in the city and the nation, and  psychological problems of drawing or respecting boundaries between peoples and individuals, and the fragile nature of place across shifting boundaries. If rooted in questions of migrations from Europe, across the Mediterranean, and in Israel, which gains concreteness only in the difficulty to map the psychic relation of the person within this place.

Elias Khoury begins Gates of the Sun by describing the specific romance of the map in similarly inter-generational terms, and in truly global terms as ruminating over over the spinning of a globe in a camp outside Beirut, Abu Salem remembers a past toponymy in mesmerizing manner, shifting from Biblical to Palestinian register that shifts to from rhapsody to melancholy and from a real to an imagined map–“”That’s Acre. Here’s Tyre. The plain runs to heart, and these are the villages of the Acre district. her’s Ain al-Zaitoun, and Deir al-Adsad, and al-Birwa, and there’s al-Ghabsiyyeh, and al-Kabri, and her’s Tarshiha, and there’s Bab al-Shams. . . . . Ain al-Zaitoun is the most beautiful village, but they destroyed in in ’48,'” describing an Arabic Palestinian village that existed from the sixteenth century which was depopulated and left the map, as it entered the new boundaries of the modern Israeli state–within whose boundaries it disappeared, receding from maps into personal memory.

The historical challenges of occupying Jerusalem, and indeed preserving a deeply personal and spiritual tie to land, seems tied to border crossings–and indeed creating boundaries–across the city’s ancient geography that the man stoically overlooks.


We are perhaps all too ready to project his traumatic relation to the the contested boundary lines of contemporary Jerusalem, where concrete walls cuts Palestinians from the very regions of a city they long inhabited as it seeks to redraw its map, as if to further traumatize its residents.  While the figure of the Palestinian echoes the notion of a Rodin’s Thinker, contemplating his place in the world, he has a far more clearly located place than the famously mobile piece of sculpture, whose reproduction in casts and in marble transited around the world, moved on a pediment to any space, evoking an idealized act of thought in whatever context it stood:

Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA

Multiple casts of Rodin’s statue were famously mobile, able to circulate globally, independent of site, as icons of man’s intellectual superiority over the world and his surroundings. But the man sit with a site-specific sense o reflection, and effectively caught in the act of being displaced from his surroundings: a city which has long been praised because of its integrity in the religious imagination, and translated to a nation a term that was long reserved for applying to a people, has been beset by divisions that the boundary wall has mapped in Jerusalem is both palpable and insurmountable reminder. It reveals a pragmatics of division that is oddly and paradoxically described as intended to preserve the integrity of the city, by defining its place and security in the public imagination.  

The fictive figure of a “Mani” at the center of this fictitious archeology of a heterodox in Jerusalem parallels the reconstruction of the historical figure of “Mani,” a prophet who was a member of a large Jewish Christian sect in Babylon with strong Gnostic elements as the future prophet described in the New Testament. Mani’s faith was rooted in the creation of a new gospel, in visions perhaps influenced by the fact that his mother was of Parthian descent, of Armenian origins, and was raised in a community of Jewish Christians, but who preached a heterodox faith that combined Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism in a new heterodox complexion: he wrote six works in Syriac, and was eventually crucified after he preached his idiosyncratic heterodox faith to the Indian court of Shapur I in 242, crossing barriers in his life that the six generations of Mani whose fictional archeological record Yehoshua invites the reader to sort out across recent incursions and wars, each replaying the Manichean conflicts that the historical Mani preached: the genealogy traces conflict across borders in a succession of ages, as if participants replayed the historical Mani gospel of a Manichaean struggle across Middle Eastern borders, asking if the very heterodox combination of cultures can survive.

The strong sense of an occupation of the city by generations–“All the generations before me/donated me, bit by bit, so that I’d be/erected all at once/here in Jerusalem, like a house of prayer/or charitable institution,” poet Yehuda Amichai evokes the deep tie to a past that physically ties him to Jerusalem’s present and pasts.  The proprietary sense tied to generations of Jews as bound  to the city of Jerusalem by a binding tie to place defies mapping. But the excavation of this actually quite modern sense is excavated in Amichai’s poetry and an inevitable subject of Israeli fiction.  The next poem in Amichai’s 1973 collection, Poems of Jerusalem, turns from the ties to place to the disruptive nature of the border barrier already built in the Old City, on each side of which flags are raised–“To make us think that they’re happy./To make them think that we’re happy.”–but that obscure who is flying a kite over the Old City, on a string held by a child who stands on its other side; if he cannot ever forget his tie to the city, its walls of separation are never able to be forgiven, but “If I forget thee,/let my blood be forgotten,” to describe the tortured relation that he felt in 1973 to the mapping the relation of the city so closely intertwined to his blood-line.

The issue of bonding to place within one’s blood line was more clearly mapped across time when A.B. Yehoshua compiled a fictional dossier on the testimonies across six generations of men residents in Jerusalem in Mr. Mani, a five-part 1992 historical novel that rewrites a Pentateuch of the Israeli state, or at least the Zionist dream of basing a Jewish state in Jerusalem, a city whose layered history Yehoshua knew well from his father, a local historian of the city, and that in a sense captures his own deep ambivalence to Jerusalem as a homeland or occupied city.  By tracing testimonies of the male members of the Mani family who settled in the city and manufactured this imagined tie to place, he allows them to give evidence of their ties to the city across generations we read in chronological reverse, in ways that seem to unpeeled their own deep internalization of their ties to the city of Jerusalem–and the cross-generational desire to create or recreate a physical tie to place. Even if it is only textual, and returns to landmarks in the city, more than to boundaries that we can understand as fixers, the novel traces mental boundaries, offering poignant testimony of the redrawing of Jerusalem on the map.

While the novel is removed from historical mapping and remapping of the settlement of the city, it traces a deeply psychic map, preserved in Faulknerian fashion of what might as well be a fictional country but could not be disguised as such. The intensity of personal projects of mapping a relation to place and remapping the desired union of each generation to the city, as if to realize the frustrated desires of their forefathers to map and thereby to create a new relation to place, without attending to its residents, so deep was their desire to protect, redraw, and identify with the place of the ancient city.  The creation of one side of the conversations of the Mani men provides a basis to excavate the deeply unfulfilled emotions needs that they bequeathed their descendants, and the incomplete relation that each transmitted as a failure to bind their own family to the city, and the difficulties that they have mapping their relations onto the presence of the city’s actual inhabitants.  The deep neediness of Mani men reveals the strength of ties of rooting oneself and family in place, and the heightened trauma of such a desire for attachment that has built up over generations, a traumatic tie to place that is visited upon its other residents.

The trauma of the Palestinian who regards the concrete barrier is not, literally, on most maps constructed of Jerusalem or of the Holy Land.  Indeed, the trauma of excluding Palestinian presence in the city that the Jewish state has adopted plans to occupy fully, and the provocation of publicly acknowledging it as a capital, seems to seek to enshrine the trauma in maps.  For the boundary barrier expanded the line of Israeli control over the contested city–and even exceeded the territorial claims the so-called Green Line of the 1949 Armistice, or the pre-1967 bounds–but were never intended to provide a territorial boundary for the state.  If those bounds were treated as the new boundary of a national territory after 1967, the expansion was tired to be remapped by the progressive construction of the barrier or boundary wall much further in recent years, as if to over-write and banish earlier memories of settlement, and to stake a rewritten Israeli sovereign relation to the city, now provocatively defined as a national capital on maps.

THomas Coex:AFP Getty

Thomas Coex/AFP

At what cost?  The project of a unified Jerusalem will hardly conceal the deeply pained relation to the territory, however, and seems destined to only augment its military defense.  At this point, it may be opportune to return to the historical excavation of the pained nature of these boundaries–and the compromises that they create in the occupation of lands–is addressed in deeply psychological terms in Yehoshua’s Mar Mani, or Mr. Mani, which traces or excavates the ever-growing costs of such a divide.  The curiously retrospective structure of the five books of the novel peel back historical layers of mapping a personalized Jerusalem through the testimony or discussion with men in a family of Mediterranean Jews and their ties to Jews of central Europe, that throw into relief the intensity of a psychological concentration that takes the Holocaust as its justification for the fulfillment of a Zionist project for retaking the Holy Land.

The project of settling Palestine is seen through the eyes of the long stateless Jews and the ties they have staked to the land from the late eighteenth century.  While often cited as a justification for the existence of Israel as a state, Yehoshua includes the genocide of the Second World War in his novel about five generations of a family who settled in Jerusalem, but throws the history of their tortured relation to place in a far broader context of the ways that people have long pressed against boundaries, and indeed, confused their own personal boundaries with relations to barriers and boundaries that existed, were drawn, or were being redrawn on maps, even as they tried to use maps to navigate their relation to the city for their descendants.  Is the tortured relation to the city something that was bequeathed as a failure to define personal boundaries, and to understand the boundaries that might have existed between Jewish settlers of jerusalem and its inhabitants, that continued to inform either the construction of the wall that extends beyond the pre-1967 border line–


–and the hard place of the wall that divides the complex expansion of the old municipal border of 1949 to encompass its Palestinian and Jewish populations, and the tortured relation each feels to its place.


The border boundary that divides Jerusalem today as emblematic of an utter divide between populations, illegal and asserting itself to be a concrete evidence of the application of the law:  the boundary wall seems to deny any past habitation and any past, to create a new realty of borders, even as it seeks to affirm and inscribe a new divide in the city, even if under the pretext of protection from terrorist attacks.  But the broad historical conflicts of claiming Jerusalem as a Jewish city–even in the face of a Palestinian majority presence–and ruling it as a sovereign part of a Jewish state, rather than one the acknowledges its multiple ethnicities, conceals the tortured relation to place that is the result of denying any voice to its original inhabitants.

Building the boundary reminds us of the existential quality to any line of partition, and the deep effects with which it immediately effects the place and its inhabitants.  The wall, one might say, stares back at the man, sheer concrete without any sense of history or human habitateion, to protect the area extending past the Green Line as if to fix its future movement in the historically shifting map in stable terms.  This unstable map–which seems poised to be shifted once again, for national gain, in the 2017 annexation of the new construct of “Greater Jerusalem” including settlements along the West Bank, transforming a place previously without integrity to fulfill a prophecy of the “expansion” of the city as a part of the Jewish state, using a term of false if apparent neutrality to conveniently conceal and not account for the historical presence Palestinian inhabitants of the same place.

The wall is a remapping of history, and human habitation, after all, and a defense of claims by the Israeli state, built as if concretizing a timeless prophecy, and built as a timeless construction.  The remapping of space and the space of Jerusalem seems the subject of the e classic novel of A.B. Yehoshua about six generations of a Jerusalem family whose intent to throw the immediacy of the current conflict into historical relief continues to have bearing on the apparent absence of population in the retracing of shifting boundaries and the claiming of sovereignty over lands that, in the historical myopia that sees the utter tragedy of dehumanization of the Holocaust–or the condition of statelessness–as the fulcrum for its foundations if not the justification of its existence, but removes its borders and boundaries from history or from the land’s inhabitants, by cartographically declaring it to be an almost timeless truth of territorial advancement and an iconic image without need for an explanatory legend.

Shifting borders.png

The Palestinian man who pauses in Thomas Coex’s photograph, to process the unlitateral imposition of the boundary barrier, seems to struggle to read its place in a spatial map in a city that so often been remapped.  The recent remapping seems to try to undo the extent to which its sheer concrete seeks to erase any element of contingency within its overlapping pasts, or any alternate  future.  The Palestinian who so wistfully regards the wall of sheer concrete bisecting Jerusalem’s West Bank, seems to question from his hill-top perch the possibility of return to a homeland and his reconfigured relation to place by being walled off from his former homeland, as if looking on the ancestral lands which were tended by members of his family, without an ability to make legal claim to them:  the problematic issue of the transmission of a relation to place, and the construction of a Jewish nation of fixed boundaries are examined in affective terms in the powerful 1993  Mr. Mani, where the negotiation with the psychic power of the ties to a bounded nation become both the starting point–the first of five dialogues across six generations is set during the 1982 Lebanon offensive campaign to protect Israel’s northern boundary–but unpacks, onion-style, borders over a long twentieth century, examining the deep psychic effects of a unilateral practice of boundary drawing on the Jewish state and its inhabitants.

To begin from the image of the most recent boundary wall of the Separation Barrier starts to unpack the relation to place that the novel explores from a point after it was written, but that includes a Palestinian perspective in its unravelling of a genealogical transmission of a troubled relation to place.  The pain of exclusion, despite international media attention, has rarely been captured as a trauma of the Jewish state, but the map that it creates of Jerusalem’s new boundaries–and the boundedness of the state of Israel by the Israeli military–demand to be situated in a map not only of borders, but detail the pain of their creation, and the psychological relation to their imposition.  As Ursula K. LeGuin has noted that “The worst walls are never the ones you find in your way.  The worst walls are the ones you build yourself,” the Separation Barrier is an attempt to define the boundaries of settlement along the West Bank, whose electronic fences, concrete barriers, observation towers, lookouts, and armed patrols block movement in ways deemed a violation of international law–but has provided a new boundary line by which Israel has laid claims to the West Bank.  (For a clearer focus on Yehoshua’s novel and its illumination of boundary-drawings, readers might do well to skip ahead to later sections of this post,  §12-14 and especially §14-30.)

The Barrier lays claims to the integrity of Jerusalem.  In ways that affirm impassible structures for Palestinians across roads and routes to travel, it is both a confiscation of lands and an important claim to possession of lands of fixed boundaries  It creates a state of amnesia of former claims to homelands–or of lost relations to land as the Israeli state increasingly redrew its boundaries form the first U.N. Partition Plan after World War II in 1947–in ways that have increasingly redrawn the defensible boundaries of Israel’s birth or emergence as a ‘modern’ nation of fixed boundaries, which, as it has grown in proportion to the disproportionate population growth of the region–albeit the four-fold increase of Jews is met by a five-fold growth of Palestinians.


How was the Jewish nation created as a Nation but in the unilateral imposition of new boundary lines?  The settlement of Jerusalem has recently taken its most violent form of remapping in the creation of a wall that cuts off Palestinian residents from their former homelands.  But the deep drive to remap the city as a new homeland for the Jewish nation after years of exile has created a problem of exile of its own that demands to be mapped less in terms of the historical imposition of constantly revised borders than the untenable nature of the continual remapping of Jerusalem’s settlement and identity in unilateral ways, as if the promise of mapping did not have to account for or respect the demographic entanglement that increasingly defines the region, but which its maps have been designed not to preserve–and increasingly to serve the interest of defining and defending the territory of Israel as a nation-state.

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 historical purpose of the Separation Barrier was indeed to remap the city of Jerusalem and its safety in a Jewish state, at a remove from its Palestinian residents.  Such a forced remapping was explicitly acknowledged by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s on senior advisors as seeking to “give order to space” on the eve of the Wall’s construction, able 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.  The framing of a new relation to place by such open boundary drawing does not arise from precedent–or from being passed down across generations–but elevates the cumulated effects of boundary drawing designed to protect and exclude.


Separation Boundary or “Security Fence” in red; greater Jerusalem outlined in blue; the historical Green line of 1948-67/palmap, 2009


The almost compulsive redrawing of the boundary lines on the map, while often seen as a continuation of Zionist principles or Zionism, suggests a new notion of the nation of fixed and defensible frontiers, distinctly unlike the Jewish nation that was transmitted in the diaspora or that was nourished in the nineteenth century: and the novelistic unpacking of the transmission of a deeply affective tie to that nation is the subject of the five generations of the Mani family encountered in the isolated dialogues in A. B. Yehoshua’s 2009 Mr. Mani, which places the even if it was written before the creation of the Separation Boundary redefined the geography of Jerusalem.

1.  While often presented as the extension and culmination of a scriptural claim to inheritance, the transmission of a legal notion of the nation demands examination as a transmission of a shifted notion of the nation, and the excavation a generational sense to the increasingly defined boundaries of Israel as a Jewish nation–and the sentimental or affective relation to the boundaries of the nation as lines needing to be defended to ensure that nation’s safety–demand excavation as a deeply affective relation to place, transmitted less in legal or logical terms, than as a deep-running mental map framing a relation to place that is fashioned and reconfigured across generations more than transmitted whole.  Although the Separation Boundary that maps a relation between Israelis and Palestinians in blunt terms–“us here; you there“–is argued to be a Zionist principle and precept, but exist as an effect of a sustained drawing of boundaries less as lines that were crossed, or could be crossed, than as mapping a nation able to be militarily defended with its own deep psychic effects.

While the Separation Boundary is a new rewriting of the defense of these boundaries and of a psychic attachment to place, drawing boundaries in ways Israeli novelist A. B Yehoshua early tried to excavate what he saw as attempting to contain tensions by framing and codifying a fixed relation to a space of settlement.  The expansion of settlements around Jerusalem through 2011 that the Barrier seems to defend–

Population increases in Settlement areas around Jerusalem.png

While the Separation Barrier authorized by Ariel Sharon as a means to define the border between Israel–and of Jerusalem–to the West Bank eroded the justice of Palestinians and their place in the Israeli state, it created a new height for this redrawing of boundaries.

John Berger argued, in a short 2002 essay on borders, reprinted in Hold Everything Dear, grew after the events 9/11, as the building of walls came to constrain movement; the activity of wall-building was observed by Berger  to be tied to an emptying of language about homelands–such an emptying was “the essential activity of the building of walls–walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, frontier controls, and opaque media,” he argued–that reinstated once fluid boundaries across which people moved through lived space along territorial oppositions, invested with inflexible legal authority that obscured the absence of legal precedent.  The Palestinian who watches the newly built boundary of Israel, and contemplates the authority of its presence in his life in almost existential manner, poses a question of mapping a personal relation to space and place, as well as providing an emblem of the exclusion of Palestinians from the land they once inhabited.  For if the drawing of new borders undercuts the long process of the historical negotiation and renegotiation of borders, creating a deeply dangerous sense of historical amnesia, the erosion of the past habitation of space seems deeply weakened by the relatively sudden imposition of this sheer concrete boundary–first called a “barrier,” to acknowledge its role in obstructing the motion of populations, if to downplay its constructed nature, by tractors, but in ways that obfuscated the separation of Palestinians from their lands, so much as the act of segregation it created by treating its construction as a means that “gave order to space” so much that it would become the new “reference line” for all future negotiations, whose monumental would over-write previously negotiated maps.

But isn’t it also a line of exile?  If so, this sense of exile demands to be mapped as the genealogy of a complex spatial imaginary.   Created in the name of security, and in an age of globalization designed to erase boundaries and barriers, the rise of the barrier has deep needs to redraw the occupation of territories despite the lack of legal precedents.  First termed a ‘fence,’ and then a ‘wall,’ erases the deep psychic effect of the eight-foot tall sheer concrete Barrier with four-meter ditches dug on either side, a no-man’s-land monitored throughout by electronic surveillance, and the insurmountable division between place and alienation from place it creates.  Studded with twenty-foot observation towers every two hundred meters, the massive military investment in its construction is a remapping of a city that was once multi-ethnic, and is increasingly referred to in the news as an “apartheid wall” if far more commonly termed a “security fence,” “security wall,” “separation barrier,” and “separation wall,” or even mystifyingly cast in an odd litotes as a “concrete fence.”

The persistence of linguistic confusion underscores Berger’s point:  while designed to be disinterested in language, the creation of the Separation Boundary by Israeli Defense Forces is designed as a categorical division of the holy landscape.  If walls are built all over the world an illusion of security from Berlin to the West Bank, the size of the Separation Barrier, over four times as long and over twice as high as the Berlin Wall, obscures the absence of legal precedent in its creation of a new cartographical reality.  For it serves to cut residents definitively from their lands by a remapping of classical proportions that interrupt daily lived experiences and claims to land in ways that are not able to be ignored for those who live there.


Wall around Qalqiliya (August 1, 2003)/ The Electronic Intifada


Guardian (2003) (interactive map)

The deeply alienating eight-foot tall Separation Barrier not only creates but may be seen as the lastest manifestation of deeply tortured psychic to the land.  Indeed, the consequences and ramifications of such tortured relation to the lands are unable to be ignored.  Rewriting the border is only the most recent sovereign defense of Israel as a state and territory building boundaries to defend Jewish claims to settlement that revise earlier national bounds, affirming possession of lands.  If they are argued to echo the experience of exile ritually transmitted among generations in the Jewish nation, the experience of galuth long mystically interpereted and understood as an exile from God, and a removed promised land and deferred promise,  as if long prepared to be inhabited, the depth of psychic inheritance suggests a much more complex remapping of lands, mapped less as a direct inheritance than an oddly amnesiac transmission of spatial imaginaries of exile, running against the demographic realities of the entanglement of local populations, and intended to assert new security needs.  Rather than it reflects the repeated traumas of the transmission of practiced movement across and outside boundaries, the Separation Barrier is rooted in the creation of an erasure of personal experience:  the monumental separation barrier is not a “natural” reclaiming of place, but works in traditions of the remapping of the Holy Land as a region of settlement and residence, and its fortification as a borderline by Israeli Defense Forces removes residents from their homeland, as much as recreate a a sense of exile–rather, it recreates the deep pain of ignoring residents that has been transmitted among generations of settlers of Jerusalem.

As Scholem identified the pain of exile in the nineteenth century that was interpreted as an exile from God, the pain in the figure perched contemplating the sheer unscalable concrete of the Separation Barrier from the nearby hilltop, is far more concrete:  he sits in mute dialogue with the reshaping of East Jerusalem; as much as he is consumed by the pain of staking a return, he resents claiming a national identity of fixed borders.   If the sense of exile was transmitted across generations, as a psychic inheritance, the Separation Barrier cannot be so clearly mapped, but shares psychic roots in a clearer spatial imaginary.  As much as it can be symbolically excavated as a relation to God, the psychic relation to the mapping of territories of the Israeli nation across generations were a theme mapped by A. B. Yehoshua , an activist and member of a old Jerusalem family, invited viewers to reflect in his 1990 novel Mr. Mani, which moves across five generations from the present to earlier eras of mythical proportions in the framing of Israel as a nation of fixed frontiers, from Israel’s 1982 Lebanon War, where Israeli Defense Forces openly launched an invasion across Israel’s northern boundary–even as they claimed “We have no aspirations for a single inch of Lebanese territory” and described the north push, somewhat deceptively, “a struggle for the sake of peace“–if a peace that would change the northern border for almost twenty years, and created a huge number of refugee camps in response to the Israeli invasion allegedly so aggressively staged to preserve its border. The invasion was the first aggressive move of Israeli army across its borders, but provides the basis to investigate and to excavate conflicts around borders and border-crossing from before the foundation of a Jewish state.

Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (2002)

Instead of mapping a psychic inheritance of exile, Yehoshua’s meditation on the five Mani men map in tortured ways the defense and definition of these boundaries as an artifact of the state.  Rather than being cast in terms of a genealogical transmission of a lineage with a promised destiny, the tortured history of the declaration of boundaries emerges across five chapters or books each set in historical moments receding in time that raise questions about the naturalization of the boundaries of the Israeli state and the contradictions of the definition of Israel as a nation and the transmission of ideas of the Jewish nation.  Rather than provide a continuous history, the specific moments of each one-sided dialogue with five male members of the Mani family, or framed as reminiscences of dialogues with Mani men, has the effect one only gradually appreciate of inverting of the transmission of knowledge from father to son–haged or story-telling to meet the injunction of telling the story between generations long cultivated in exile–by suggesting how deeply rooted is the pain of settlement among Jewish families as they emerged from the diaspora, in ways that map an extended historical reframing of the history of settling Israel–a post-modern pentateuch.  While the inspiration of this structure may be partly happenstance–Yehoshua was of a fifth-generation Jerusalem family, but the interlocking structure of their testimonies offer a genealogy of the nation–and the sense of a nation–the uncovering of the psychic relation to the map that emerged from the late eighteenth century, as much as the galuth cultivated in the diaspora, created a relation to national boundaries of which the Separation Barrier may be the result, and the most painful inheritance of a deeply fraught relation to place.

2.  For Yehoshua presents a psychological archeology of the occupier, as it were, entangled with the  project of mapping the Jewish nation as a nation-state less as the transmission of a symbolic tie to place than a compulsion with deep psychological roots.  This post tries to place the problem of mapping a homeland as a nation through how maps provide a point of reference for the complex relation of Jews to the shared space of Jerusalem.  As if to help readers reflect on the historical mapping of these boundaries may suggest the torment and  painfulness of claiming this homeland, Yehoshua offers a deep meditation on the continued meaning of the geographical partitions, inherent in trying to translate the exiled Jewish nation to territorial bounds, and the problem of the relation of Mani men who see their sense of mortality as inseparable from their settlement of the Holy Land.

In surprising ways by focussing on the lack of unity and hidden sense of guilt that Yehoshua seeks to excavate in the tortured relation of individual to place in the testimonies of a Jerusalem family, who in occupying the Holy City remain tortured by the anxiety or haunting of a sense of guilt inseparable from their relation to place–so long as they neglect the stories of its former inhabitants, or restore people into their maps, who are excluded from them in ways that–while far more bitter for the Palestinians as this man who existentially regards the erection of the sheer concrete Separation Barrier to try to process the new relation to his lived space it creates–seems to continue a compulsive if tortured need to continue to assert a relation to place.


It is hard to note what goes through the head of the blurred figure who watches the sheer concrete wall–no doubt a Palestinian–atop his rocky perch, but he appears to  contemplate a distinct sense of loss.  The prime purpose of the wall seems to be to erase and obscure the history of previous patterns of residence and enforce new boundaries of the modern state.  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.  Israeli author A. B. Yehoshua confronted the problem of mapping the problematic nature of that relation to place–as much as to people–in his historically expansive post-modern Pentateuch of Jewish settlement, simply titled Mr Mani, a novel focussing as if in microcosm on one family’s relation to the settled space of Jerusalem, through the testimonies of different generations on the family’s relation to place.  It is no coincidence that the author, who grew up in Jerusalem but does not dwell there, began the book after the inheritance of the papers of his father, Yaakov Yehoshua, a local historian of the old city, as if in result of excavating the nachlass his father had bequeathed him, to untangle the relation of the people to the land or to make sense of the map that processed their relation to the city.  For against the screen of historical change, there is a sense that the novel uncovers the psychological inheritance, as if to ask whether it is unchanging, and how long it will remain so prominent.

While the novel focussed largely on the male members of one family, the result is a compelling history of the collective relation of a Jewish nation to the place as it was so forcefully remapped as a modern nation. If  one of the most mythic narratives of the arrival of a promised land is described in the Old Testament, and the foundation of the Old Kingdom, the narratives generations of Mani men present as before the jury of history in Mr. Mani try to excavate a relation to place that has changed–and is misunderstood and mapped as a timeless relation to place.  Rather, the but a repeatedly frustrated attempt to stake an individual claim of actual relations to a land among generations of the Mani family suggest something less akin to an inter-generational transmission of verbal knowledge–an oral transmission central to Jewish identity–but in reverse.  The excavation of the past testimonies of Mani, constructed in one half of a dialogue about individual five patriarchs of the Mani of  different generations.  Collectively, they invite the reader to trace the transmission of a sense of striving for identity hat leads  to a mipmapping of a nation state in a land without political coherence–or boundaries–until very recent dates.

If Jerusalem has often and repeatedly been excavated for meaning, the dialogues offer a stratigraphy of relations to the monuments of the city and its walls in different periods, by which the viewer can orient oneself both to the family that has long “lived” in Jerusalem, and claimed a territorial identity to the city over time, as if to encounter witnesses who narrate their relation to place at a time when the military defense of Israel’s new boundaries were for the first time achieved by leading an army into the sovereign territory of another nation.  The occasion of the war offers a basis for the imperative to uncover layers of  generational histories to uncover a secret of Mani family–but also a hidden secret, it seems, of the Israeli state, from the moment of a visitation of a gravesite in Jerusalem on the Mt. of Olives, in the Palestinian section of Jerusalem, that uncovers the tenacity shared across six generations of Mani, as if to raise the question of how the transmission of a nation rooted in fixed territorial boundaries arose.  Although the testimonies in each chapter of Yehoshua’s novel recede in time, as if in an archeology that gradually exposes the secrets transmitted either knowingly or unknowingly in the Mani family, whose chronological links emerge only gradually for the reader, the excavation of the Mani family’s history suggests a dark secret as much as the  transmission of knowledge:  the attachment to place of Gavriel Mani is to an extent explained, or psychoanalyzed, in the deeply flawed preservation of an intensely psychic relation to place that seems transmitted among these men.  As six distinct speakers try to clarify their own experience in the Holy Land, we understand their experiences from the vantage of 1982, during unprecedented incursion of another country in the Lebanon War, backwards to 1848 and to the French Revolution, we open the story of self-destructive nature of Mani men who subsume themselves to an idea of the nation.  The book repeatedly returns to the problems of mapping the nation, and imagining that the nation of Israel as mapped and defended with concrete bounds of the sort that are best visualized in a map.

The deceptive defense across the northern border is placed in an archeology of the complex relations to borders of Israel as a state, not to normalize the violence of the aggression, but to contextualize its military incursion as the tragic result of a history of trading across borders and border zones.

3.  It is a tacit knowledge of place and tie to place that is excavated as lying at the heart of the current paradoxes of the Jewish nation, as if to excavate the notion of Israel as a state of defensible frontiers.  Yehoshua assembles individual historically isolated testimonies that parallels the transformation of boundaries built around the nation that has become Israel, but seem to echo and return to the defense of Israeli boundaries most recently incarnated by the Separation Boundary.  In doing so, the novel traces the paths of an imagined stemma of the word “nation” and “boundary” a corruption of the metaphorical sense of the Jewish nation from  the diaspora, which cannot be understood but in reference to the project of the Separation Boundary, even if it did not yet exist:  for the fixation of the Mani on boundaries serves to define a personal relation to place help to situate the notion of a secret hidden truth that stands as an original deceit or lie–akin to original sin–that the needy ties and almost obsessive return of the male members of the family to Jerusalem might be better understood as a hereditary affliction.  The testimonies of episodes of the family story revises  the triumphant narrative of resettlement, and raise questions of what alternative narrative the reader might reconstruct .

The biblical sense of a triumphant narrative from Exodus is not only inverted or undermined, but re-interpreted outside of religious terms, as a traumatic relation to place that is afflicted by turning a purposive blind spot to the existence of previous inhabitants of place.  The memory of ruins is recuperated is situated historically in Yehoshua’s novel, less as a collective memory than a shared trauma of a deeply rooted psychic attachment to the notion of Israel as bounded nation demanded to be mapped as if it were an ordinary nation-state.  Inviting readers to “understand the present by digging through the past,” less in a declensionist narrative of Zionism’s hopes or a realization of a divine promise, the novel invites readers to examine not a triumphal narrative of the transmission of teacher to student of a promised settlement of the Holy Land as concealing the pain of nourishing such a deeply cultivated image of return through mental maps of the status of the precedence and legitimacy of a tie to place that is created in mental maps.

The result is to illuminate the trauma of mapping Israel as a nation across generations of Mani who are drawn compulsively, animated by their translation of a diaspora image of the nation to a territory, to settle lands already settled, long before 1948.  The effect of uncovering the pain of these psychic ties or hopes to define a proprietorial relaiton to the land is all too often obscured in political narratives or in those premised on a divine promise of restoring separation.  The pain of settlement is rooted in the exclusionary precepts of settlement.  For since Mani leave the diaspora in the late eighteenth in hopes to arrive in Palestine from Salonika, the tenacity of settlement is shown to have been transmitted across the early Zionist congresses, Mandate of Palestine, and Second World War among Mani men in what can only be called a pained rather than a promised relation to place, long before the nation was mapped as a territory.  In deeply resonant ways, each Mani man is driven by a fierce tenacity of settlement, rather than being dominated by the pain or unease of the galuth, or exile.  Each translated their image of a nation to the Holy Land through different attempts at its remapping, without acknowledging its actual settlement.  In so doing, each generation seems to confront the problem of remapping the Jewish nation as if it were a bounded “nation” from the time of the French Revolution, afflicted by a compulsion to affirm and map their tie to place in ways that cannot be read but as echoing the obstinacy of building the Separation Barrier.

THomas Coex:AFP Getty

Such an imagined excavation of past narratives of relations to Jerusalem’s boundaries is itself a massive remapping, attentive to the boundaries of the state of Israel help to map past precedents for a potentially  flawed project of the Israel’s modern state.  In ways less triumphal than pained, the testimony repeatedly  omits the people who reside in those very lands, possessed by the vision of mapping fixed boundaries of a people who so long lived in a condition of diaspora, as it was understood as a “nation” in new terms..  If unintentionally, Yehoshua’s story provides a precedent for the affirmation of the Separation Boundary wall and the bounding the nation, through its unpacking of precedents to defining a bounded place as a privileged site of military protection.  The excavation of layers of history historicize  the affective and emotional relation to place has led the Israeli state to redefine the relation of residents to place, by remapping place in ways that exclude the threatening nature of “open space.”  But if it remaps the city, how can it be mapped, or what art can be able to map the symbolic reconstruction of how “Israel” occupies the space long defined as a historical site of the Jewish nation, before the existence of nations in the terms that we understand them today.

The mapping of the place of the wall in the spatial imaginary of Jerusalem challenges the arts of mapping and sufficiency of any solely visual map, the symbolic power of its place-names and so long nourished and cultivated in a spatial imaginary and indeed in maps, which stand at the end of the day less as a form of legal precedent–as they are often treated–or historical record, than as evidence of an assertion of the primacy of a relation to place, that fatally seems to subsume the desires of its own inhabitants, in ways that almost seek to offer a key to remap Yehoshua’s own intensely complicated and fraught relation to the walled city that was first divided from 1947, and whose absence of division is removed from public memory–much as future generations of Israeli soldiers may not have memories of the absence of the Separation Boundary that has terrifyingly but increasingly become part of the city’s permanent landscape.


The bounding of place haunt the state’s pasts.   Yehoshua’s dense genealogy of attitudes to ties to place maps, on a psychic level, rather than an objective one, the deep guilt in the redefining of people to places that needs to be excavated, and a reflection on the question not only of whether it is not tenable for the region’s future, raising questions about whether the tenable nature of settlement was already deeply compromised by its earliest maps, which tired to translate the clams of defending a Jewish nation as a nation of fixed bounds, as defended by the Israel-Lebanon war when Yehoshua wrote the book, and newly asserted in the Separation Boundary.  The art of mapping the claims of the Separation Boundary are a steep challenge to map, either in terms of its legality or precedent, but the narrative of Mr. Mani is strikingly told in terms of excavating historical and mental maps that Yehoshua suggests helped redefine the Jewish nation by fixed frontiers from the late eighteenth century.  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.  But the symbolic territory of the site of the Old Temple and buildings that gathered such longstanding symbolic relevance during the Jewish diaspora were long problematic to remap in ways that omitted the perspective of the region’s actual residents.  Yehoshua’s book, while written with a clear political consciousness questioning the future of the Israeli state that has come to present itself as the defender of the Jewish nation, examines the individual level of the remapping of space, excavating less the claims in a map than the deep, and rarely recognized trauma, that the author places at the roots of so forceful and deeply melancholic remapping of the individual’s relation to place, rarely evident on a map.

4.  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 that were understood long before the state of Israel as a set of Hebrew toponyms and place-names around the site of the Temple, as much as by fixed frontiers.

Jerusalem 19th c temple map.png

Eran Laor Cartographic Collection/ National Library of Israel

Contemporary to the first surveys of Jerusalem in the very early nineteenth century—the first known survey map of Jerusalem was drafted in 1818 by the well-traveled botanist and collector Franz Wilhelm Sieber of Prague, skilled in graphical arts, and trained as an engineer–most often purposely omitted boundary lines.  They rather staked a clear notional relation to place, as if to preserve the image of the region whose geography had been described in scriptural narrative, and to show its continued existence as a place–and presumably for settlement.   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.

The definition of the new boundaries around Jerusalem and the Israeli state are heightened as a confirmation of the end of the diaspora, to be sure, and the state of exile or Galuth long nourished and preserved in the diaspora.  The mapping of territoriality was newly understood as an exit from galuth and the pain of exile, in the recovery of Holy Israel and the translation of “Israel” to a mapped state:  the translation shifted from crossing than establishing and fixing boundaries in the twenty-first century defense of settlements on the West Bank and near East Jerusalem, perhaps to affirm the energy of Israel and ward off the psychic distress of exile, if the distress of the Palestinian figure now excluded from his land perched on a hillside was reduced to watching the newly constructed wall in a condensation of the suffering of the Nakbah–those tragic events of ethnic cleansing 1948 when some 700,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes and tens of thousands killed, as Israel’s borders were made.

The danger of naturalizing boundaries of occupation that has noe 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 the contemporary Palestinian author Ala Hlehel, who lives in Israel, wrote provocatively if polemically in 2017, foregrounding the relation of the ruins that Jewish settlers had reclaimed in Palestine as foregrounding the ruins that Israelis had later made of the Occupied Territories:  the notion of ruins to be resettled so central in the biblical narrative and in a Zionist map of place, and of the traces of a new homeland, suggested that the presence of ruins constitute a present that obscures the presence of other presents in particularly painful ways:  the notion of “ruins,” “ruined dwellings,” “waste places” and “ruined cities” of Israel translated from the Old Testament to the current landscape of the Middle East is a mipmapping, as is the diaspora hope  of returning to  rebuild old “ruins” as living communities “gathered out of the peoples . . .  brought forth from nations.”   Yet if this was something of an animating and inspirational  fiction in the collective imaginary that compelled the region’s rebuilding and settlement, the defense of these boundaries is quite distinct.  Hlehel  framed an argument about the difficulties of settling lands as if they were not settled, that may have captured but one side of the historical complexity of the evolution of the landscape of the Holy Land.  He seems to engage Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai’s questioning in “The Jews” in an extended poetic reflectionthe relation of Israeli Jews to history–“The Jews are not a historical people/And not even an archeological people, the Jews/Are a geological people with rifts/And collapses and strata and blazing lava.”  Amichai’s poem abandoned the metaphor of ruins to address the paradoxes of Israeli–and Jewish–nationhood, to which Yehoshua seems sympathetic in his stratigraphy of settlement that suggests the landscape filled with geological disasters–rifts, breaks, and calamities–rather than continuities.  For 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 which was preserved for those returning from a state of exile, but the courses of settlement and the remapping of a community in Israel and Palestine has proceeded outside of a clear linear narrative, but in fits and starts.

The problem of the continued occupation of the lands hence demands particular artful tools of mapping to represent, and arts of cartography that extend beyond the definition of past and present boundaries on a map of sovereign claims:  and the transformation or grafting of a new notion of nationhood onto the Jews, linked more closely to a territory than it ever was.   To be sure, Hlehel has however watched with horror as the expansion of Israeli 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”:   but this dynamic exhausting all inhabitants, has its own history.  In the present, to be sure, the agency of settlement seems obscured:  “the wheels are so interlocked, . . . so tightly wound, integrated, and coherent that it is hard to distinguish its beginning from its end,” but  the deep symbolic and psychic ties to the ruins of biblical civilization evolved in ways that always concealed beneath rights of their occupation a deep disquiet that Yehoshua helps readers to uncover, in a narrative of a suitably post-modern Pentateuch, rooted less in the transmission of an ideal or promise, or a covenant, but in something akin to the perversion of an inheritance, in a deeply unstable political landscape, that doesn’t adhere to the transmission of a received written narrative.

A deeply rooted psychological 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, that was both deeply rooted in a past and that deployed a sense of the past in new ways as a basis to understand their place in a foreign landscape.  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–he did so in ways that communicated his discovery of the layering of pasts in Rome, perhaps in ways unlike the survival of a remote past in Jerusalem, but as a contemporaneous survival of multiple ages of the past.   The survival of such multiple pasts might be made evident by an analogous excavation of their lost traces, in an another imagined map, of 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.

5.  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–belie 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

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  but suggestively psychoanalytic ways, the quite different generational testimonies provide accounts of a fraught tie to place, collectively  unpacking a very sedimented psychological map of the Jewish people’s relation to the city that is not only symbolic, but impulsive or compulsive in its intensity.  The sense of sharing an  ahistorical relation to place that 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 psychic 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 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, when forces sent to repel PLO forces who had congregated near the border in a threatening way, began a massive air-and-sea advance to Beirut. The excavation of the history of a nation-state whose 1948 declaration led to the joint attacks from the borders of neighboring Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon in 1948, uncovers and excavates layers of a stratigraphy of a collective relation to place by individual testimonies beyond the struggles for borders transmitted in maps. The testimonies Yehoshua uses are not Palestinian or including Jerusalem’s inhabitants, but 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

6.  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.

The story challenges us to remap the relation of the nation to its space, indeed, and the clear causality of finding new boundaries into which the Jewish nation might be claimed to live more safely, and finds it incumbent upon themselves to defend.  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.

Jerusalem bselem.pgn
Annexed lands

B’tselem (2002)

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.

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Annexed lands


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.

Btselem/Separation Barrier

7.  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.

Btselem/Separation Barrier

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.

8.  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 Maniwhose 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

Lawrence Wechsler cogently observes in Convergences, western paintings provide templates, models, and symbolic forms to confront and shape dynamic settings of many photographs, and Thomas Coex captured an image of a contemplative Palestinian that echoes the classic image of Rodin’s Thinker, and invites us to enter into the thoughts of exclusion from Jerusalem that the boundary wall creates, drawing on the image of contemplation to describe the frustration of processing the individual relation to space after the Separation Boundary–and indeed the rigid boundaries that the boundary creates for Palestinian residents whose presence it ignores.  How to define or map the remove of the Jewish people from this place, and the compulsion to return, or the perspective of those excluded by the Separation Barrier and Nakba?  The gesture of the seated Palestinian coincidentally echoes the European statuary of Auguste Rodin, and The Thinker, in ways that  intensifies his apparent consideration of the problematic place of the wall as an unilateral assertion and act of nation-building.

The perhaps accidental echo of interiority suggests a situated nature of the universal image of thought and interiority Rodin’s monumental statue conjured, gives an oddly site-specific quality to an image that was in fact widely serially reproduced after its exhibition in the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, cast and recast as an icon of intellectual reflection removed from cultural context, from Paris, to Louisville KY, San Francisco, Palo Alto, New York, Munich, and Tokyo, as an icon of the figure of intellectual interior reflection of striking mobility.   The statue’s ever-present nature and the cross-cultural popularity it gained as an icon among Westernized bourgeoisie of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries made it almost an icon of ubiquity and placelessness that give new poignancy to the specific nature of the Palestinian’s contemplation of the exile created by the Separation Barrier.


Auguste Rodin, Le Penseur (first entitled Le Poète) on Plinth/Musée Rodin, Paris

The Thinkier idealized a masculinized vision of Western thought, in multiple bronze casts from 1904 to 1985, as if it was among the most mobile signifier of cultural value of intellectual transcendence, if not a celebration of the universality of human reflection, showing a physical wrestling with intellectual thought, and celebrating a triumph of thought, whereas the immobility of the man watching the Separation Barrier seems almost vanquished by it:  the image, originally of Dante for Rodin’s monumental Gates of Hell, has become a symbol of the triumph of intellectual reflection over place–and a telling point of reference for the photograph of a Palestinian whose relation to place was tried to be forcibly changed by the Separation Boundary.


The assertion has long plagued the foundation of the Israelis state, creating similarly haunting dilemma.  The anonymous Palestinian perched no the generic hillside contemplates the obstuction  of the Separation Barrier as an obstruction is site specific, and a scar, carved into the in deeply fraught site-specific dispute of territoriality and tradition.  Besides, galuth cannot be contemplated in the abstract:  it is experienced, and exists for the interior, and despite its spatially determined nature of the “exile of the nation from its natural place,” cannot be mapped.  The problem that the Separation Barrier and Mr. Mani both raise is how the process of return can possibly be ethically or consensually mapped in the Middle East.

Mideast Israel Palestinians

As if rehearsing the narrative of the exist from Galuth of the Jewish people, the sheer concrete of the Separation Boundary creates an exile for the Palestinian.  Of course, the irony of such contemplation of exile for the man perched on the hill is apparent.  For he contemplates the the city from which the settlements are cut off.  As he looks wistfully at the wall of sheer concrete that bisects Jerusalem’s West Bank, from atop his hilltop perch, he faces exile from a homeland as if to question the possibility of return.

It is impossible to gain access to what goes through his head, but the photograph seems to condense a complex reaction to the remapping of Jersualem.  But the Separation Barrier could only be regarded with some resignation, and anger.  Rewriting the border by means of an eight-feet tall sheer unscalable concrete wall is only the most recent sovereign defense of Israel as a state and territory building boundaries able to defend Jewish claims to settlement beyond earlier national bounds, implicitly, perhaps, undergirded as affirming possession of lands long prepared to be inhabited and inhabit as a restoration of a “natural” place, despite the demographic entanglement of its actual inhabitants.  Indeed, the redefinition of psychological attachment to place that the Barrier seeks to create rungs against the complex demography Jerusalem long enjoyed.


Although the Separation Boundary, the most massive infrastructure project ever attempted in Israel, suggests a desperation of affirming the territorial bounds of the Jewish people and Israeli state, he compulsion to map the settlement of Israel as a nation is traced in a collective biography that Yehoshua, starting from the bloody defense of northern boundary during the 1980 Lebanon war.  If archeology is long associated with the Holy City of Jerusalem, the excavation of this compulsion offers maps the trauma of constantly crossing in hopes to begin the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem.  In a reflection on Zionism and kabbalah in 1937, the German Jew Yitzhak Baer argued in 1937 in the novel Galuth that the experience of exile is not eternal and cannot be expected to last forever, and the Jews manifest an identity “even higher” than all nations, arguing “God gave to every nation its place, and to the Jews he gave Palestine” in ways that met a new audience in 1939 in Germany.  When he affirmed that if the destiny of galuth would endure, “by natural law, Galuth cannot last forever;” he promised the “negation of exile” must occur.

Claims for the necessity of the negation of exile have mutated to claims for the regions of Judea and Samaria–in an apparent attempt to refute a two-state solution, or to place a roadblock in its path, and deny his homeland.  This image of individual reflection and indeed interiority was perhaps accidentally captured as a response to the  Separation Barrier dividing the contested city of Jerusalem, once defined, in the  1947 war of the founding of the Israeli state, as a “corpus separatum,” outside of any state and under international supervision because of its multi-ethnic composition and recognizable symbolic meaning.


9.  The tenacious persistence of such unilateral mental maps creates a tenuous defenses of untenable borders stands to obstruct progress to a two-state solution:  the figure seems to contemplate the mapping of space and how the boundary creates a map that articulates his own relation to place, and to try to process the insistence on map-drawing that the Separation Barrier expressed.  The sense that the period of exile–or diaspora–of Mediterranean Jews is however renarrativized in particularly effective and reflexive ways in Mr. Mani, written by a member of an old Jerusalem Jewish family who sought to track the migrations of a fictitious Sephardic family across territorial boundaries, to ask if the sort of equation that Baer made in his rumination on exile–a slim book that acquired highly symbolically if not polemic value when this genealogy of Jewish extra-rational genius appeared in English in 1947 and in Hebrew in later years, the generations preserving a vision of national identity in Baer’s work are gently suggested in the narrative of Yehoshua’s own reverse chronology to have made a deeply incorrect linguistic confusion or slippage in their sense of themselves as a nation during the French Revolution, and Yehoshua imagines his own ability to uncover episodes of that confusion of mapping Jerusalem as the seat of a nation.


For the echoes of historical exile for the jews are reimagined in the narratives of the Mani–or the partial testimonies of Mani men who are engaged directly or indirectly by individual witnesses, to invite us to map their place in history outside of a clear narrative of predestination, and to suggest the contingency of their interpretations of their relations to place.

Yehoshua’s work is centered around Jerusalem–city of his birth, and of which his father was closely involved in preserving and transmitting, in ways that made him a local historian against he marshalled imagined evidence.


The historical resonances of the remapping of Jerusalem as a part of the nation, and of re-inscribing the sovereignty of Israel, transcends the project of providing a protective security barrier for Jerusalem residents.   Although the face of the Palestinian is blurred in Thomas Coex’s photograph, he seems to try to reckon with the permanence of the new barrier, facing the wall that arcs across the photograph’s base and dominates the local landscape.  While squatting in a manner that recalls the posture and pose of Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker,” the Palestinian seems posed in a moment of reflection on the new boundary of sheer concrete that leaves him unsettled.  The man’s undefined stare almost seems to question the permanence or the history of the remapping of boundary lines in the city of Jerusalem–as well as weigh its historical weight as a new division of the city of which he is probably a resident.

10.  The photograph may be an unintended testimonial to the impossibility of knowing or of fully understanding the obstinacy of almost compulsive wall-building across the region, built in the hopes to define claims to territory in an openly unilateral way, is a form of mapping on the ground with a finality that the observer seems to ponder as it has been drawn around his own ability to navigate space.  The man stares pensively, hand on cheek, perhaps reflecting with apparent resignation at the recent division of the city and its implications for his own relation to the city.  As much as embody an emblem of philosophy,  the similar pose of the squatting Palestinian seems to seek to come to terms with the wall within the long history of the city’s contested space–actively contemplating the visible scars of a new divide of territories long contested homelands, and claims that not only regulates entry to Jerusalem but restricts access to their former lands, but remove more fertile agricultural lands from the Palestinians who live in the West Bank.  As much as relate to remapping Israeli authority and jurisdiction, the Separation Barrier recapitulates a tortured relation to the Holy Land.  For if Rodin’s statue was a centerpiece for his Gates of Hell, based on Dante, it became an emblem of interior reflection not other-worldly, losing its identification with an actual hell.


Thomas Coex/Getty Images

One might continue, in a somewhat indulgent manner, to consider the striking iconography of this pose.   Rodin’s Thinker was taken as a transcendence of site; in contrast, the photograph of Thomas Coex suggests that the individual photographed in the act of contemplating the wall is blurred and almost consumed by its concrete presence.  Much as the Barrier is a sign of the heightened dangers of boundary-crossing in Jerusalem, it is a reflection of a need to map in authoritative fashion the legal bounds of the Israeli state, and the most recent manifestation of a struggle to define the boundaries of Jewish settlement.  The latest rewriting of the boundary lines that seek to define and authorize Jewish settlement, it uses a language of borders to displace Palestinian inhabitants of the region in order to define the sovereignty of the “Jewish” nation in the long-contested region of the city, destroying the ability of its inhabitants to live peacefully side by side.

The image reflects on the deep resonance of the theme of exile, or the experience of exile, that is so strong a feature of Kabbalistic imaginary and of Jewish history:  for if the return to the city of Jerusalem, and indeed to the land of Israel, is in a sense understood as redemptive, in the sense that it is a conclusion of years of exile, the figure photographed by Thomas Coex seems an exile of his own land.  If the mythic image of exile–or of Galuth–is presented as inflicted by the Separation Barrier, the tortured relation to Jerusalem and its inhabitants is rather the theme of A. B. Yehoshua’s historical novel Mr Mani, which imagines the fraught relation of five generations of men in an old Jerusalem family to the layered nature of Jerusalem’s settled space–layers which most maps over-simplify.

As a reflection on a map, and a lost sense of territory, one might consider a precedent before Rodin:  although the figure of the Thinker provided a tops for wrestling with the scope of loss over time, Thomas Crawford’s slightly earlier 1875 monumental Dying Chief Contemplating the Course of Western Civilization, visited a similar theme, modeled after classical statuary much as Rodin, but which addressed the ineluctable course of history which seems particularly relevant to the deep history of the Separation Boundary.  For if the Separation Boundary seems the final conclusion to a contestation of territory since the time of the very establishment of Israel as a state, just after Baer’s book was translated, the pathos of the figure recalls Crawford’s neoclassical idealization of an Indian, designed to decorate the United States Senate, illustrating the triumph of governmentality over the state of nature, suggests a similar sense of pathos and nobility, but communicates a sense of historical suppression.  Indeed this image–from a building of state–is an interesting point of comparison to the questions of statehood and nationality that the Separation Boundary raises, even if Coex’s subject might not have intended to convey.


New York Historical Society

As if reckoning with his own supersession by the course of empire, leaving on the ground his own noble garb and weaponry, as the Dying Gaul who contemplates Roman strength with a melancholy that illustrates his humanity, the figure of the Palestinian in exile seems to regard backwards the loss of territory, as if blown forward by winds viewing the present crashing at his feet.

If mapping provides the ultimate manifestation of human reflection on space, attempts to come to terms with Israeli state is a problem of mapping habitation of a land that was already occupied.  And if Renoir’s statue was initially designed and cast as a model of Dante contemplating the landscape of Hell, the Barrier prompts a reflection on the division of inhabited space and of the hell of contestedly dividing worldly space over time.  The Separation Barrier runs across private possessions and limiting access to the city.  Although long-planned by the Israeli government’s cabinet since 2002, the Separation Barrier articulates a new boundary line in new terms, seizing of lands by the state to construct a new boundary for the state, annexing settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem, and defining  new points of transit for Palestinians to enter the parts of the city administered by Israel, and restricting and constraining the Palestinian settlements’ future growth.  The emergence of the Intifada from 1987 in Jerusalem most recently seemed to cut the city into two, and the assertion that “We are not a nonexistent entity” but are “here too,” refusing to accept being marginalized and controlled that after having lived in Jerusalem for hundreds of years, increasingly upset Israelis as the novelist and activist Yehoshua, who has cast himself as a conscience of the nation, ambitiously narrating a revised historical relation of the Jewish people to national space.

The silence of the observer seems to mirror not only the fate of a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence–the hope to share land with two states for two peoples–but the unilateral nature of the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, but of liberalism in the Middle East.  The problem of mapping the relation of territory to states is particularly acute, given the difficulties of mapping the spatial imaginaries of Israeli settlement onto a map of the Jewish nation that is able to accommodate non-Jewish inhabitants as equal citizens.  In an era of increasing border boundaries–and of the belief that stronger border walls will only strengthen the notion of the nation–the construction of the Separation Barrier seems the latest illustration of the deep tensions within the unilateral mapping of a spatial imaginary onto a territorial map that create a deeply problematic transition from the Jewish nation, long cultivated in diasporic times in an almost mythic status in a spatial imaginary, to a nation state.

11.  Before the increasing intractability of spatial imaginaries and geopolitics on the ground, Yehoshua offered readers an archeology of spatial attachments and conflicts with Palestinians in Mr Mani, a set of intergenerational testimonies and dialogues that describe the lives of Mani men across five generations, in a post-modern Pentateuch that retells or unpacks stories of the settlement of the land in a counterpart to the predetermined narrative of sacred history that unpacks the problems of mapping and remapping the region’s settlement by Jews.  Sustained attempts to project that spatial imaginary onto a settled land has created a dialectic of reclaiming, remapping, and obliteration of past traces, and remaking within a map.

The blurred Palestinian figure suggests, instead, the effacement of identity in an era of barrier building.   Or is the dislocated and fundamentally modern place of the Jewish settlers who arrived from the diaspora in attempts to found what would become an actual nation somewhat more tortured an expression of a relation to place?  Yehoshua’s deeply historical archeology of the place of one family of men, with surname Mani, raises questions about the uneasy relation of the projection of the Jewish nation from the individual psyche to the settlement of the land.

So methodically has the Israeli state come to erase a signs of settlement of Palestinians in areas as the Gaza Strip–particularly after the allegiance of the area with Hamas, whose dedication to the establishment of a Palestinian state and refusal to recognize Israel has intensified opposition to the Palestinian occupation of the land.  In the face of such conflict, maps have become a crucial way of asserting the presence of refugees and settlers in the region, with the HOSM resistance of remapping blocks, buildings, and signs of Palestinian presence in such  contested territories in the Gaza Strip.  The division of the region by surveys for Open Street Maps has proceeded by careful remapping in the face of the sustained Israeli military interventions to drive Hamas from the region–with names as Operation Protective Edge, in attempts to preserve its settlement by dense numbers of refugees and Palestinian settlements, in order to keep a record of the inhabited lands sandwiched at the confines of two states.

Gaza Strip

(The assiduous Humanitarian Open Street Map excavation of the Gaza strip’s inhabited space has provided a detailed account of region that has been under attack, lest any record of that habitation be erased from the map, and the record of their habitation hasn’t ben preserved–

Gaza MapCompare.png


–creating a record of Palestinian settlements that create a permanent record of contested regions.)

Given the deep historical layers of claims to Jerusalem–long the center of a Jewish spatial imagination cultivated in the diaspora–the concrete claims to nationhood of fixing a boundary about biblical lands transcends local politics, and reaches to an almost timeless problem of defining Israel’s status as a nation state, at least how the expansion of claims to contested frontiers of the state have emerged.   The Separation Barrier takes its place in the series of monuments whose construction was fueled by religion, cultural memory, and claims to statehood as they were repeatedly historically rebuilt.  The man surveying the sheer concrete Separation Barrier contemplates his relation to a newly drawn map.  As the window for a two-state solution rapidly contracts, the prominent boundary built through the West Bank, expanding the effective territorial bounds of the Israeli state, can be seen as the most recent projection of the Jewish nation onto the city’s mental space. For as much as preventing the motion through space of Palestinians with nearby homes, the wall is an act of territorial occupation.

The man who contemplates the Separation Barrier in the header to this post captures a tension of relations among Israel’s settlers and the Palestinian residents.  The Separation Barrier is of course the most recent defensive projection and registration of the mental space of Israeli Jews who long settled the region–adopting a colonial relation to its settlement in what were often or always tortured ways–and the culmination of a long tradition of mapping Israel as a state.  For the Barrier defends not only territory, but a privileged mental space about Jerusalem, unilaterally expanding the boundary of Israel as a nation-state by aggressively defending the settlements.  To unpack that history may be an attempt to keep that window open a bit longer.  For although the weighty and imposing “Separation Barrier” constructs as an impediment to transit, the ability to be map their creation is to question their permanence, and to give greater prominence to the manner in which boundary crossing was endemic to the region–from the Balfour Declaration to the Ottoman state’s occupation of the city of Jerusalem whose fortress city was once surrounded by a moat.

The Barrier is a symptom of a remapping of the settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem–the proposed site for the capital of a future Palestinian State–by drawing new territorial boundaries  in defiance of the United Nations, and an affirmation of the indivisibility of the city as a capital.  Narrating the city’s settlement demands resolving the full rights of its inhabitants, and the problem of boundary crossing that it raises–and seeks to present–raises a problem of narrating a tense and highly symbolic relation to place, as much as defining boundary lines around the city’s walls.  Indeed, what ethical relation the Israelis are able to adopt in relation to the Separation Barrier that is now treated as a defining feature that exists to defend and preserve the historically transmitted notion of a “Eretz Yisrael” that the first settlers were called to inhabit and take as their own?

Eretz Ysrael

For in echoing the stone wall built to sanctify the biblical city, and repopulate and purify its Jewish community, one is tragically and farcically invited on a mission of time travel; seeing the wall as restoring the nation proceeds on a flawed assumption of the identity of the Israeli nation and a Jewish nation.  As such, it joins how the city’s many monuments are prompts of the past, which transform the many sites of burial, walls, and headstones into triggers of a deep relation to both interior and geographic space that are difficult to untangle.

This post detects the crucial role maps both physical and mental play in the complex excavation of a historical memory of the settlement of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in Mr. Mani, an exploration of the psychology of settlement, and the difficulties inherent in the project of translating the abstract notion of the Jewish Nation to the boundaries of a state:  while the novel is often read as an account of Sephardic diaspora, reflecting the author’s own family, the problems are not only of mapping a nation, but perhaps of the persistence of maps that problematically don’t include people or actual habitations to imagine one’s relation to a territory.  And the idealized relation to space without people that maps create are central to the current problem of the settlements, as they are to the possibility of a two-state solution, as Yehoshua’s intervention was made to show.

The complex archeology of claims to the region were earlier excavated in the panoramas Auguste Salzmann photographed to great acclaim that document Jerusalem’s ancient buildings, praised in the Annales Archéologiques for instilling a spiritual relationship with the sacred city through a modern technology.  The photographs displayed in sacred sites as churches and seminaries from 1854 suggest the strong interior value of the photographic panoramas as of “living Jerusalem” though they focus on ruins, rather than human activity, asking viewers to animate placed by images which “there is no description that inspires thoughts more numerous or more profound,” as the hilltop view of the Old City from East Jerusalem.


Salzmann, Panorama of Jerusalem from the East, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The injunction to excavate the layers of Jerusalem in Salzman’s photographs as a site of living history reflects Yehoshua’s own deeply personal and intensely psychological relation to place.  That relation is remapped among the stories he tells about men in a family of diaspora Jews who arrived in the city in the late eighteenth century.  Their stories map the spatial imaginary of Jerusalem for its current residents as much as archeologically excavating historical structures of the city’s walls in the Jewish imagination.  For Yehoshua suggested the arrival in the city from the diaspora posed an immediately fraught question of translating its spatial imaginary into the actual religions and peoples who lived in the geographic place, which resulted in the parallel transition  of the abstract identity of the Jewish nation–granted the habitation of Egypt and Israel in the scriptures–to a bounded state.

The problem of this translation was evoked by Yehoshua in other contexts, but the tensions play out in Mr. Mani. “The question of boundaries is a major question of the Jewish people because the Jews are the great experts of crossing boundaries,” Yehoshua once mused:  they become masters of establishing them at their own peril.  After fearing that a territorial state would deprive Jews of a unique “ability to see the world, to move in the world, and to contribute to the world,” the dangers of restricting Jerusalem to the Jewish people or Jewish state are most sharply placed in evidence by the mania of building boundary walls in a deluded attempt to purify the nation.

12.  Mr. Mani provides a postmodern pentateuch that situates the 1982 war with Lebanon that defended the territorial boundary of Israel’s northern frontier by crossing into Lebanese territory with a great loss of young soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces, traversing the boundaries of their state for the first time in particularly bloody ways in response to an attempt to assassinate an Israeli ambassador in London, the novel situates the context of the conflict in the deep conflicts between a spatial imaginary of a Jewish nation that is difficult to translate into the boundaries of Israel as a state, and returns to excavate the underlying tensions of this translation in the deep memories and spatial imaginaries rooted in the burial sites of Jerusalem itself.  As if to excavate the conflicts between a spatial imaginaries of nationhood against the image of the identity of a Jewish people.

Yehoshua partially reconstructs the genealogy of the men of the Mani family through partial perspectives at select points of history–moving from the Mani present on the island of Crete, Homer’s “Island of the Gods” and home of the most ancient Minoan civilization, as a German paratrooper engaged in the island’s bloody airborne occupation in 1941 lost 6000 young soldiers in their attempt to secure the southern boundary of their Reich, through the Mani who attend the second Zionist conference from Jerusalem, with hopes to build a state around his hospital, his father who had sought to seize the Ottoman lands from the English with Palestinians, his father who sought to create a Jewish state while attending the second zionist conference from the hospital he ran in Jerusalem, and whose ancestor pursued the dream of converting Arabs to the Jewish faith.

The obstinate optimism of building such walls, or mapping such a country, seems transmitted across generations, echoing the biblical image of Nehemia’s rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls–


The walls that were historically mapped around Jerusalem were never restorations of a community that was uniform in its composition.  For building such a boundary wall through inhabited parts of the city has not only compromised rights to residence of many, as the boy may seem to contemplate, but recapitulates sustained conflicts over national claims to rights to inhabit a homeland:  the  Separation Barrier is a boundary of recent creation, but seems to transform the unconscious status of the city as a promised space, outside national borders–the city on the hill, treasured in the collective unconscious as a site of future residence by those generations living in sovereign states–into a barriers to transit or movement, symptomatic of surveillance states which spatialize their boundaries in ever more visible ways, as if to define them for their residents as much as outsiders, by confounding the notion of a homeland with a territory, and guiltily opposing a homeland to its former inhabitants.  Yehoshua’s Mani often tragically repeat claims to territorial ownership that the Separation Barrier seems to repeat perhaps with greater blindness to its consequences.

No map is neutral,” but the project of wall-building about nations has expanded with mythical proportions to defend Jewish and Israeli claims to the land.  But whereas the biblical figure Nehemia rebuilt Jerusalem by rebuilding its walls to restore its greatness and purify its community, bisecting Israel’s peoples by a cement wall of division creates a map of apartheid which sullies the notion of cohabitation by dividing the peoples living in the Holy Land from the nation of Israel.  Indeed, if walls are in the news, the poured concrete wall in Jerusalem aggressively projects a spatial imaginary onto the map, in the name of self-defense, by mapping the nation’s presence onto the land in ways that its residents are prevented from forgetting.  Nehemia’s wall is cast in the Bible as a wall of renewal and rebirth for the nation of Jerusalem, but the national defense of Israeli claims to the West Bank conceal the deep contradictions within the forceful assertion of the presence of the Jewish people to its residents, and seems built to prevent the notion of a future Palestinian state through a systematic accelerated settlements designed to annex multiple settlements in the West Bank–renamed Judea and Samaria to invest importance in their ties to the Jewish state by returning these regions to their biblical Hebrew names.

If I had to define Zionism by one word,” mused Yehoshua, “I would say boundaries.”  In collapsing the settlement of Jerusalem over time in a microhistory of five generations of men in the Mani family, Yehoshua’s novel offers a readers a map of the shifting relation of Israel to its borders of Israel across generations, asking us to inquire about the translation of the notional map of a Holy Land preserved in the Mediterranean diaspora.


Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

The deeply modern problem of mapping Jerusalem that Yehoshua confronts in the book returns to the fraught question of mapping a spatial imaginary onto the actual inhabitants of that space to resolve the authority of their own mental maps of place–a theme of Yehoshua’s novel that recurs in the fragments of testimony we have from each of the interlocutors of Mani men who reveal their particularly pained relation of asserting the national identity of the Jewish nation on an actual map.

The anonymous hilltop observer stands in an almost existential relation to the city’s current division.  He observes the city as if to survey the particular obstinacy of its construction.  The deep ties to place that it asserts are difficult to unpack, but its defense of ties to place and to the space of the nation are so directed toward exclusion–and the defense of claims to a fixed territory in a form of a desire for time-travel raises questions of the violence of its claims.  Indeed, it responds to a shadow-map not only of the city, but of the shadow map that underlies it, and to Jerusalem’s place in the boundaries of that sharply contested map–


–which takes the West Bank as a basis for a Palestinian State, even as it is almost built in order to be contested, and almost tauntingly demands to be redrawn yet again.

Daniel Bar-On.png

Daniel Bar-On

The historical mutation of a sense of Israel as a nation-state unfolded in a sense of privileged relation to it space oddly emerged out of a diaspora identity, foreign to the transmission of ties to territory–and which imagined the notion of the “Jewish Nation” as having ties to the region by analogy to a nation state.  For Israeli author, the  psychical attachment to the city that long stood in conflict with its inhabitants, and long concealed deep tensions between the attachment to an almost hidden, historical topography particularly dangerous in how it erases the multiethnic nature of its inhabitants:  his novel about how five generations of the fictional Mani family–as if an imagined surrogate of his own–allows him to trace to the effects of migration in reverse, as a motion not of exile but of settlement of the ancient city.

By moving from the existence of diaspora to an entity with boundaries to be defended–as if a thought experiment about the transmission of an imagined privileged relation to place and territory, and to excavate the mapping of Jerusalem’s past as if to provide a new transcendent image of the conflicts of its settlement.  The demand to defend space has become so strong to hide or conceal the occupation of a land in which Jews are almost destined to stand in uneasy relation to as they bear the weight of the translation of a history of border crossing into the defense of a state’s fixed frontiers and the defense of its boundary lines.

Even while Yehoshua has described the tortured state of relations to Palestinians as extending back to Jews’ first settlement of the region during the diaspora, when the notion of belonging to a “Jewish nation” was construed in primarily religious terms, particularly difficult to ever translate into the context of a modern nation-state–and to take as a basis for Israeli nationality.  Yet the wall seems to impose a notion of national identity on Palestinians that as if to force them to accommodate a spatial imaginary of the Jewish state.


Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images


Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, December 2016. Olivier Fitussi

The ability to process the imposition of the barrier for Palestinians poses pressing questions of whose homeland it maps, of course–particularly pressing in an era of a relentless appetite for settlement expansion that uses walls to create new borderlines.  The boy pictured above sits outside of the region bounded by how a sheer concrete barrier that maps space–and remaps the psychological space of recently expanded settlement of Jerusalem.  The transformation of such ties to the defense of national boundaries of the Jewish state is taken as something of an organic artifact by Yehoshua, who seeks to unpack the reality of the modifier and the nation, and the translation of the nation from Jews who cross boundaries in the diaspora to defending Israeli territory in the Lebanon War.

Yehoshua provides a basic yet almost therapeutic historical perspective on the translation of the mental space of the diaspora provide a basis for the intensely uncomfortable relation of the Jewish state to the defense of its boundaries–and the dangers that continued neglect of the dispossession of claims to territory.  In ways motivated by Yehoshua’s optimistic hope for a two-state solution recognizing a multicultural alternative to the increasingly intolerable division and separation of Jerusalem.  Living in a bounded territory, Yehoshua’s narrative suggests creates a tragic state events for a people whose hope for a sense of settlement.  His narrative, cast as a post-modern pentateuch of one of half of conversations from radically different historical periods, is of necessity only half of a complex story:  its sections moves across time in reverse, starting from the brutal defense of the boundary of Israel with Lebanon–the first violent crossing into another nation’s boundary, and act of a militarized nation–back to the exile of a Jew on the island of Crete in World War II, seen through the eyes of a Nazi paratrooper who he befriends, who was born in Jerusalem, the father of that man who attended a Zionist conference, his father who imagined the creation of a multiethnic state after the Balfour Declaration, and the first Mani who arrived in Jerusalem in the late nineteenth century.

By allegorizing the historical resonance of a Jerusalem family as a lens for psychological   attachment to Jerusalem, Yehoshua unpacks the deep existential relation of the Palestinian who sits before the boundary wall, and the claims it makes to defend the national boundaries of a state to preserve a dream of a return of settlement.  Despite the existential division of newly settled lands and the inhabitants of villages outside Jerusalem, the sheer concrete border barriers erase the deep history of contestation of borderlines to which they respond and are the result–much as they indeed seek to erase that history and its real consequences.  Indeed, despite the difficulty of crossing boundaries and borders that the Separation Barrier creates, its bounding structures seek to deny any claims Palestinian sovereign authority by  subsidizing settlement of lands Palestinians have settled on the West Bank, denying rights of legal habitation by affirming the very sort of boundaries that, in paradoxical if illuminating ways, the Jewish people survived in the diaspora by having crossed:  if one has long oriented oneself to the sacred sites of Jerusalem, and other burial stones by which settlers oriented themselves to their settlement of the land, the new state-built barriers serve to separate the inhabitants of regions from their homes and define a fixed relation to place.  For in giving boundaries to the notion of a Jewish nation–long predating a mapped territory–Israeli settlement expansion and land theft in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has denied sovereign rights or civil rights to Palestinian residents of the region, long before UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemned the continued expansion of Israeli settlements.  Indeed, in an era likely to tilt vigorously toward greater territorial expansion by settlers, it seems possible to excavate the ethical contradictions of the settlements.

By excavating the shifts in the spatial imaginaries of Israel back to the nineteenth century, Yehoshua turns to prose to excavate a sense of the unease of settlement across time.  Rather than examine its monumental structures and works of art, Yehoshua interrogates the maps that lay beneath the rebuilding of the territory of and around Jerusalem from a novelist’s perspective.  The novel provides less of a continuous map, than a fragmented narrative which offers a vantage point on the denial of sovereignty and dispossession of space implicit in drawing and redrawing lines that were achieved not only by building walls, but through maps:  such tools of staking possession to space that have denied Palestinian’s inalienable rights by continuing to press forward with further settlements on inhabited land.  Indeed, when the UN Resolution called upon all states to recognize the differences between “the bounds of the territory of the State of Israel and the land it has occupied since 1967,” it recognizes a past that threatens to be lost in undermining the notion of Palestinian  self-rule.  The spatial imaginary that created boundaries of Israel was perpetuated in maps, and helped prioritize a non-pluralistic and one-sided concept of a collective relation to place and space.

13.  In helping us to see to open the psychological relations or spatial imaginary inscribed into and onto the city of Jerusalem in Mr. Mani, Yehoshua conjures the intensity of a historical transmission of spatial ties to Jerusalem, still evident in its walls and holy sites, that were concretely represented and staked through actual and mental maps.  And in this sense, the mapping of Israel, its place-names and its translation to a homeland for the people of the Jewish nation provides a compelling way to read his text; his text provides a way to read the remapping of the city by the recent Separation Barrier to uncover–and overcome–that are rooted historical dilemmas the Barrier both seeks to overcome and mask.

For the spatial imaginary of that has concretized around Israel as a nation has deep lying precedents in this mental concepts of space and place that are transmitted in maps the embody and project a psychological relation to place.  Yehoshua described the writer to be “more like a judge, than a historian,” but offers, in his amassing of evidence of boundary crossing, an occasion to judge the ability of the Israeli state to separate itself from its occupation of lands as it declared its sovereignty as a state by dispossessing others of their lands, and has seized on its territorial identity and integrity a basis for not being oppressed–at the cost of being an oppressor of Palestinian rights.  Indeed, in killing the notion of a two-state solution by affirming the integrity of Israel as a nation far beyond the limits recognized in 1967, and affirming the continued territorial expansion of Israeli settlements that undermine any attempt to recognize Palestinian sovereign rights, the very apartheid policies set in place by Benjamin Netanyahu on the West Bank and Gaza Strip represent an expansive of a biblical narrative, the expansion of the oppressive denial of human rights and the region’s unavoidable multicultural and multi-ethnic identity.

Israel’s recent relentless expansion of a monumental national frontier in the walled city, constructed as a protective wall of surveillance to prevent Palestinians from crossing into the Jewish sectors of the city, cuts a line of division across areas where he and many Palestinians had long enjoyed free transit:  it defines a mapping of sovereign presence across the city.  Is creating a new set of walls across the sectors of the walled city–where walls sear its division into its social geography, and individual perspectives so difficult to fix with stability–boundary building takes the place of nation-building, naturalizing territorial disputes.   Walls and boundaries may seem to have been long part of Jerusalem’s distinctive topography, organizing its habited space.


But if the stones of burial sites long served to orient people to space, the burial stones of Jerusalem that long provided a point of orientation to Jerusalem’s sacred space stand in odd juxtaposition and contrast to the new prominence of how walls divide its settled space.  If the fracturing of the perception of Jerusalem is underscored by the extent to which its older and newer walls divide, cut across, and confine space, but while melding with the spatial memories of the division of the city into sectors, the increasing redefinition of these more newly built walls as walls excluding claims of sovereignty, and as definition of the boundaries and borders of a state, rewrite the occupation of  Jerusalem in fundamentally flawed ways, based less on social memories than on the denial of human rights.  In treating the city as a template or microcosm for understanding and defining the fixed borders of the state–and the certainty of territorial claims–the seeming permanence of these new walls cut across sites memory and of places of human habitation in striking ways, despite the prominence walls have long enjoyed in Jerusalem.

Sohei Nishino, “Jerusalem” (composite of photographs; January, 2013)

For isn’t the sheer concrete boundary another redrawing of the boundaries of the Jewish state, resonating with a narrative of the Jewish nation, as much as the security state?  The Separation Barrier is nothing less than an affirmation of a homeland, asserting an identity tied to the possession of a land long tied to Jewish identity and a declaration of permanent presence.  And as such, it is a particularly tortured affirmation of that identity.  (It is no coincidence that the Israeli political party “The Jewish Home” has organized its agenda around the defense of settlements, disenfranchisement of Palestinian property, and affirmation of jewish identity.)  The obstruction of the sheer concrete walls are however negotiated with daily by some Palestinians who live in Jerusalem.  Indeed, if Jews and others long oriented themselves to Jerusalem is around sites of burial or commemoration, the poured concrete walls divide the city into separate zones in ways that seek to circumscribe the rights and claims of Palestinian inhabitants, imposing the very constraints on movement that the Jewish people–before claiming a territory bounds as a nation–were long so very skilled at crossing and learning to navigate and move between.


Gates and boundaries long defined Jerusalem.  But the crossing of the gates and boundaries of Jerusalem were long points of entrance to a city that provided access to a range of forms of remembering, sites of importance, and indeed a mental map to its past habitation by peoples, for religious worship or study–risk being obscured by the barrier along the west bank.  The depth of these sites, and the physical geography of the city, in the spatial imaginary are obscured by the concrete wallss that erase the meaningful repository of meaning–and indeed long centering function–of Jerusalem as a holy place.

14.  The  Separation Barrier not only introduces an eyesore to the scarred cityscape.  It evokes a long history of almost compulsive contestation over the sovereignty of a city of deeply symbolic spiritual significance, as much as merely impeding transit.  If Yehoshua is wrong to separate Israeli-Palestinian relations from territorial issues, the fixation on territorial expression and expansion of the Jewish state contains a dark side of inhumanity that demands to be expelled.

The remapping of Israeli territory around Jerusalem is extremely important to the state:  as much as remapping of lines of the sovereignty of the state, it is symbolically important as a defensive mapping, if its rapid construction also seems particularly dangerously provocative as a one-sided remapping of contested sovereign boundaries that deep raises questions of human rights.  If the construction of the concrete Israeli-Palestinian Barrier Wall that was planned from 2000 brought accusations of being a de facto expansion of Israel’s eastern border, the implicit tension of exclusion and inclusion compresses a history of long-contested border conflict.  Since it was approved by the cabinet in 2005, a moment of relative peace in Israeli-Palestinian relations, the growing  Separation Barrier expanded over a decade not only to protect settlements–but also to isolate Palestinians from the region, in response to the first and second intifada.  It may have compromised Israel’s political ideals in ways that manifest a fraught unilateral relation of the state to human rights in the division of the region’s inhabitants.

For the physical barrier that was approved in 2002 was built as a security structure across Jerusalem, but serves as a redrawing of Israel’s long contested border region on the West Bank, disregarding the owners or inhabitants of the lands on which it was built.  The barrier cuts across land of Palestinians it confines, one-sidedly asserting the primacy of an individual relation to place in a country inhabited by a plurality of cultures and religions.  The  Separation Barrier‘s recent construction may eerily echo the repeated remapping of homelands within the identification of the Promised Land by a people long practiced in border crossing, but does so in a particularly violent way.  If boundary-crossing was central to the collective memory of the Jewish Diaspora, the boundary is a drawing up of borders, but not only a reflection of the expansion of the modern security state.  Is the remapping of border boundaries evidence of the expansion of the security state in the twenty-first century, or is it a continuation and new manifestation of a deeply historical compulsive return to the remapping of  bounds of a homeland for the Jewish state?

The observer who sits on a hilltop observer seems to contemplate his own uncertain relation to the wall, and indeed to Jerusalem.  For the concrete barrier unilaterally remaps his own lived relation to space, and raises questions of the fate of the individual before the growing apparatus of a security state, and a material sign of the ability to remap the relation of the nation to lands that have long mapped at the center of the Promised Land:  for the construction of the wall depended on a one-sided seizure of claims to private Palestinian ownership, invalidated by  Seizure Order SO-62-06, removed houses from their agricultural lands and blocked the future development of Palestinian settlements.


Can one describe a culture or psychological impact of a new border-making, poking border-crossing as its necessary corollary?  The Separation Barrier maps the state’s sovereignty beyond meeting security needs.  The image of Palestinian exclusion that the image silently echoes the fraught concept of the territorial mapping of a Jewish nation long nourished in the diasporic imagination.  If the image of the nation was nourished across repeated crossings of national boundaries of nations, the wall is a sign of the boundedness of Jerusalem’s settlement as a privileged area, and of the one-sided settlement of the Holy Land.

In this sense, Yehoshua constructs a sort of exorcism through the “collective psychology” transmitted across five generations of Mani men who settle Jerusalem in Mr. Mani (1990), a novel that provides a backstory of the identification with a territory far before the region was a state across quite different periods, tracing a retrospective genealogy of how each defined their lives in relation to the city, as if repeatedly asserting the right to inhabit and map by their lives.  Yehoshua seems recount the trauma of a historical identification with Jerusalem, preserved thorough the Diaspora, and remapped or mis-mapped onto the Israeli state, as if to exorcize the binding of individuals to a land without consent of its inhabitants.  Yehoshua, a founding member of Peace Now, assumes a sense of the conscience of the nation.  He described the inspiration for his imagined excavation of Jewish identity form the diaspora to the present day overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem while attending his father’s the funeral of his father in the old Sephardic cemetery on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Old City and Wailing Wall, whose 60.000 graves provided the place of resting that his father had chosen to rest.

Yehoshua remembered how he felt an ambivalent unease about city where he was raised and his family had dwelled for five generations, but while watching the ceremony performed in an unused burial plot, purchased by his grandfather in East Jerusalem, in a cemetery no longer functioning, in a graveyard long contested and desecrated between 1947 and 1967, as smile crept across his face as the internment in sacred ground provoked an epiphany to map the history of a Jerusalem family’s tie in this constrained physical place, provoked by a sense of a deep binding to place that was transmitted from the past, from which arose an imagined genealogy.  Overlooking the Old city amidst crumbling gravestones, a smile spread across Yehoshua’s face as he reflected on his father’s blinding of his body in the long-disputed and contested sector of the city, as from the internment of his father sprung the expansive genealogy mapping how Mani men bound their self to place in the long-divided city across five generations, excavating the tortured binding of self to place transmitted from the diaspora to the modern state.


It is fitting that the story begins from an episode at an older site of burial in Jerusalem overlooking its Old City.  The retrospective genealogy arises from the burial of Yehoshua’s own father prompted his reflection on the historical binding of Jewish residents of the city.  

For the difficulty of defining home in Jerusalem was a binding of oneself and one’s identity to place–Yehoshua realized at the moment of interment that his father’s final attachment of himself to Jerusalem revealed that all “the nostalgia, the research into the past [in which his father engaged] was not just a kind of intellectual, but something that ended physically.”  The ceremony of burial in the abandoned cemetery provided a concrete metaphor for interest in Jerusalem’s historical past, and a reflection on what it meant to so intensely lodge a sense of the individual in the divided city.  The  cemetery still bearing desecrated between 1948 and 1967, where some 150,000 Jews were buried, was long valued for its proximity to the Temple Mount, from Ottoman rule of Palestine to the Mandate under British control, and offered a microcosm of historical density of the cementing of self to place–quite unlike the concrete wall, and to the material presence of the past.

From the cemetery the lies atop the Mount of Olives, and a perspective similar to that Sohei Nishino assembled in his panoramic composite map, Yehoshua began to assemble the narrative of a family which had wrestled with the divisions, historical fracture lines and multiple boundaries that long divided Jerusalem, and how the crossing and recrossing of those boundaries seemed to echo the numerous boundary-crossings of the diaspora.

from Nishino, “Jerusalem” (composite of photographs; January, 2013)

Although it was written long  before the first intifada, Yehoshua’s expansive and epic novel offers an eerily illuminating historical precedents for the mapping and remapping of identity in Jerusalem which the symbolic prominence of the Separation Barrier in the old city echoes.  Yehoshua suggests almost the historical transmission of  desperate attempts to map the cohesion of the Jewish state as a territory as if it were an affliction rooted in the problem of translation of an idea of the nation cultivated in the diaspora into a map’s cartographical definitive certainty: as such, his novel provides a background for the prominent place of the Separation Barrier, and casts it to be something like the most recent scar, and remapping, of an ongoing conflict.   Yehoshua in turn describes writing the novel about Jerusalem’s pasts as a therapeutic act of looking at Jerusalem in new ways to reconcile himself with a city with which he felt deeply uncomfortable and ill at ease.  And while the suffering of the Palestinians is more often foregrounded in our concepts of the Middle East, it is for Yehoshua the Mani family that suffers in mapping its own relation to the Holy Land, and the long-suffering relations to place are excavated in his five-part historical novel that raises questions of whether peace is possible in the mapping and counter-mapping of the city Jerusalem, as he asks whether a state of restoration from a state of exile can ever be a redemptive one if that state is understood to have fixed boundaries.

15.  For Yehoshua’s imaginary tracing a genealogy of unease across the five generations of Mani who come to define themselves by their inhabitation of a divided Jerusalem–an imagined genealogy with deep affinities to his own–presents a picture of the intensity of identification with place so tragically compromised the optimism for the Zionist dream of an exemplary nation.  Yehoshua’s intensely psychological novel suggests something close to sympathy for how the Mani develop a common if tortured relation to the ancient city they make their home, and to its residents, as if in imitation of William Faulkner’s empathic rendering of the residents of Yoknapatawpha County, in Yehoshua’s case excavating the remapping of their relations to the divided city as part of their identity, as if intricately excavating the physical archeology of Jerusalem.  “Mar Mani“–the novel’s Hebrew title–evokes the historical name of the Manichean who preached rebirth, and the  persistence by which Mani men who repeatedly strive to inhabit the promised land of Israel from the diaspora suggests a weird continuity, situating their deep drives against the aspirations and foundation of a Jewish state, which repeatedly and insistently run against the multi-ethnic composition of Jerusalem in increasingly haunting ways.

The imposition of a Separation Barrier for “security purposes” limits border-crossing by Palestinians forced to negotiate the construction and to cross the Separation Barrier that is increasingly permanent in Israel’s  topography. as well as the bounded  nature of Jerusalem as its capital.   Although the wall exists to monitor and constrain the crossing of Palestinians into Israeli territory, its presence raises questions of human rights of motion and of residence, as well as pressing questions of its historical basis of its legitimacy as a remapping of rights of residence in the Holy Land–and the power of the compulsive mapping counter-claims to homelands.  Are conflicting claims to settlement and homelands too at odds to be able to be resolved?


The novel excavates an almost compulsively repeated remapping of identity in the city–to reveal the difficulty and unease of mapping self onto a location, far different from the triumphal claiming of sovereignty over the city’s sacred space.  The secular claims to sovereignty over Jerusalem by Israel as a nation have often been studied and reviewed, as the walls that divided the city have been long mapped.  But the difficulty of mapping the relation of the Jewish nation to the a region long contested escapes cartographical documents, and raises questions of the interests that they serve which have been so hard to resolve.  If was long difficult to map the region cast as a Promised Land in national lines, the latest improvisation of a national relation to the land that constrains its actual residents raises questions about the historical shifts in boundaries in the city and state of Israel, and raises questions once more about the mapping of the nation to the region.  The newly-built Separation Barrier effectively expands the boundary of the sovereign state, in an attempt to preserve the Jewish homeland whose security was once more threatened during the first and second intifada, establishing a boundary to obstruct transit by terrorists–and to protect the settlements on the other side, as well as stake an expanded territorial claim.

Yehoshua’s Mr. Mani excavated the inter-generational transmission of a fraught psychology of settlement in the Holy Land that seems a thick description of the current relation to an increasingly contested map in the mutual incomprehension of a compulsive mapping and remapping of national space.  The remapping of boundary lines traced by the recent Separation Barrier is in a sense excavated on existential terms from the perspective of  a people whose national identity was long understood primarily without territory or territorial claims–and forced into the repeated crossing of boundary lines–in Yehoshua’s novel, by tracing an inter-generational account of a relation to Jerusalem and Israel that emerged from the diaspora.  The Mani had somewhat circuitously settled over five generations in Jerusalem, and Yehoshua’s retelling of that tortured relation to the city invites readers to confront questions the emergence of a tie to the ‘Promised Land’ from the geography of the diaspora and of unsettlement.  Beginning from a contemporary account of the young girlfriend of an Israeli soldier fight in Lebanon to defend the borders of modern Israel circa 1981, who finds in the figure of her partner’s father an attachment to the past after she attends a memorial service in a hilltop cemetery whose headstones evoke the longstanding relation of the Mani family to Jerusalem, Yehoshua leads readers backwards through a imagined dialogues of earlier generations, tracing male members of the Mani family who live in the city.  In a sequence of five dialogues that consciously constitute a post-modern Pentateuch, fragmentary and disjointed as they are, a set of dialogues give testimony about the fraught relation of Mani by situating  each at historical crossroads of Israel’s identity long before contestation of the Golan Heights back to the arrival of the first Mani in Jerusalem in the eighteenth century.  While the story is removed in time, the evidence it offers of a compulsive tie to place exposes some of the same issues that have led to the rebuilding of the boundary barrier, and the new relation it has created of both Palestinians and Israelis to the homelands they seek to defend.

If the transformation of Palestine into the Promised Land is based on a scriptural promise, Yehoshua’s retrospective pentateuch consists of one-sided testimonies about the Mani patriarchs–from the widowed Gavriel in Jerusalem,  to Yosef Mani to Moshe Mani, to Yosef Mani to to Eliyahu Mani, who moved from Persia to sell weapons to Janissaries before the French Revolution, as if peeling back layers of an onion to explore the particularly fraught relation of individual identities of these Jews who map the spatial imaginary of the Diaspora onto the world of the inhabitants of their Promised Land in particularly self-destructive ways.  The historical depth of the non-linear narrative of the family’s relation to the region raises questions of the translation and transmission of the notion of a Jewish nation:  as we view similarities among the boundary crossing of the Mani family that moved from the diaspora to claim a place in the Promised Land, they offer perspective on the costs of a defense of state boundary lines, and the difficulty to map a deeply individual relation to the same territory to fixed lines.


For in moving from the present to the historical arrival of Jews in the Holy Land, long before the Balfour Declaration, the series of necessarily fragmentary dialogues collectively excavate the transmission of deep ties to a notional relation to Jerusalem over time–in ways never clearly able to be defined in a map–that suggest the deeply fraught relation of a remapping of the Jewish nation on state lines, and the repeated remapping of its sovereignty translated and embodied the Jewish nation.  It is striking that Jerusalem, the scene of the novel’s beginning and of much of its action, has been divided on maps more than any city, including Berlin, over the twentieth century, and was so long contested as a site that was defined by maps, in ways that reveal the deeply personal ties that exist to its land.  The sectors of Jerusalem reflect their populations, yet bear the historical scars of the territorial division of the city, long before boundary lines since the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine created Jerusalem apart from Israel and as a “corpus Separatum” on a map, removed from state sovereignty, and which has been transmitted through its actual configuration–and make it such a suggestive synecdoche for the flawed notion of a relation of the nation to space.  The current Separation Barrier is now twice as long as the so-called Green Line negotiated by Israel’s army in 1949, and is continued to be enforced even as increasing numbers of Palestinians have filed multiple petitions against its actual route.


Despite the sense that the jagged edge of the new Separation Barrier, daunting in its proportions and poured cement, performs a symbolic statement of state authority, sheltering residents but also existing as a sign of their protection, at a time when the number of boundary barriers and walls have grown from but fifteen in 1990 to seventy by 2016, it expands Israeli jurisdiction in Jerusalem by several feet in a country where every inch of occupied lands was once contested, and sovereignty defined in a fairly short historical term.   It unilaterally expanded the edges of sovereignty that are increasingly contested, criminalizing boundary-crossing by remapping historically contested lands in new ways, and claiming a clear expansion of more militarized frontiers as a nation state–echoed in the introduction of Hebrew toponyms on the region’s map.


1949 “Green Line,” shown in red/Israel State Archives

The effective redefinition of the “homeland” of Israelis in Jerusalem beyond the “green line” that divided Israeli and Palestinian sectors of the city partitioned its territory around a new boundary line.  The boundary barrier walls constructed to protect the inhabitants of its territory against terrorist strikes further constrains where Palestinians lived, and provided a new redefinition of the Jewish nation by expanding its territorial translation–crossing the boundary in new ways.  For the Separation Barrier suggests a similarly forceful if dubiously legal assertion of the authority of who will be in charge of the remapping of the Israeli settlements.  The expanding of the mapped boundaries of Jewish settlement provide a particularly worrisome translation of the claims to Israel’s integrity as a homeland of the Jewish nation, as well as a particularly dangerous assertion of the distinctly different status among the inhabitants of the Holy Land, and indeed introduced the walls that divided the city as walls of jurisdiction–and walls of the state–of almost Kafkaesque proportions, removing its inhabitants from the abstract authority of the state and excluding them from the civil society of the city the they once knew.

The new border between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements resonates as a radical remapping of territories long contested, but that the state finds increasingly difficult and is desperate to reconcile, at the same time that Palestinian neighborhoods and populations are growing far more quickly than Israeli ones, who they will soon outnumber in Jerusalem alone.  Does it make sense to try to divide the city into two halves, and to try to divide the populations by claiming an expanded territory for the Israeli army to have jurisdiction?  Or might it have ever been remade differently?  Although its almost existential presence is difficult to view historically, its absoluteness also demands being placed in the longstanding renegotiation of the boundaries of the Jewish “nation” as a sovereign state–and the contested project of remapping a Jewish land.

16.  When placed in historical perspective, the creation of the Separation Barrier is a testament to the boundary-crossing in which the very foundation of the Israeli state seems to have compulsively engaged–and the difficulty of instituting clear boundary lines on a notional ideal of the state as a political imaginary that long predates the modern Jewish nation, and exists in many ways independently of the political situation on the ground, or indeed, oddly, almost of global geopolitics.  For the Separation Barrier materializes the Jewish nation’s boundaries that culminate the expansion of the curtailed claims of Israel to what in 1947 as the “corpus separatum” of an internationally administered Jerusalem–a proposed an entity removed from the Israeli state, supported by many even after Jerusalem was taken by Israel in 1948–has been effectively expanded.  Indeed, the contested relation of Jerusalem as a part of the Israeli nation, evident in the repeated disputes of the location of embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv, rather than Jerusalem, as if to resist its recognition as the nation’s capital, condenses the problems of drawing boundary lines within the Middle East, expanded in 1967, by translating them into the territorial boundaries of a sovereign state, and giving boundaries to the idea of a Jewish nation.


“Corpus Separatum” mapped in 1947 by the United Nations

The recent division is only the latest in the contested remapping of Israeli boundaries and Palestinian lands, to be sure, but bears reflection for the lack of a “road map” to future peace, or reconciliation, and an emblem of the intractability of claims to territorial possession.  Although the construction of the Security Barrier has claimed not to divide a people, but rather to separate Palestinian and Israeli populations to offer freedom and security for both, it is a concrete artifact of the impossible tension between populations of Palestinians and Jews, and the long-contested claims for the region as a homeland–and has made the crossing and drawing of boundary-lines central to the mapping of the Jewish state.  The same problems that have frustrated the very ability for it to be coherently or continuously mapped in the manner of other nation-states–and perhaps encouraged its boundaries to be repeatedly resisted and crossed–have made the notion of such a barrier so fraught for mapping a division between populations in one city.  Despite citing precedents for partition in Cyprus, the fence to obstruct the immigration of Mexicans to the US, or the fence that Turks have built around Iskerdun at the Syrian border, the fence remaps the region in ways that erase historical claims of residence or precedence.  By effectively re-mapping the boundary lines that define the state, the “Separation Barrier” both defines a stable security barrier, but unilaterally re-maps regional boundaries and expands the contested settlement of extensive historical scope.

For the wall qualitatively enhances and alters the state’s frontier–redefining the previously mapped border in strategic ways with entrenched consequences of shrinking areas of settlement and restricting Palestinian movement and access to natural resources. And it reclaims territory by one nation in n a purely unilateral fashion, where no previous internationally recognized barrier exists.  While the boundaries that the security wall creates are particularly divisive, the remapping of a boundary of what were Palestinian homelands by resettling the land, as if in inverse relation to the razing of houses in Palestinian territories that Israeli forces have occupied, as if to deny their occupation of the land, in a strategy of the obliteration of settlement that has recurred in the region:  for the creation of concrete border barriers around settlement impede the use or movement, and are indeed strategic ways of taking control of the chief regional aquifers, at a time when water is being taken out of the Holy Land far more quickly than it is able to be replaced—the large areas of built settlements in the West Bank mapped lie atop major aquifers and effectively restrict access to this precious natural resource–and arable land.  (If Palestinians may come to out-number Jewish Israelis on the land, but control over water and water-rights–a vital necessity and a question of increased contestation, and a practical need for farming–the settlements secure rights of settlers, the thinking goes, and affirm the primacy of their claims to a contested area.)

Expansive boundary barriers have both eroded any mutual mapping of stable boundary lines, and strategically remap the region’s division: they interrupt roads, regular transit, and pathways of communication, obstructing transit by Palestinians to their neighbors, from their sources of employment and livelihood to shift the access of inhabitants to the territory and restrict the space in which they can move and in indeed the territorial claims they can stake, creating a bizarre human geography that cannot be adequately or fully mapped on paper, or by lines and polygons, as much as they demand to be mapped to be take stock of all their quite tortured consequences.  Yet the equation of militarily occupied settlements to “colonies” seems problematic–so much as extensions of sovereignty distinct from a “home” territory, appear to extend “home” territories. Moreover, the “colonial” status of the settlements–while used to foreground their invasive nature–invites the danger of forgetting the historically contested dimensions of territorial assertions of those who can often cast the occupation of territory as reclaiming lands.


Boundary wall showing sections completed by February 2007; red lines were under construction

Over 500 internal checkpoints and roadblocks, not able to revealed at the scale of the map, further break up the continuity of Palestinian lands and isolate each part of the West Bank from the other–even if it is presented as a security need, which has brought benefits of increased peace and a clear decline in the numbers of victims of suicide terrorist attacks.


The tortured route of the Separation Barrier through the neighborhoods, terrain, and ethnic spaces of Jerusalem and its municipal boundaries was designed to prevent routes of suicide bombers and was created by Governmental Decision of February, 2005, allowing legal challenges to its course along the West Bank to be decided in Israeli courts.

Security Fence.png
Security Fence legend.png


Are such boundaries enforceable, or sustainable for residents and for the notion of a state?

A deeper question is whether such barriers are psychologically sustainable in the region.  By effectively extending the nation’s boundary miles eastward from the definition of Israeli territory at the 1949 Jordanian–Israeli armistice line into the West Bank more than 15 km, the Border Barrier seemed intentionally to remap the relations of Palestinians to their regional homelands.  The contested construction of such an expanded boundary wall is a physical metaphor for a unilateral remapping of the Israeli state:  the “separation wall” whose first segment was finished in 2003 has accordingly gained the Arabic name of the Wall of Apartheid–as much as the Wall of Separation–in a haunting evocation of the politics of remapping people and territory.  Indeed, the absence of adequate historical recognition or metaphorical appreciation of the depth of a desired boundary building is threatened by some short-sighted forgetfulness or selective amnesia by casting the growth of settlement through the lens of the territorial expansion of a nation-state.

The question of  “colonization” and colonial violence has a clear place in a discourse and history of human rights in an era of decolonization, but may also distance the settlements and their defense from serious human rights questions.  Indeed, by casting the building of the Separation Barrier as the project of a secular nation state–erasing the historical depth of mutual incomprehension in long contested boundary lines.  Yehoshua surveys this genealogy through the collective psychology of a family of Jerusalem residents.  Yehoshua began to write the book during the war with Lebanon in 1982, and in response to it.  The book is less an account of a family history, however, than a detective story that seems to invite readers to assemble clues as it excavates the continued and almost compulsive attempts to organize identity of a family about its claims to Jerusalem.  In an explicit and open echo of a biblical line of descent, evident in names of the Mani family’s male members, we follow Efraim, Gavriel, Moshe, Yosef, Avraham and Eliyahu Mani, extending from the Israel-Lebanon war back to the initial presence of Mani who arrived in Jerusalem n the late eighteenth century.  The excavation of the history of the “old Jerusalem family,” told in dialogues that recede into its past and the Jewish diaspora that are episodic and fragmentary does not directly reflect the territorial division of Palestine or the Holy Land, raising questions of the fraught unease of staking claims to settlement on a map.

17.  The novel compels questions of the ethics of translating the notion of a nation cultivated in the diaspora to a secular nation-state in ways that he suggests may challenge the very integrity of Israel as a state. The difficult translation of a notion of the Jewish nation from the diaspora into national terms is cast into historical relief in particularly eloquent and haunting terms by  Yehoshua’s post-modern pentateuch.  For Yehoshua, the mapping of boundaries of sovereignty in the manner of a nation-state was a particularly fraught if not misunderstood translation of jewish identity.  And while his historical novel was written long before the construction of Separation Boundary, it seems a relevant and evocative post-Zionist excavation of the settling of the Holy Land.  Tracing the presence of a Jewish family in Jerusalem from the eighteenth century, receding back in time by uncovering untold layers of previous generation of Mani men who repeatedly return to fatal miscommunications between mapping Jewish settlement of the Holy Land, centuries before the building of the Border Barrier.

The novel’s compelling retelling of the tortured geographies these protagonists follow, and the contested relations to the region’s inhabitants their complex itineraries reveal–the depth with which their relations to Palestine are increasingly appreciated in historical perspective, as the novel casts its unpeeling of historical layers as a revelation of a secret, hidden trauma.  Rather than excavate legal claims to mapping Jerusalem, Yehoshua suggests the human relation to the land with an almost Faulknerian degree of empathy.   Each dialogue returns to engage the compulsive restaking of claims of identity in relation to the territory, from the visit of Gavriel Mani to an old Jerusalem cemetery, which unpacks the tortured nature of his relation to the land.  Its episodic structure seems to excavate layers of the historical transmission of the hope of settlements across five generations of Mani men.  Each of five chapters of discrete discussions that provide depositions of the historical settlement of Jerusalem by the Jewish family.  Constructed in a series of one-sided dialogues the suggest the fate of Mani men who almost compulsively return to Jerusalem, it reveals and maps a complicated motion across boundaries in diaspora that extends back in time to the eighteenth century, when Eliyahu Mani moved from Persia to sell arms to the Janissaries to the Mediterranean at the time of the French Revolution, tracing the migration of Mani across the Mediterranean through the compulsive boundary crossing–setting their individual tortured itineraries in the context of the nourishing of a spatial imaginary of a tie to the Holy Land that repeatedly collides with the geography of the region’s habitation by Arabs, against the background of tacit conflicts between its Arab and Israeli residents.

The five discreet stories of Mani men, but increasingly reveals deep psychological, as much as objective, questions about relations to space, and to the territory of the Holy Land to which the Mani first migrated as Sephardic Jews while living in Salonica, and for the most part have long made their primary residence–only the first of the dialogues occurs in Israel.   In five one-sided dialogues that span two centuries, we encounter five generations of the mysterious Mani who travelled to Jerusalem, burdened with and tortured by the psychological costs of this attraction, whose encounter with the other is somehow obscured by their own search for identities.  Each successive dialogue offers parallel that help readers to intuit a mysteriously powerful inter-generational transmission of a need to situate and shape their identity against Jerusalem that seems self-destructive in the end in how they seek to map their identity onto a secular political space, and a place that is defined by differences as much as the promised place that exists in their minds.  The ‘family resemblances’ of how a mental geography collides with actualities among Mani men is a mediation on the question of Jewish identity–revising the collective identity and narrative of the Jewish people by asking its readers to recognize the self-destructive qualities the Mani share as if a birthright.

But the striking collision of the spatial imaginary of The Holy Land with the actuality of its settlement is among the most haunting aspects of the book, as played out in successive lives of generations of Mani men.  As much as describe the disturbing psychological traits of the family–although compelling–the family resemblances readers recognized emerge around the transmission of a promise of place preserved among the members of the Mani family that in itself perhaps cannot be mapped.  Although first written when Yehoshua was called up for military service during the Israeli-Lebanon war of 1982, it asks readers to confront issues of mapping of Israel’s boundaries and the transmission of a psychological relation to the Holy Land cultivated in diaspora:  the repeated boundary-crossing across generations seem both increasingly self-destructive and compulsive, from the suicidal Gavriel Mani,  visited by the partner of his son in military service in Lebanon, who cannot get a requested leave, to his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  Hagar, who is attracted to Gavriel as she is without a father, is entranced by him as she joins him in setting a funerary stone for Ephraim’s mother in an old cemetery, near the Palestinian quarter, as Ephraim is prevented from joining his father on military leave from Lebanon.  If she is attracted to the opacity of Gavriel’s deep attachment to earlier settlement of the region, the story opens an exploration of how the previous generations of Mani share increasingly tortured relations to the homeland that they lived.  Yehoshua uses non-linear episodes of discussions between younger and older generations about the Mani family to reveal levels in their similarly tortured identities, perhaps tied to a moment revealed in the final chapter of an “original” sin, that assemble a tortured psychology of resettlement that long predates the lines of the 1947 UN Partition Map of Palestine to Arab and Jewish states.

United Nations 1947 Partition Map of Palestine (April 1946)

It may reflect the problems of translating the human geography if the Jewish Nation to the bounds of a secular state, offering a human geography that captures the relation to the land that escapes or evades maps, or imposing boundaries on human experience.

An implicit if subtle culmination of each of the five chapters is the realization that the motion of its Jewish protagonists are increasingly constrained over time and in successive generations:  while Ephraim is engaged in the border war in Lebanon which may not be just, Gavriel seems immobilized in his Jerusalem apartment, in the next dialogue we revisit his father, who had left been expelled from Palestine by the British and left Jerusalem only to cross paths at the southern edge of the Third Reich, at the Labyrinth of Knossos, with a Nazi paratrooper in 1941, who believes Crete to be the Reich’s natural destiny and becomes obsessed with interrogating the Mani who identifies himself as a “former Jew“–who he first mistakes as a Greek–about his presence on the island.  As we recede into the early twentieth, late nineteenth and even late eighteenth centuries, the novel’s expansive historical scope endlessly returns to cross-roads of Jewish history, retelling an archetypal narrative of the promise of settlement in Israel in reverse to raise implicit questions about the current crossing of frontier of the Israeli state from the Balfour Mandate to the third Zionist congress to the early nineteenth century.

For Yehoshua broaches tacit questions of the ability to translate the image of the Jewish nation in the frontiers of the qualitatively different idea of a national state:   over five chapters that extend backwards in time, a collective narrative of settlement is refracted from other points of view, without direct reference to either scriptural, spiritual or Zionist narratives or ideologies, that forces readers to rethink the generational transmission of an attachment to place.  Yehoshua began Mr. Mani as he struggled to give historical grounds to the confused scope of crossing the border with Lebanon, in an unprecedented military action when he saw Israel as acting, for the first time, as a nation that aggressively sought to expanded its own actual frontiers, and to reflect on the role of repeated boundary-crossing in the family, as if to enjoin the reader to reflect on questions of the transmission of a tortured tie to space in a family who return to map the coherence of their identity in spatial terms.

In order to explore Israel’s relation to its boundaries and territory outside of either a religious or Zionist narrative, Yehoshua’s novel uncovers a poignantly tortured relation of members of the oldest Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem, inviting readers to rethink the historical survival of a deep psychic attachment to place whose history the current affirmation and protection of settlements on the West Bank appear to have continued.  The Separation Barrier was built in years long after the novel’s composition, but echoes a similar dynamic in its strongly symbolic remapping of the region, which reveals deep affinities to the promise of place that Yehoshua describes among the Manis.  It resembles the wall dividing Palestinians that Israeli former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin imagined–although he had also negotiated a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestinians–in response to the first intifada, in 1992, although it was built in the context of the second intifada.  The wall’s construction has come to redefine its landscape and seems emblematic of a flawed territorial identity of Israel:  while created as a security barrier to prevent terrorist attacks, it effectively isolates almost a tenth of Palestinians from their territory.

The new border not only extends beyond the Green Line to protect Israeli settlements, but encircles many Palestinian towns to constrain human movement, providing but has been expanded by military interventions beyond previous international accords, and by crossing the boundary that was once agreed upon have moved beyond once clear confines in ways that provide a perilous unilateral expansion of the Israeli nation that seem unsustainable, as the Israeli government has apparently defended settlements beyond borders adjudicated at the rise of the state along the so-called “Green Line,” here rendered in red and distinguished by the Hebrew toponyms in map otherwise English or Arabic in a map that long hung in the office of David Ben Gurion–which bounded an Internationally administered region beyond national jurisdiction in Green.  The superimposition of Hebrew language already reveals a conflicted historical palimpsest, difficult to account for in any map and ethically fraught in its implications for the relations of individual to a territory as symbolically important as Jerusalem.  Even writing the presence of Israel onto a map to define its territory was complexly loaded in multiple potentially conflictual ways.

lines in Jerusalem 47_49.jpg

1949 Map that hung in David Ben Gurion’s office, showing “Green Line” in red/Israel State Archives

In recent years, the Boundary Barrier has been built along lines that reflect a complex mosaic of ethnic divisions, with little road map present for the region’s future settlement.


Joshua Doubt

The construction such concrete wall reflects a tortured relation to the territory, even if it is an existential obstacle in the present.  Readers become complicit observers to conflicted relations of the image of the Israeli state to expanse and borderlines.  The excavation of a collective unconscious of the region’s fraught settlement  Yehoshua reveals in the tragic narratives over generations of an “old Jerusalem family” in Mr. Mani–tracing the repeated boundary-crossings of Mediterranean Jews and fraught ties they fashion to Jerusalem.

Yehoshua’s novel itself provides a compelling historical commentary on the psychic power of the wall, whose construction it predates, and of conflicts perhaps inherent in the hopes for founding a Jewish state.  Much as the territorial Isreali Border Barrier has compromised the ideals of Israeli, the conflicted nature of the aspirations to statehood become examined through the lens of something like a family pathology of resettling in Jerusalem in the lives we encounter in Mr. Mani, which portrays a history of Sephardic Jews who arrived in the city as re-enacting a perpetually tortured relation to the residents of what they regarded as the Promised Land.  The apparently discrete historical episodes of each chapter narrate how generations of Mani crossed boundaries crossed in the novel as if to peel away the psychological layers of individuals that have continued to animate the the region’s ongoing settlement, and deserves sustained reading as such in the light of the redrawing of the region’s map.

18. There is no surprise that ongoing protection of settlements of Jews and Israeli’s beyond the divisions of the city is engaged in maps.  The attempt to do so has provoked a relatively recent effective remapping of boundaries for current generations of Palestinians and Israeli Jews along the Border Barrier.  The Barrier has created expanded the divisions of Jerusalem  beyond the international boundary recognized by the Green Line, drawn first in green wax pencil by Moshe Dayan in 1947 to recognize neighborhoods of the city that would remain under Israeli control–and which continues to divide the city culturally along ethnic lines in increasingly traumatic ways.  Is this trauma only able to be mapped in the present?



The complex mapping of an incredibly torturous divide of the barrier have recently expanded the city line and municipal boundary of West Jerusalem that have effectively made boundary crossing part of daily life.  The walls create stubborn new borders around settlements on the West Bank that have now extended far to the east of the Old City, serviced by separate busses, mapping a relation to the region without a clear plan for moving forward along a road map.  The melancholic image in this post’s header condenses in an almost existential longing a deep history of territorial conflict and mapping indigenous rights of residence, and the tension by which the tenacity of defending local rights to settlement–cast in terms of the “redemption” of lands by some orthodox Jews but including a range of less conservative settlers as well, who demand protection.

While fraught today, the broader problem of border and boundary crossing is examined in resolutely micro-historical fashion through the diasporic Jews in Yehoshua’s Mr. Mani, a post-modern pentateuch of a the settlement of Jerusalem by five generations of Mani men, although written before the barrier walls that had such deep humanitarian consequences were built.  In five dialogues, as if in an archetypal structure, stretching backwards to the ideals of the Mediterranean diaspora, we witness the arrival of Mani settlers–Avraham, Yosef, Moshe, Yosef, and Gavriel–in Jerusalem, as if unwilling by-standers to history, that rewrite an archetypal narrative of the foundation of the Jewish state situated it in the Mediterranean society of the diaspora.  Rather than predict the wall’s division of urban space, Yehoshua’s novel hauntingly excavates the search for a Jewish homeland from the eighteenth century, mapping the conflicted relation to the boundaries of the region in the shared if tortured attraction each generation of Jewish settlers in Jerusalem.  Yehoshua’s deeply ethical engagement with boundaries in the novel, a collective psychology of the settlement of the Jewish state that is decidedly pre-Zionist, if written with the present trauma of the division of Jerusalem prominent in his mind–describing, as it does, a prehistory of the frustrations of individuals nowho try to “put [their] identity in a new Israeli identity”–an “identity that replaced the term Jew and enlarged it,” as Yehoshua (who was born in 1937)  described members of the Sephardic family of his mother.  His secular retelling of the Jewish settlement of Israel provides a deeply moral exploration of the meaning of the region’s settlement at a distinct remove from Zionist or religious master-narratives.

In Mr. Mani, Yehoshua reconstructed narratives of five generations of Mani from fictional testimonies of a sequence of one-sided dialogues that try to track their destinies, and their compulsion to settle in Arabic-speaking lands, as they define their identities in relation to a Holy Land.  The monologic dialogues invites interpretation of the tortured geographies by which Mani “resettle” long before the foundation of an Israeli nation by circumstances that hauntingly and compulsively enact a psychological relation to the Holy Land; finding a place for themselves within a divided city seems a psychological compulsion for the Mani family, and their collective biographies offers a haunting counter-narrative of the difficult occupation of the region, witnessed from the traumatic Lebanon War of 1982, when the novel was begun and is set–a war for which the author was mobilized, and which prompted him to feel the need to excavate the state’s relation to its territory.  Each of the five partial dialogues examine protagonists who as far back as the mid-nineteenth century who, in different historical moment and crossroads, recurrently reveal a  traumatic relation to the land.  Each testimony about the Mani reveal, in a non-linear fashion, deep psychological continuities members of five generations in their attempts to find a residence in the region that they know as the Holy Land, crossing borders to adopt new identities in often surprising–an identity that never exists in clearly spiritual terms.

19.  Successive chapters of Mr. Mani examine the itineraries of a previous generation, as if charting a family of Sephardic Jews committed to settle in the region even as it moves from Israel to the diaspora.  Each chapter illuminates successive generations’ conflicted relations to its actual inhabitants, as we come to examine and evaluate the concealed histories of how the Mani family came to inhabit the city.  Yehoshua’s novel uncovers a prehistory of the current occupation, through the fraught symbolic place of Jerusalem in the Jewish state–and its mythic status in the diasporic community–against the almost compulsive and perhaps pathological pull of translating an idea of the Jewish state into territorial terms, that suggest the deep historical haunting of the fraught boundaries of the capital of the modern Israeli state.  For in chapters that extend from the present Jerusalem to the eighteenth century, but are  written from the point of view of the present, Yehoshua invites readers of Mr. Mani to excavate an ongoing struggle of a tortured family to inhabit Jerusalem as a promised land.

As if unveiling layers of a stratigraphy of Zionism, each chapter examines the fates of preceding generations of Mani men in strikingly non-linear terms, through surviving sides of dialogues between an individual and their elders, extended accounts akin to testimony if not a legal depositions, about the fated destiny of five generations of Mani men.  The dialogues suggest the difficulty each faced in reconciling a pull to settle the territory without ever acknowledging their relation to the land’s actual inhabitants.  Reading about generations of Mani who moved in the Mediterranean in each discussion, we come to terms the performative actions of each in relation to Jerusalem, that beyond an excavation of family history cumulatively challenges if not undermines and re-maps a foundational narrative of the Jewish state through the difficult fate of each generation of Mani as they try to define themselves in a long contested space.  If Yehoshua has described the ambivalence of his relation to Jerusalem, and the book he described as his “great achievement” to excavate the relations of previous generations of the city in hopes to “understand a present trauma by [returning to] crossroads in the past.”

Yehoshua created the imagined family history in inescapably autobiographical tones as a fifth-generation Jerusalem family of Sephardi origin, but the fractured narrative of Mr. Mani invites readers to assemble a collective psychology of the family who immigrated to the Holy Land, rewriting a mythic archetypal language of Israel’s settlement at crucial points in the history of the diaspora–including the Holocaust, Balfour Declaration, First Zionist Congress, and French Revolution and Mediterranean Diaspora–through the lens of individual tortured men.  Yehoshua has long held an active role in ending the violence between Jews and Palestinians as an active member of Peace Now and the New Movement, who long believed in the necessity of working with the “Green Line” boundaries between Israel and Palestine that would divide the Holy Land into Israeli and a demilitarized Palestinian state–as he feared the compromises that a binational Jewish state would entail.  As Yehoshua has argued against the need to cease defending settlements, or “intertwining ourselves in the living tissue of another people,” as a deep danger to the Jewish state, redrawing the territory on a map, he describes the difficulty of his characters in cross the cultural boundaries of the  map in ways that give voice to his  own ambivalence about Jerusalem’s settlement and territorial expansion and the loss that this expansion inevitably entails of the very ideals that motivated Israel’s foundation.


The five chapters of Mr. Mani focus on distinct chapters of Jerusalem’s history–and turning points in its centrality to Israel as a nation.  Through the fractured demography of the Mani, Yehoshua excavates reveals a striking psychological continuity each share; despite the wide ranging physical and spatial geography of the setting of each dialogue, each returns to how Mani seek to preserve and impose their visions of a promise of settlement in Palestine over time in a strikingly non-linear fashion.

The contrasting testimonies that describe tortured relations of the Mani to the city.  Jerusalem almost becomes a protagonist of the book, more than the historically textured sense of its divisions of its sectors and divided populations were in earlier novels set in the city, A Late Divorce and The Lover.  If those novels which describe protagonists who move among Jerusalem’s separate territories and negotiate its cultural boundaries of Arab and Jewish neighborhoods, Mr. Mani is haunting in revealing the continued psychical point of orientation among generations of Mani.  If its religious and ethnic divisions are repeatedly evoked in each chapter, an atmospheric sense of the city’s historical boundaries shape the tortured psyche of the generations of diasporic Jews in Mr Mani who struggle with  Jerusalem as a sacred city–a concept that looms large in the protagonists mind, as each maps their lives in relation to its diverse inhabitants, in hopes to discover their own identities by the act of reconciling the image of a Holy and sacred city with its actual map.  Frequent boundary crossing and the hopes that Jerusalem continues to hold suggests a mental geography of the nation that Yehoshua both seeks to excavate for the reader of Mr Mani, and seeks to use to confront its divided status of its geography in the present day:  indeed, the reader of this 1989 novel cannot but recall the recent construction of security walls or separation barriers built to protect West Bank settlements today, which the state has described as measure of internal of internal security, but are constructed without dialogue with Palestinians, and remap dividing lines of “Us here” and “Them there,” failing to map the region save by reinstating its division.

The concrete presence of historical Jerusalems from the eighteenth to late twentieth century strikingly speaks to the current divisions in Jerusalem–and the Israeli state–as it forces the reader to face its tortured history through one family, outside the political divisions, treaties, and legal precedents in which the region’s history is most often mapped.   In a temporally disjunctive manner extending into one family’s past, Yehoshua’s novel presents five one-sided dialogues occurring across five generations uncover the haunting guilt that possesses the members of a family who move from the diaspora to Palestine.  As we read one half of each chapter we inferring elusive family relationships and striking resemblances among Mani men, uncovering the discomfort and guilt each feels in relation to the settlement of the land, and the tragic consequences each find in response to hopes for the mythical promise Jerusalem retains generations, and the deep guilt the feel in inhabiting the region.  The partial testimonies of each dialogue reveal psychological traits of the family through the self-destructiveness of each Mani, their difficulty in dwelling in Jerusalem, and the compulsions that encouraged their arrival in Jerusalem.  Inferences about testimony that five generations offer their elders inevitably press beyond its allegorical if not archetypal structure raise broad questions about their settlement of the region, but remain hopeful nonetheless–despite the repeatedly tragic fates of the Mani who settle in Jerusalem, they survive–their survival is the central thread of the novel.

The use of such an archetypal structure of five books–of “nearly biblical range”–retains a haunting focus on Jerusalem’s pasts as if to rewrite a mythic relation to the symbolic status of the territory, by revealing the tense relations between a Sephardic family to Jerusalem’s populations in extenso, dwelling on the impossibility of reconciliation in the tortured reconciliation of an idealistic vision of a Jewish nation transmitted in the diaspora as they move to Jerusalem, and suggest that the difficulty proves fatal in their inability to engage constructively with its settlers or inhabitants across each generation–and indeed the deeply tragic relation they keep to the region.  Instead of simply mapping their routes of arrival, the non-linear structure of the novel uncovers a fatalistic attraction of Mani men to Jerusalem to trace what seems a psychic map of Jews’ relation to the territory of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, in ways that coincide with major world-historical events–Israel-Lebanon War; World War II and the Holocaust; the third Zionist Congress; the Palestinian Mandate and Balfour Declaration; the French Revolution–but offer opportunities from which we infer the psychological traits they share and history of their individual self-destructiveness.  Each episode unmasks and maps a more haunting historical precedent of repeated mutual incomprehension, despite its continued optimistic goals, as if to examine the depth of obstacles to peaceful boundaries or boundary lines as precedents for the 1982 Israeli-Lebanon War.  Indeed, Yehoshua’s marriage to a practicing psychoanalyst may have compelled him to try to delineate the almost biblical psyche of a family asserting its own place in the Holy Land.  Echoing his political sentiments in Peace Now, Yehoshua seems to try to excavate and expel a repeated narrative of latent self-destructiveness of the creation of a Jewish nation rooted in Jerusalem, as well as to recuperate its optimism.

The result seems a counter-narrative of the state, told from below, as each Mani fatally seeks, in tragic ways, to claim an elusive and unmapped and uncharted identity in a its space:  for each testimony presents the problem of a preceding generation in testimonies which betray secrets of the family, reveals their arrival in Jerusalem to search for an elusive identity, portraying what Yehoshua has described as “an inter-generational psychology” as much as a collective biography.  Rather than dwell on the major historical events of history to which it gestures–the Israeli-Lebanese War; the Holocaust; the Palestinian Mandate and Balfour Declaration; Herzl’s presence at the Third Zionist Conference; a Jerusalem “shaking off the dust of centuries, now that Christianity is rediscovering it and it is giving new hope to the Jews,” as one Mani says–Yehoshua directs our attention to how the Mani try to take a place in Jerusalem.  The excavation of their relation to Jerusalem suggests a disastrous attempt to accommodate its divisions.  Each testimony about the Mani powerfully resonates with the context in which Yehoshua wrote in the 1980s, when increasing numbers of young settlers began moved into the West Bank, and Israeli troops sought to defend settlements in and near the Golan Heights, by going beyond the territorial borders of the Israeli state.  Indeed, the novel reflects the extent to which the subsequent accommodation of ultra-Orthodox parties in Israeli politics threatens to normalize the defense of such settlements.

By an archeological revelation of hidden pasts–and by inferring of psychic structures of which individual Mani seem not fully aware, we increasingly infer shared psychological traits of these driven Mani men from individual narratives, reconstructing the tortured idiosyncratic narratives by how the “old Jerusalem family” come to settle in Palestine five generations, as if to gain a new narrative about ways the contested space of the divided city has promised diasporic Jews a sacred home in the extended testimonies delivered before parents or parent figures, military magistrates, or a rabbi, as if before a hidden God.  The result is a micro-map of Jerusalem’s settlement, reconstructed through inter-generational discussion in an archetypal parable in reverse of the family’s often tortured relation to the Holy Land, and to Israel and its boundaries–and to the others who inhabit that land with eery parallels that of the Jewish state.

As evidence accumulates in Mr. Mani about the mysterious family to which the title refers, each interlocutor expands lengthy accounts of the unclear motives and decisions driving the Mani men, uncovering the secrets of their elusiveness and the self-destructive hopes for a new identity in the disquietingly flawed relation to mental maps of the Holy Land, which have little place for its inhabitants.  The absence of acknowledging or including these residents is so striking to evoke the mythic states in “Then and Now” maps by plasticine overlays of different historical periods–which can be peeled away but affirm an underlying territorial continuity between the Kingdom of Judea and later ages, that also erase their presence inhabitants–illustrating current Israeli frontier as transhistorical or imposing the transhistorical place name “Israel” that so resonates with the current state.


Oxford Biblical Atlas 

Indeed, there is a similar sense of a condensation of history within the individual lives of members of the Mani family that Yehoshua has reconstructed in the novel, and a sense of the striking density with which they inhabit a historical space.  In Mr Mani (1990), there is no explicit mention of the walled division of Jerusalem’s divided neighborhoods, despite the frequent recurrence of walls in Jerusalem’s different sectors, walls around the city, and the evocation of the hidden presence of Palestinians and Arabs in the city’s pasts.  This presence repeatedly haunts the relation of the Mani to the region in ways difficult to fathom or fully comprehend.   So much is reflected in the historical telescoping of biblical topography into the current struggle over the settlements in the West Bank that the o-called Separation Barrier on the West Bank reflects.  Indeed, as the lands of the West Bank are known as “Judea and Sameria,” evoking the ancient Kingdom of Israel, it is based on an insistent translation of the past into the present that would confound any reader of a historical map as an example of mythistokry.

The actual demographic map is indeed not only far more complex, whose actual borders and Arab settlement impossible to reconcile with such strongly imagined maps.


Yehoshua’s novel provides an archeology the family’s settlement of Jerusalem bearing on the present problem of its national borders and boundaries, but a map that few would recognize.   Yehoshua has sequenced the testimonies about six Mani men–Mr. Mani–directly in the shadow of world-historical events.

20.  Each chapter and section of the novel’s historical excavation focusses attention on the problematic nature of an idealistic identification of individual identity with the Holy City of Jerusalem, nourished for over a century and a half.  The result is less a map of space than an exploration of the dangers of relations to a place–and a hope to expel the continued attachment to the region as a site of individual identity that has remained so intertwined to the expansion of boundaries for its settlers from the first partitioning of Jerusalem in relation to the Israeli state.


The common of generation of Mani failure to define their relation to the other inhabitants of the region–or “the other” of Palestinians and Arabs–illuminates as it raises questions about the transmission of a flawed if compulsive connection to the land.  And it raises, implicitly, the possibility of releasing oneself from this transmission, and indeed the very one-sided nature of their discussion on what those boundaries are.


Land of Israel for the People of Israel!”/Zionist Settlement poster, circa 1917

For with modern relevance and reverberations, each Mani struggles to define the idealistic affinity developed in the diasporic community with his relations to its inhabitants–which none successfully articulate–listening to the testimony offered in one side of conversations, we can almost trace the transmission of a shared if flawed compulsion to create a connection to place, which, by the end of the book, we only hope to release that have been for generations of Jews and Palestinians so historically difficult to resolve in maps:  viewed from the perspective of members of the Mani family, these maps are often far less clear than the urgency of their attempts to create a personal and a collective relation to the Holy Land–long before the UN Partition of 1947 defined the Green Line drawn or the barrier walls built around the West Bank (marked by a red line below) and around Jerusalem.  The maps, often drawn in one-sided fashion, have given tacit approval to settlements across the recognized boundary lines of the state.  Even as it maps a peculiar itineraries of settlement, Mr. Mani raises questions of the meaning of crossing into the region from a diasporic community, and an unclear sense of identity that is produced by a mythic status of Jerusalem for diasporic Jews.


UN Partition Map and Current Israeli Barrier Wall around West Bank and Jerusalem, with Israeli Settlements noted by black triangles.  Wikipedia.

For the transmission of this psychological tie to place among members of the Mani offers a deep history of the problem of creating a national map for the image of the Jewish nation, as each processes an image of Jewish identity long cultivated in the diaspora to the city of Jerusalem.  The archetypal structure presents something of parable or a hidden history of the Jewish state–each speaker offers an account of individual Mani, presenting what Yehoshua has described as an “inter-generational psychology” of the transmission of their identities as they cross the multiple historical boundaries of the Holy Land.



The five interrogations that comprise Mr Mani offer the reader evidence in an quasi-legal forum about their almost pathological desire to settle in or near the Holy Land.  If each map generations of Mani who once settled in Jerusalem, and defined it as a homeland, these images seem to provide an answer for the uncertain relation of contemporary Israelis to their land, and start from the future daughter-in-law who was raised on a kibbutz, but visits her boyfriend’s father in Jerusalem while he serves in the Israeli army during the invasion of Lebanon.  Hagar travels in her partner’s place to be at the burial of the man’s wife in Jerusalem, visiting him in the historically resonant Talbiya neighborhood–whose name derives from Arabic–and contrast between the mythological status of the city as a site of destiny and its multi-ethnic character.  The secrets of the several Mani suggested to lie in an old cemetery suggest the demographic divisions of the city, and its odd status as a site of Jewish destiny:  the cross-generation visitation of the graveyard in provides a hinge to move backwards in time in each later section and observe Mani men across six generations, and the deep psychic affinities of Mani men have shared from the eighteenth century through the Israel-Lebanon war, excavating a micro-history of the family’s past analogous to the material geography of Jerusalem’s contested neighborhoods and even archeological ruins.

If a first dialogue describing Hagar’s encounter with the widowed Gavriel Mani that is set in the old Talibiya neighborhood of Jerusalem, we share her initial fascination ing the Mani, born in Crete, but resettled in Jerusalem, home of his forefathers, and where his great-great-grandfather settled in the mid-nineteenth century.  It provides the basis for subsequent chapters excavate the Mani family’s arrival in Palestine and complex relation to this home–which may liberate the reader from the fatal attachment each feels to the Holy Land.  Indeed, in ways that are particularly striking, Yehoshua removes the problem of boundary-crossing from being embedded in post-1967 political history, identifying a pre-history for still-current unilateral demands for Jewish territorial contiguity and “redemption” of Jewish neighborhoods, and that illuminates the personally destructive consequences of such particularly one-sided border crossing, no matter their intent.

In each dialogue, Yehoshua has situated the family in the context both of the diaspora and the formation of the nation of Israel that remain particularly problematic.  Each testimony, presented as if an official forum, also tacitly engages problems of settlement of the Holy Land in a one-sided relation to its actual inhabitants, dwelling on the deep difficulties of mapping the promise of that settlement that will overcome the flawed or fatal lack of connection to its inhabitants and human geography.  Each speaker is also situated in relation to specific world-historical moments but is presented to excavate the past secrets of the family, and sketch, in episodic ways for readers to assemble, their inter-generational psychology.  Individual Mani men moved through and across boundaries in the Mediterranean to Jerusalem, moving from the Peloponnese to the Ottoman Empire to Crete and to Jerusalem, attracted by a notional tie to place, sharing a terrifying intrepid impulse to cross boundary lines to map the imaginary nation and identity in the city.  Continued boundary crossing over these generations seem to speak to the problematic creation of currently contested borders of the Jewish state.

Yehoshua’s novel suggests the difficulty of hopes to translate a cherished idea of the nation cultivated in the diaspora to its physical site with dire consequences–as they attempted to reclaim an identity in Jerusalem, in ways particularly resonant to the present.  Even if their lives are mapped in historical terms, they continue to raise questions that almost invite us to judge haunting accounts of all Mani imagined themselves across generations as inhabitants of the land, as they struggle to imagine their place within Jerusalem and Holy Land.  The dialogues trace something of a genealogy of the city’s status as a homeland for Jews, through episodes of the local history that return to a shared fascination with the legacy of the Mani through specific choices and acts.  Hauntingly, no member of the Mani clan understands himself as transmitting such a self-destructive impulse, or is aware of acting on it.  Yet the similarities in the uneasy sense of self with which each border-line personality in the family seem to struggle leads us along a tortured geography of diaspora to piece together, and leads us to question of how grasping the saga of the arrival of the “old Jerusalem family” to which we are introduced by the mysterious Gavriel Mani, observed through the unexpected visitor of his son’s girlfriend, Hagar, who seems driven to save him from his own repeatedly attempts at suicide at his son’s request.  As the family moves into divided Jerusalems, crossing its divisions becomes a metaphor for boundary-crossing across historical images of the city’s settlement through the differently tortured sense of individuality of each self-deceiving Mani man.

There is not any map in the book tracing the geography of their migrations, perhaps centered on Sephardic Jews from the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese, the dialectic of migration and settlement through the Mediterranean diaspora is the central sub-map of the book, yet one told less from the point of view of a voyager than in terms of an ineluctable pull to uncover the presence and place of the Mani in Jerusalem and “Israel,” as we uncover how their arrival intersect a new sense of the nation–we start to map a collective itinerary across the Mediterranean far more tortured than can be traced by smooth arrows, vectors, or lines, and to question that idealistic attachment to a region.   For the deep psychic attachment transmitted to the land less able to be clearly mapped by lines or polygons–the alternative genealogy of the Israeli state is based on border crossing as much as migration and settlement, which may be able to be questioned, seems motivated by the cultivation of the promise of a place of settlement in the Holy Land, as if pursuit of a perpetual promise without attending to the settlement of the land.

Rather than include or orient us to a map, or trace individual itineraries, Yehoshua seeks to present a picture of psychologically intertwined self-loathing and an idealism that appear innate traits of the Mani men who move across the boundaries of Mediterranean as if to ask us to judge how they arrived.  The unease among these border-line personalities may derive from the “original sin” by which the line is first settled in Jerusalem–a tragic narrative revealed only in the final pages of the novel in 1848–as a consequence of identities cultivated in the diaspora, combining hopes to reconcile idealistic notions of belonging to a nation that leads that may explain their individual borderline personalities.

Yehoshua’s novel instead ties a geographic migration nourished in the diaspora to invite readers to reflect on Israel’s current negotiation of its borders.  Each dialogue offers testimony of inhabitants of the Holy Land who face difficulty ever integrating with its inhabitants as others.  They rarely do so as easily as they imagine:  all are condemned to live in a compromised place where they wish to map their notions of Israel without concern for the inhabitants of its territory, either under Ottoman administrators or British military police or consuls.  As we trace the lineage of the Mani family in chronological reverse, as if excavating imaginary family archives, and episodes of Jerusalem’s history as a divided land, as if in an inversion of the foundational narrative of the Jewish people.  (Several inter-textual parallels are repeatedly underscored, both by the family’s patriarchal biblical names–“I am weary of the names of dead patriarch commemorating downfalls and defeats; Avraham Mani confesses to his mute rabbi in Athens in 1848, describing his naming of his child; “I had my fill of Genesis and went on to Exodus, from which I took the name of Moses in all simplicity“–but their fortunes do not improve. )

21.  The novel’s fragmented narrative is suited to suggest the difficult manner that this family has embedded itself within Jerusalem, tracing against the backdrop of the Middle East their idealistic gravitation to Jerusalem, hoping to find an identity and stabler sense of self as they cross the boundaries that define Palestine and Jerusalem’s historically divided neighborhoods.  By mapping the persistent psychic attachments of Mani onto the lived structure of the long-divided city, Yehoshua suggests a hope to erase boundary lines with which each generation repeatedly struggle, as they struggle to navigate a divided city’s lived geography and boundary lines.

Old Jeruslaem--1912; 1:8350 U Texas

Jerusalem, 1912; University of Texas (detail)

Jerusalem 1883

Jerusalem , 1870 (detail)

Moving from sets of testimony about the Mani and their forbears, as if lifting layers of its physical geography and inhabitants, Jerusalem is the central  canvas if not the only backdrop against whose geography much of the novel’s potted narratives is plotted.  Yehoshua presents the surviving half of each dialogue as if to offer snapshots of Mani men, receding from the present to the 1940s to British occupation  to the time of the first Congress of Zionism to the late eighteenth century.  The often tortured monologues that present parallels in the impulsive ties of Mani to territorial boundaries, and conclude as they seem repeatedly driven to perform sudden self-destructive suicidal acts, forcing us to reexamine their construction of its links to the city and ties to the territory of Palestine, if not the tacit approval of the Israeli government has given to the expansion of boundary lines in the “reclaiming” and “redemption” of historical lands beyond the nation’s actual frontiers.   Can the nation survive based on such older historical narratives of the region’s sacred identity, and without recognizing the humanity and rights of its inhabitants? he seems to ask.

Yehoshua does not offer reconstructed dialogues as a history.  Yehoshua has clarified how he saw the writer “more like a judge than a historian” in a 2004 interview.  The distinction, which recalls historian Carlo Ginzburg’s distinction between the different uses of evidence to reach conclusions by using proofs, and the forums that judges and historians address, distinguish the verdict of the judge from the inference of documents’ reliability and the access they allow to extra-textual realities–despite their common ties of uses of proof.  The fascination of the Mani is as emblematic figures of ties to the Holy Land, and the fascination of the family and its imagined arrival from Crete begins from Hagar’s encounter with Gabriel Mani.  Although we cannot hope to ever understand the Mani, or their motives, the fascination that each holds for those who meet them invites judgement on how each cross the boundaries of the past, and symbolic of the broader settlement of a region that was already inhabited, and how past of a diasporic identity dominates and haunts the present of members of the family.  The collection of clues in each extended “dialogue” to an elder generation offers a history of below through the family’s attempts to create a home in Jerusalem.  The micro-history of the Mani and their compulsive attraction to Jerusalem’s something of a counterpart, as such, to familiar larger events in the foundation of the Jewish State–past Nazism and Zionism to the diaspora, that invites an alternative narratives for the future of the state, released rom Manis’ ongoing psychological investment in continuing to cross boundaries the Holy Land’s inhabitants.

17.  The gathered testimonies about the fascinating if tortured relation of Mani to the Holy Land across five generations invites us to judge the complexion and character of their minds that leads to their attachment to Jerusalem, and the survival of notion of national identity cultivated in the diaspora complex each to develop his identification with the divided territory.  Each dialogue bridges two generations, as the speakers search for a clarity in the lives of the Mani that never arrives, but seems increasingly apparent.  The testimonies excavate layers of earlier members of the family and may offer something of a plea to map a different future.  Yehoshua dedicated the novel to his father, “a lover of Jerusalem and its past,” and might have described “Jerusalem and its pasts“:  each dialogue uncovers a past attraction to inhabiting the city’s neighborhoods that raise questions of the mutual comprehension of its residents–from Hagar’s visit to a Palestinian hospital as she believes she is pregnant with Efraim Mani’s son, to the bizarre relations of Moshe and Yosef Mani to the populations of Palestine in the late nineteenth century that long predate the founding of the Jewish state.  The imagined lives of Mani men invite investigating and narrating the Jewish “nation” through ordinary people, with a psychological depth that does not allow judgment, but to recognize the danger of dreams to transport a Jewish nation into a homeland that is already occupied through the repeated trials each faces to re-establish and re-articulate their identities in the Jerusalem.

Unlike an objective map, incomplete testimonies suggest deep psychological affinities in their settlement in Jerusalem, and their transmission illuminates the translation between nation and nation-state.  The comprehensive narrative less invites moral pronouncement than offers an occasion to questioning compulsive crossing of borders and border lines of continued contemporary relevance, as the conflict of border crossing continues as West Bank settlements grow, with 117 recognized and over 100 illegal settlements receiving tacit government approval, creating permanent obstacles to individual mobility of Palestinians and an essentially militarized organization of space, increasingly defined by exclusionary barriers and boundary walls.  In each chapter of the novel, a different generation of the Mani is placed in movement across borders in the Jewish diaspora–from Persia to the Ottoman Empire and Istanbul to Salonika, Jerusalem, Athens, Palestine, Crete, and back to Jerusalem–as border-crossing becomes an occasion to explore the notion of the nation that runs across generations of the diasporic community in Jerusalem as refracting their conceptions of the Holy Land.  These ideals similarly lead to struggles of Polish Jews, Germans, and English Jews to define their relations to the same region.  Indeed, border crossing in Palestine, Jerusalem, and Israel seem to be what Mani are condemned to repeat, and increase their frustration as they seek to defend the boundaries of place in the Holy Land against the desires of its actual occupants.

22.  Although Yehoshua’s novel was written in the 1980s, the geographic trajectory book offers a lens still perhaps important to examine the border-crossing nature of the “illegal settlements” of the West Bank that the Israeli government tacitly sponsors, and how after the freezing of settlements in 1992, and whose continued construction of settlements to realize the dream of a Greater Israel.  For the expansion of such settlements increasingly extend across recognized borders and despite the repeated meaningless claims that construction only remains within “boundaries of the settlement” or “the approved designated lines“–in ways that pose dangers to the nation.  So much is clear in the range of legally recognized settlements and illegally established outposts that stretch across the so-called “Green Line” originally intended to demarcate a boundary between Israel and Palestinian Territories.  As illegal settlements expand the terrify of Israel all the way to Bethlehem, approaching as far as Palestinian territories, they include cities in the imagined Jewish nation preserved over centuries of diaspora, such as Jericho and Hebron, without acknowledging their historical and current habitation.

Settlement Map PN il.png for expanded national map

Legend settlements.png

The crossed boundary line has almost become a status quo pushing the boundary of Israel beyond its recognized limit over the past ten years, where settlements–here rendered in black–existed in odd relation to Palestinian habitations in deep crimson red, as if seeping across the border line, by 2002.  The conflict of crossing borders and of illegal territorial expansion continues in the many settlements whose construction the government has recognized or approved–117–or the over 100 illegal settlements across the region that are increasingly built up, and have been built up to reclaim spaces and change the map outside of a negotiating process of deliberation and in particularly one-sided ways.


Israeli West Bank Settlements and Palestinian Villages, 2002

The growth of such settlements across the West Bank continued to such an extent as their communication with Jerusalem was encouraged by an Israeli-only network of transit and transportation across Palestinian territories–as if a secret network of bus-lines dedicated to preserving the ties of settlers increasingly asserted to the lands where they lived.  The transport network that extends beyond the negotiated “Green Line” and beyond the Separation Wall indeed provides a way to move among the settlers’ experiences of living in an archipelago in the West Bank and Palestinian territories based in West Jerusalem.  That these buses to settlements are for Israelis only suggests the exclusion of Palestinians from routes of transit to the old city, and a constant practice of border-crossing across the wall.

Isreali transit routes to settlements.png

MERI/Visualizing Palestine, noting Journey times from West Jerusalem

If such networks of bus routes provide an infrastructure of boundary crossing, Yehoshua examines the deep psychological dynamics of such boundary crossing as it was repeated in historical time across five generations, as if considering the phenomena of the normalized crossing of boundaries as a perpetual fact of existence in the settling of the Promised Land as well as the settlement of the West Bank.

The thematization of boundary crossing haunt the lives of Mani men, and seems almost a compulsion that cannot be denied.  In each dialogue, a snapshot is offered tracing how each Mani crossed boundaries and borders of different historical periods, as if moving across borders to search for or create the idealized image of a nation that existed in their minds.  Each Mani seems afflicted pathologically with a disastrous and perverse impulsive movement toward the Holy Land, or away from it, as each collides with Peoples settled in the Holy Land–as if the family psychology offered an extended allegory of the dangers of boundary crossing.  Mani men indeed seem to repeatedly orient their actions by notions of a nation that we try to piece together, the results are inherently imperfect.  The novel begins with the disastrous attempt of Israeli troops to occupy southern Lebanon in 1982–the time when the attempted suicide with a straight-edge razor of Gavriel Mani in an old area of Jerusalem, discovered by the girlfriend of his son, Hagar Shiloh, who attempts to comprehend the terrible nature of his suicidal drive of his father of a man whose son Efrayim is fighting in the 1982-3 Israeli war with Lebanon, both difficult for many Israeli soldiers to sustain and catastrophic for civilian populations.

The attacks of 1982 provided a new image of Israeli forces as cross-border aggressors that is central to Yehoshua’s novel as a pretext to his archeology of the border and border-crossing. The expansion of the 1982 invasion beyond stated goals to quash PLO bases just north of the border led to a twenty-year occupation of the border region, militarized until 2000, and held by Israeli troops, after the expansion of border aggression amounted to a land, sea, and air campaign that crossed the rugged mountainous terrain of the border, many inhabited by Christians, and led Israeli troops to stage campaigns from the occupied Golan Heights for an invasion of the nation, and an attack on the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The rapid strike, planned across multiple routes and involving a build-up of border troops that was unprecedented, aimed at an overwhelming lightning invasion across the border, in a show of force that used the entire Israeli Air Force,  over 76,000 soldiers, 1,250 tanks, and thousands of armored vehicles in an unprecedentedly destructive show of force at the border that invited large-scale combat in a different manner than past border disputes, designed to overwhelm the 30,000 Syrian soldiers in southern Lebanon, in hopes to overcome the topographic impediments that the topography offered as they proceeded ahead, crossing the border June 6 and reaching Beirut by June 9.

Israeli Invasion of Lebanon, 1982 (omitting naval attack below Sidon)

23.  The attempts to defend Israel’s northern boundary in that war provided an occasion to reflect on boundedness and boundary-crossing in the novel, which re-maps the arrival of Jews in the Holy Land, opening both  family secrets of the pasts and revealing the boundary-crossing history of Mani.  When Yehoshua started his novel in 1982, during the particularly invasive war at the northern border of the country–the first war to bring serious dissensus in the country, whose aims to clear a twenty-five mile strip along the Lebanese border was substantiated by a massive bombardment of PLO camps in Lebanon, air force bombing of targets up to Beirut; the military moved far beyond the Israeli settlements, deploying some 400 tanks as 1,000 guns fired salvo after salvo to destroy neighborhoods of West Beirut, which seems the true aim of the invasion that Ariel Sharon had planned, coordinating land advances with air strikes and naval incursions to Tyre and Sidon.  The invasion across the border ostensibly responded to a submachine gun attack on an Israeli ambassador in London, but expansive attacks justified as protecting settlements in northern Israeli communities expanded to a war planned for two days continued, provoking deep psychic wounds on the nation and provoking increasing self-examination of what was seen as an “elective war,” that led to military casualties and massacres of refugees and civilians– and in which Israelis had acted as aggressors.


Waltz with Bashir

Tyler Hicks, New York Times (Tyre, Lebanon; 2006)

The war provided a precedent for the later escalation of military forces on the border with Lebanon in 2006, in a ground operation against Hezbollah that was combined with air campaigns, and threatened to repeat the 1982 war. Yehoshua wrote Mr. Mani in 1992, years earlier, deeply distraught at the military expansion of the Israeli state, when settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem was pronounced for a decade,  although the scale of settlements had nowhere approached the scale of today.  Yehoshua decisively set his novel during the invasion of Lebanon, as the companion of a medic in the Israeli army pays a visit to Jerusalem to meet the medic’s father.  Her discussion of her involvement with this old Jerusalem family offers an extended reflection on mapping the nation, and the relation of the nation to the territory years long before it was clear to map–or how the territory could be partitioned.  

The invasion of Lebanon provided a critical moment of boundary-testing for Yehoshua, as well as for the Jewish state’s identity, in which Gavriel Mani is both a symbol of a Jewish past and presents the problem of how the Mani became an “old Jerusalem family” at a time when Israel first questioned the testing of its borders.


Israeli-Lebanese Border, 1982/Wikicommons

The unpopular war in Lebanon continued as a fight against the presence of the Palestinian Liberation Army in Lebanon–with repeated assurances that Israel did not desire Lebanese territory, despite their fundamental rewriting of the map of national sovereignty.  Although the war effort in part tried to guarantee that the border would remain “safe” for nearby settlements, the bombing of regions across the border of southern Lebanon created the first debates as to the ethical value of war in Israel:  crossing outside of the Israeli border, if ostensibly to protect the border area, seemed clearly to violate the ideals of the nation and human rights–as did the incursion across a border after public affirmations that the military strikes would be confined to forty miles of sensitive cross-border zones.

(c) Palestine Academic Society of the Study of International Affairs (2002)

The incursion across borders not only went beyond the Defense Minister’s description of the limits of engagement with borderlands, but revealed a concerted expenditure of military materiel to destroy the infrastructure of the southern regions of the nation, as an aerial bombing campaign across the country denied the existence of a sovereign border of independence. The amphibious land and airattack of the 1982 was amped up in punitive cross-border carpet bombing in 2006, allegedly targeting Hezbollah cross-border bombardment of northern Israel border patrols, allegedly, but violently sustaining hostilities over a month, a show of strength disrupting southern Lebanon’s infrastructure, as much as secure a northern boundary.

Yehoshua described the contemporary reactions to the war as a betrayal of Israel as a nation, and of its national identity, describing the impact of the first day of the war alone as a revelation that prompted rethinking of national identity among Israeli:  while he had done military service as a paratrooper during the 1950s, Yehoshua described his opposition to the war by the difference of Israelis from other nations–“We are not the Romans, we are not the French or the Germans . . .   After six million dead, you don’t risk going to war on your own initiative” he reminded an interviewer in 1992, shortly after he wrote the novel.  The war begun by Begin, he believed, was a watershed that fundamentally “changed the values Israel had held for a long time.”  Its ostensible defense of boundaries and settlements mirrors the government’s tacit defense of the illegal settlements on the West Bank.


Density of Settlements on the Israel-Lebanon Border, June 1982

24.  Boundary crossing becomes is the central motif of this inter-generational novel:  for Mr. Mani unpacks a tortured recapitulation of a repressed history of the arrival of the family of the Mani across the borders of Israel, through a series of border-line personalities of oddly unstable selves.  “The question of boundaries is a major question of the Jewish people because the Jews are the great experts of crossing boundaries,” Yehoshua has observed, and his stories are perhaps more poignant for their psychological traits and the fragile personal boundaries of identity.  In the context of the invasion of Lebanon, this genealogy has particular bearing on the defense of a region that extended far beyond its borders, ostensibly based on  notion of preserving its integrity, but a notion based on maps, and stymied by the illogical nature of their relation to a habited place, provides something of a premise to trace the relationship between Jews and boundaries, as much as to reflect on the defense of borders.  When the father of Hagar’s was killed in the Six Days’ War, she remembers in the first discussion, a psychologist arrived at he family’s Kibbutz, encouraging open discussion of the past “To keep the pus of repressed thoughts from festering,” in a particularly vivid turn of phrase, and the exposure of the torture arrival of the Mani to Jerusalem provoke a broader on borders.  From Hagar’s visit to Gabriel Mani in the formerly Christian Talbiya to the departure of his parents from Crete in the 1940s to the arrival of Avraham Mani from Salonica five generations ago, in a genealogy of order crossing and its consequences.  “[Jews] have a sense of identity inside themselves,” Yehoshua has argued, “that doesn’t permit them to cross boundaries with other people. And this is the phenomena of the Jews from the beginning. They have a very strong nucleus of identity composed of religion and nationality that could let them cross boundaries; but there is also the conflict with their environment.”

Border crossing was in fact quite widely mapped in the 1982 Lebanon war, when military forces crossed borders to arrive almost at Beirut.  The difficulty of integrating the tremendous costs of war with the advances across boundaries shown in the below two maps underscore the relevance to Yehoshua’s novel of actuality of question of crossing boundaries, if they fail to adequately integrate the human cost of such motion to the land’s inhabitants–and provide an occasion to reflect on the tortured relation of defending an Israeli “homeland.”


Military/Amphibilous advances in Israeli-Lebanon War beyond border, 1982-3

Yet the reader of Yehoshua’s novel finds this definition placed in the context of the deeply complex relation Mani men share to the space of Jerusalem from the eighteenth century to the modern days.  Their attachment to place seems rooted in their psychology as in the psychology of the diasporic Jewish community, but seems tied to a disregard for its actual inhabitants that seems perverse, if not almost a compulsion that indicates something that verges on self-loathing.

The reverse chronology of each chapter performs something like an archeology of the foundational desire of Avraham Mani, ancestor of the Mani family, to leave an heir in mid-nineteenth-century Jerusalem.  His son, Moshe Mani, whose birth is a akin to an original sin, will remain in Jerusalem to run an obstetrical hospital serving all faiths in the region; Moshe Mani’s descendant, the mysterious Yosef Mani, who lives in British-occupied Jerusalem in the early twentieth century adopts alternate Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew identities and seems to try to forge a new flawed identity as they confront the region’s divided map, carrying out an imperative or a paradoxical destiny begun by his forefathers, who reconciled their diasporic existence and an imperative of return to the Holy Land, that becomes an opportunity to invert the biblical narrative of a nation of Israel–or the Zionist ideas of a Jewish state–that tacitly question and engage debate about the boundaries of the modern Israeli state, and the “reclamation” of territories historically inhabited by Jews.

Yehoshua seems to ask readers to puzzle the paradoxes of reconciling an idealistic belief in the possibility of a future “national regeneration” with the people who occupy the map, as if to exorcise the place of prominence Yehoshua has elsewhere argued it holds in “our collective and personal subconscious,” but which can be resolved only by an understanding of mutual humanity.  Partitioning the map–or mapping a solution–has little sense, distinct from the value of the map as record of military operations in times of war.  A similar tension exists in maps of illegal settlements that increasingly dot the West Bank–and the shadow-game that is played by an Israeli government that sponsors their construction and defense, even if it fails to recognize their presence on a map.

25.  The rapid growth over the past twenty of such settlements in recent decades on hilltops of the West Bank by Orthodox Jewish families have not been officially mapped as legal entities.  But their growth–and the suspicions Palestinians share about the support of Israel’s government for establishing a Palestinian state–prompted fear that they had been tacitly recognized on the impartiality of a Google Map platform–what passes as the authoritative and widely used source of mapping, albeit with limited validating authority.  The rapid protest lodged about an apparent alteration on Google Maps provoked a popular  online petition to circulate widely this mid-summer–“Google:  Put Palestine on your maps!“–after a group of Palestinian journalists openly if falsely charged the “two Jewish founders” of Google sympathetic to Israel under-handedly removed or deleted “Palestine” as a whole from the server, as if to disappear Palestinian Territories outside a court of law.  Indignation at the apparent under-handed endeavor to purge their presence from the map triggered immediate tweets of protest and sympathy, as tempers raged:  “Palestine exists; our history, culture and our grandparents are older than Israel itself and Google cant erase that,” protested one Palestinian angrily; “Put back Palestine on your maps,” or, “in fact just name the entire area occupied Palestine while you’re at it.”  The alarming if fake tweet juxtaposed the alleged erasure of Palestine was fraudulent, but mimicked Google’s typeface.  Google, an only slightly paranoid strain of thought ran, had erased Palestine, and must pay.

Alleged change in Google Maps from 25 July, 2016

Fear of such a one-sided drawing of the map echoed familiar actualities of being omitted from the map.  Indeed, fear of being swindled by a one-sided interest of a monopolistic mapmaker Jews founded–“so google completely removed palestine from google maps. I love how normalized erasure and stealing land is in 2016”–imagined a corporation nefarious enough to re-write the map from a pro-Israel point of view for the world, suggesting a deeply anti-Semitic reflexive charge of global conspiracy.  The charges were probably provoked by the disappearance of “West Bank,” as a temporary bug in the server prompted fears that the territory was being erased, according to Google.  (One Israeli maliciously enjoyed counter-tweeting “Google erased #Palestine because it was never there. Be realistic.”)  In fact, Israeli officials had previously protested Google’s renaming of “Palestinian Territories” to “Palestine” on come search engines, perhaps substantiating such fears.


The protest gained currency as it grew on Facebook to collect over 280,000 signatures, and unleashed angrily indignant tweets calling for boycotting Google.  The petition had tapped a widespread paranoiac level of distress, as fear of a plot to delete “Palestine” by the major map-provider of the world, reflecting an all-too-present fear that the authoritative maps of Google reflected the insistence of Israeli Jews to redraw the map of a region irrespective of its actual inhabitants.  Social media protests launched by the hashtag, #PalestineIsHere posted broadsides that “what the Google search engine has done is part of an Israeli plan to propose the entrenchment of ‘Israel’ as the name of a state for generations to come and the abolition of ‘Palestine’ once and for all, and its erasure from any map.” If arising from a rumor from an indignant Palestinian group in Lebanon, the fear beginning from a temporary removal of “West Bank” and “Gaza Strip” from the online mapping engine echoed a fear that Israel had acted to erase Palestine and Palestinian rights from the map–the realization of such a fear being that the most authoritative mapping engine had erased its presence.  Google was compelled to clarify that indeed “Palestinian Territories” had never in fact appeared on their maps, although “West Bank” was erroneously temporarily removed.  The sense of injustice that began from the sudden disappearance of these names from the map proceeded from the tacit recognition of settlements across the West Bank, but the hidden history of a nation that almost proceeds in its idealistic origins as if the identity of Palestine Territories does in fact not appear on the map–and did not exist.  Maps of the Middle East increasingly fail to record the presence of the inhabitants of the territory, or their relation to it.  Yehoshua’s novel traces the difficulty of comprehending the actual settlement of the territory, or integrating it into the symbolic identity of a Jewish nation long cultivated during the Jewish diaspora.

26.  Material maps are crucial vehicles by which several Mani seek to define their relation to the land, and narrative devices of considerable historical relevance, in ways that capture the made nature of a relation place and the boundaries of the city of Jerusalem.  In an episode set during the Palestine Mandate, Yehoshua returned to the theme of such boundary lines, from unforgettable characters who confront the social reality of the Middle East and Holy Land with the ideals of a “place” of the Jewish people in terms that offer an imagined history, in a haunting of individual delusion.

Perhaps the most compelling figure who wields a map of the future Israel, during the British occupation of Jerusalem, is Yosef Mani, Avraham’s son, who is animated by the misguided conviction that the inhabitants of early nineteenth century Palestine only need be reminded they are actually Jews–“They’ve only forgotten, and in the end they’ll remember by themselves.  And if they insist on being stubborn, I’ll be stubborn too,” and “chastise them until they see the error of their ways;” Efrayim Mani, a Jew whose parents left Jerusalem for Crete, who gives tours of Minos’ Labyrinth at Knossos, and tells his German captor in 1941 that “I was Jewish, but I am not any more . . . I’ve cancelled it,” thereby forcing his Nazi captor to realize that thebeastly essence of Jewishness can cancel its own self,” and believe that “there’s nothing Jewish that a Jew can’t do without” since it only exists in a Jew’s mind; and the figure of Moshe Mani, who arrives at the First Zionist Conference where he invites a Polish Ashkenazi practicing pediatrician at the First Zionist Conference, and persuaded him to travel with him to Jerusalem, to observe his inter-faith obstetrical clinic.  The haunting figures are less historical than invite judgement on Zionism and the present, and question the animating myth of recovering an identity through a relation to the land.

For Yehoshua’s novel traces the movement from the “diasporic existence” to Jerusalem in an “inter-generational psychology” of Mani men.  He invites readers to excavate in reverse in Mr. Mani through a set of dialogues that relate to Manis who struggle with their identity, moving historically backwards from Gabriel to his grandfather and Efraim Mani, in a chapter of the revealing intergenerational psychology of almost pathological disengagement of inhabitants  of the Holy Land–increasingly appearing a tragic narrative from which no redemption exists.  The perilous pathology echoes the contradictions Yehoshua has held lay in the cultivation and disproportionate elevation of religious imperatives during the diaspora, when the “normal” existence outside national territories–for in the diaspora, Jewish nation is rooted and embedded in its existence apart from a territory–intersects with and the flawed hope of rooting or placing that identity on a map by military force, in an unethical imperative of settlement which threatens the very existence of that nation.  Kenosha has long voiced deep concerns about the imposition of identity on a map in Mr Mani, long before the Zionist movement, as born out of the diaspora, which speak to the expansion of settlements beyond the Green Line, overlooking the Dead Sea, in an echo of the Zionist project for rebuilding Palestine.)

Jews! Rebuild Palestine.png

Mitchell Loeb (c. 1931), Palestine Poster Project Archives

When asked to identify Zionism with one word, Yehoshua chose “boundaries“–acceptance and consciousness of physical and geographical boundaries within Israeli identity–which Yehoshua hopes to resolve by mutual recognition of territorial separation of the Jews and Palestinians and their distinctness of their national identities.  Traffic in past imagined maps or fantastic ones both presented a guide for a flawed identity, but an obstacle to the humanistic goal empathic understanding of the other.

Will the boundaries of the Holy Land and of Israel ever able to be mapped, and what might constitute a clear consciousness of the most practical boundary lines for Israeli identity to exist?   The dialogue in Mr Mani set in the context of a moment in the historical bounding of the region of the Holy Land around Jerusalem as a nation–the Balfour Declaration of 1917–that gives rise to the Palestinian Mandate, and the interest in processing this new national map by a descendent of Avraham Mani, Yosef Mani.  In an episode of the novel set on the eve of the Balfour Declaration after World War I, when maps of the region were first drawn, Yosef eagerly imagines the English declaration as bearing the promise of a new national home, and begins to conceive the region’s landscape as a map, and call attention to how it will appear after the promise that it will be mapped as a national homeland for the Jews.  The future lawyer Colonel Stephen Horowitz, during the British occupation of Jerusalem, is tasked to prosecute but seeks to understand and defend this Mani.  Yosef, a “native”-born interpreter working for the British, is facing espionage charges of passing state secrets to the Turkish army by sharing privileged military maps of British operations–and essentially passing secrets, although Horowitz long ponders to what ends.

As the English army is adopting military positions across the Holy Land, pushing to Jerusalem and advancing to Ramallah on the eve of the Balfour Declaration, Mani’s theft of military maps is discovered.  While serving as an interpreter for the British army, Mani spied a military map, left discarded in a wastebasket in the English army’s general staff room, and he picks the rolled up map that he has spied in the trash, immediately perceiving its value to the enemy–but if trafficking stolen maps is his trade, the theft occasions an occasion of map-inspired madness.  Yosef believes he can use the map to gain a platform to celebrate an imagined impending grant of land to Jews, convinced they will soon resettle lands the British will cede–misconstruing British support for a Jewish Homeland and “Zionist aspirations” by immediately creating a Jewish National Home.


Historical Day of the Balfour Declaration (Palestine Mandate, c. 1925)/Palestine Poster Project


“Land of Israel for the People of Israel!” (Yiddish poster, circa 1917)/Palestinian Poster Project

Yosef Mani quickly absconds with the rolled up map hidden under his prayer shawl on his way to pray at a Sephardic synagogue, which contains the plans for invasions on Ottoman forces as he leaves the city by the Damascus Gate.  When services conclude, he leaves the walled city, dons an Arab cloak, in a typical Mani subterfuge of shifting identities, and progresses unsuspected north through the Gate to Ramallah, past British military tents, to a group of soldiers in Turkish uniform–and with an air of pride hands the map to their presiding sergeant, after the has left the city to cross its space to the Ottoman troops.

Irish damascus gate.jpg

Yosef offers the map not for money, but in exchange for being allowed to address local villages of Arabs by a speech, to whom he speaks desiring to lay a basis for plans for a future Jewish star.  In the midst of one of the speeches that he gave to in el-Bireh, he read the as-yet-unpublished Balfour Declaration, and removed a colored paper map of late nineteenth-century Palestine from his pocket that he had drawn, explaining to his audience to that this is indeed their “country” and exhorts them eagerly, “All over the world people now have identities, and we Jews are on our way, and you had better have an identity or else!”  Brandishing a large paper map, Yosef theatrically announces that half of the territory belongs to the Arabs, and cuts it in two pieces lengthwise with a scissors.

When he offers them half of the bisected map, of a region roughly from the mountains to the Jordan river, villagers held back from reaching out to the map they are offered object to the division Mani proposed–“But we want the sea, too!” one cries.  Briefly taken aback, Mani removes a second map from his other pocket, cuts it horizontally, and presents that half-map to his audience in a pathetically deluded attempt to arrogate authority to himself, but also trying to appease to the upset audience the Turks assemble for his speech.   Acting in the belief that he is a missionary for progress, this Mani repeats such speeches across Palestine, in exchange for varied goods stolen from the general staff room of the British army, a bid for authority that he hopes might prepare for what he sees as an impending return of Jewish people to the Holy Land.

Continuing as if a merchant trafficking in the multiple identities he moves between in the Holy Land, Yosef Mani continues this tactless campaign of public speeches, provided with a stage to repeat the same spectacle in Nablus and Jenin, that in short time “every Arab between Ramallah and Nablus knew of him.”  If lines distinguish “us” and “them” both insulate “us” and do more than cognitive work in assigning a fixed other place to “them,” the map seems a way Mani wants to present a new situation about a possible future of the Jewish presence in the Holy Land–for he believes the Balfour Declaration will inaugurate an English withdrawal from Palestine, and a rebirth of a Jewish nation to which settlers will arrive, albeit mistakenly.  While it is clear that Yosef Mani has also systematically stolen both military maps and assorted documents from the British in an attempt to traffic them with the Turkish and the Germans, and new policies to burn all trash enacted–although Yosef Mani’s love for such public performances leaves the British reluctant to give him a public stage at a military court, no matter how clear his guilt of unlawful espionage, or to inaugurate the British occupation of Jerusalem by the hanging of a Jew as a military traitor.  Yosef faced an impossibility of mapping a single plan of action for its inhabitants:   one things of the appeal that Yehoshua himself published during the 2008–2009 Israel-Gaza conflict addressing the residents of the Gaza Strip, urging them to end the violence of the violence that responded to the institution of checkpoints around its border:  “Precisely because the Gazans are our neighbors, we need . . .  to try to reach a cease-fire as quickly as possible. We will always be neighbors, so the less blood is shed, the better the future will be,” urging the opening of the border crossings that had so isolated the Gaza residents in exchange for an immediate cease-fire,” urging the resumption of normalized relations.

27.  Since Yehoshua wrote the novel, and the attenuation of the Palestinian Peace Process that once seemed so promising, maps have prompted increasing anxiety–and especially the changes in the map that are being engineered by Israeli settlers, with the growth of unauthorized settlements on the West Bank and Occupied Palestinian Territories.  For the rigidity of the map has returned as settlements have crept onto maps of the West Bank over the two decades, during which they were illicitly and illegally promoted, as the Palestinian Peace Process stalled.  The presence of these hundred villages is difficult to omit from any regional maps, despite qualifications that exist as to their legality–and given the clear motivations of their over 350,000 inhabitants, who want to physically change the region’s map and reclaim the very territory that Yosef Mani tried to pass on to the “Arabs” he lectured back in 1918, in an attempt to redraw the actual Jewish state again.  Indeed, Yehoshua has called for the end to settlements and their defense as necessary to the future interests of the Israeli state–itself threatened, he feared in 2009 that the “ugly future” of a bi-national state would threaten an Israel that practiced “formalized and official Jewish discrimination against Palestinians,” and compelled negotiation “even if we are skeptical as to the ability of the two peoples to reach an agreement of peace and security” to prevent the “ceaseless violence” and “political monster” of a binational state.

Despite Israel’s public agreement to the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in no hurry at all to cede the land settlers have occupied over the past fifty years in hilly regions of the West Bank.  Despite a formal refusal to endorse the annexation or occupation of land for new settlements, the government’s tacit approval given to the construction of walls about multiplied settlements in recent years provides a virtual authorization–not on paper, but in public, but by planning, funding, and constructing settlements across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, they have created a series of redoubts that extend to the Dead Sea, not officially authorized but which the current government is engaged in “authorizing them in disguise”–retroactively authorizing unauthorized settlements as if legally to introduce them on the region’s map.  If the policy has given rise to numerous petitions to halt unauthorized projects of construction, they are entering into the content of the region’s map, appearing as if part of the land–as if a one-sided resettling of Palestinian lands.  Barely more than half of the settlers identify as religious, but the strength of the religious community within Israel has made support for settlement a platform of the nationalist parties.

28.  To chart the expansion of legal and illegal settlements over time, web maps offer an ideal interactive tool of plastic flexibility to situate the spawning of these settlements on the West Bank’s mountainous terrain, and trace their multiplication and expansion over time.   And while the complex information about the scale and intensity of settlement is suited for the format of web-based maps, as are the speeded-up aerial photography or satellite imagery over time, it is difficult to measure the impact on the region and its inhabitants of the growth of the footprints of settlements and settlement “outposts” that begun to be established from the mid-1990s with active and tacit support of the Israeli government.

Settlements in West Bank NYT : Peace Now Setlement locations.png

New York Times/Peace Now

The recent and apparently unsupervised growth of such illegal “outposts” has been mapped over time from about 2000 by Peace Now, although the more interesting map perhaps reside within the settlers’ heads.  Indeed, a selective map of settlements, while interesting, moreover fails to document or capture the invasive nature of such towns, and the extent to which their construction poses a challenge to human rights–although the changes they have brought to the landscape of the West Bank are apparent, their effect on the way of life and rights of Palestinians remains far less clear in such a map.  Even when projected on a Google Earth View or satellite map, the actual experience of invasiveness and violation of human rights these settlements create is inadequately conveyed.

Settlements and Outposts.png

Peace Now interactive map (2016) of settlements (blue) and outposts (red), noting Green Line

The existence of real walls, such as the West Bank barrier constructed over the last decade, lying beyond the Green Line, partly made of fence and in part cement blocks, is partly in the West Bank, and attempts to accommodate some settlement plans, and to smooth their way to their appearance on the map.  Indeed, they often exist to protect the expansion of individual settlements, in ways that would seem necessary to map.  The presence of these walls on Palestinian land were not in existence when Yehoshua wrote his novel, but they impede the human rights of Palestinians, and impose an idealized vision of the nation that not only impedes human movement but offers a visible illustration of Israeli presence that seems often tantamount to a territorial land grab, as much as a religious resettlement or redemption.

Green Line:Blue Line sttelente.png

Detail of above interactive map, with West Bank Barrier (blue)/Peace Now

Expanding numbers of settlers moving across the Green Line and in East Jerusalem have grown markedly from the initial arrival of Ultra-Orthodox settlers who sought to “resettle” lands they believed had historical resonance.   New settlers respond to a choice of cost and way of life and include many Israelis not openly religious, who seek jobs.

The growth of Israeli populations who are settlers–from the youth who move to hilltops to the Orthodox settlers who “reclaim” redeemed land–has increased the population of settlers in dramatic fashion since the 1967 war defined the boundary of the Green Line, and especially since the time when Yehoshua wrote in the early 1980s, as settlement has attracted increasing shares of Israeli and gained population.


The population increase of those regions most settled by Israelis have grown during the rejection of any rights of return for Palestinians to their lands, or a “just solution” to the issue of refugees and the creation of a separation barrier has belied the huge increased of settlers in settlement blocs by 2010–and a growth in settlers around Jerusalem.  So great is the expansion of settlements, indeed, that although Israel’s current government has refused a Palestinian “right of return” the recent video released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirms that rather than being an obstacle to peace, the West Bank areas of settlement in Judea and Samaria constitute a legitimate claim of Israeli Jews and Palestinians seek to pursue a policy of “ethnic cleansing” in asserting a region without Jewish Israeli settlers.


The tacit encouragement of such settlements have been a further redrawing of the boundary, and served to create a new model of collapsing tensions of living in a foreign land.  They have received from the government has grown markedly in recent years, as those living in the settlements and East Jerusalem together has grown by over 200,000.   The concrete barriers that have sprung up about such settlements to preserve their “safety” may to an extend be understood as akin to or as extending the set of psychological barriers and walls that long existed in the historical demarcation of intense territoriality of the historical division of space in the Old City of Jerusalem–the city of the Mani family from before the nineteenth century, but its very one-sided nature seems to have even dangerous results.


29.  Despite the multiple physical walls that have been built in Jerusalem and an increasing number across the settlements in the West Bank, separating and serving to protect inhabitants for reasons of “security,” the security has not improved.  Although they are often regularly crossed, and have a clearer symbolic presence as if they are sought to be inscribed upon a map, in an odd illustration of the “self-destructive pathology” that itself, as Yehoshua has himself argued, threatens the Jewish nation as a nation, although he has been concerned with the “absorption of Judaism into Israeli identity.”  So regular is the sense of justice in built barriers constraining movement of inhabitants that the energetic Isaac Herzog, a leader of the Israeli Zionist Union Party, openly advocated to wall off Jerusalem’s 200,000 residents of Palestinian descent in East Jerusalem in early 2016.

The result is cordoning off Palestinians by a concrete border wall and “smart” fencing, and effectively cantonizing the city by physical barriers within the city itself to aggressively affirm demographic divides.  Herzog described the plan to preserve a “two-state” solution that affirmed, under the pretense of a need to ensure mutual peace, “we’re here and they’re there.”  Walls already mark much of the city and West Bank settlements, and seem to constitute a sort of colonization of space well-known, but demand clearer criticism as an open attempt to encourage the rewriting of the map, and legitimate the continued crossing of boundary lines, as well as a register of raised anxieties of individual and collective safety.

THomas Coex:AFP Getty.jpg

Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse; Getty; February, 2016

Sadly, many such walls already exist, as those that separate East Jerusalem neighborhoods from West Bank cities as Abu Dis–


Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse


Anata (West Bank)–Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse

The increased expansion of such fortified settlements in the West Bank began a proliferation of walls across the region, defending not only the authorized outposts or those awaiting approval as authorized (colored here dark and light green respectively), but the many that are not unauthorized as well, and were illicitly established over the past two decades, seen lying beyond the recognized state border, and in a particularly mountainous terrain where they seem redoubts all the more.  Unauthorized outposts that settlers have established extend closer to the Dead Sea, as do those in the process of “authorization” as settlements, while the majority of those “authorized” lie closer to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

A preponderance of the settlements that are unauthorized outposts are perched high upon hills in mountainous territory often mythically important to the Jewish people, which have grown in recent years as strongholds overlooking the Dead Sea.  They are widely distributed in the West Bank as well as nearby the boundaries of Israel, and extend far into the West Bank–at times far closer East to the boundary Jordan’s boundary than the “Green Line” of the 1947 Armistice, or boundary of the Israeli state.

WEst Bank Illicit:Unauthorized:Authorized

Rudy Omri/New York Times

The spread and unspoken sanctioning of settlements slip into maps, as they take their place in the landscape of the region, even after decisions to halt their construction without ministerial approval:  even without being approved, they are able to obtain material support and construction materials, encouraging the growth of projects of building that seem, to Western eyes, to exist as a “normal” and uncontested space, which may include rental properties openly advertised and whose construction projects have continued.

Erfat--Etzion Block.png

Erfat, Etzion Block/New York Times

Bruchin West Bank.png

Bruchin, West Bank

Har Homa--West Bank.png

Har Homin, West Bank/New York Times

As such settlements have grown, even before they appear on a map, the enter collective consciousness.  Imposing concrete barriers have been erected around them on the West Bank from 2002 by the Israeli Government to protect settlements, justified by security reasons–carving up the territory that of outposts of the Jewish state, in ways which set a precedence for building barrier walls that create frontier, and demands to be compared to the spread of wall-building across Europe.


Anata, in West Bank, Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse/New York Times

East Jerusalem neighborhoods exist sequestered behind imposing walls–


Pigs Zeev in East Jerusalem behind Israeli Separation Barrier, AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

–and settlements have been built up, as new suburbia, on the West Bank hills, cordoned off behind imposing protective walls and specially built barriers–

Har Homa--West Bank.png

Har Homa, which borders Bethlehem (New York Times)


Anata (West Bank), Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

While these walls are built to block or exclude individuals and obstruct passage, people regularly cross them, and work around them by new forms of resistance, on their way to work–in spite of their deep violation of human rights, events they have been naturalized by Palestinians able to circumvent their authority daily on the way to work.


Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse–Getty Images/New York Times

It is rare, however, that they are successfully alternatively envisioned as sites of imagined escape in transgressive graffiti–as in this playful but all too serious Banksy image–so imposing is their presence, as if to forcibly mark Israeli settlements in a modern map of the Holy Land and restate secure settlements.


Yet the place of these barriers, and the insistence on their appearance, although without space yet on most maps, seem aggressively situated to create a new map, or re-carve spaces on the West Bank in ways that suggest an ongoing and continuing gambit of land-based territorial war, if not only a redrawing of lines to separate “us” from “them” as much as to obstruct physical passage.  They are of symbolic use–and the rupture of that symbolism is what makes Banksy so effective as art undermining the oppressive walls.

30.  If Europe has far more walls than it ever did during the Cold War, at the end of which only some seven walls of partition existed worldwide, the basis of wall-building has expanded in ways that reflect the growth of a process of globalization the has redefined the apparent need for boundary lines that define lines of economic difference with new insistence and apparent urgency.  Indeed, 2015 became the year of extensive construction of security fences and border surveillance–and it saw the construction of fifteen new national walls, and public entertainment of a project to construct extended border barrier between Mexico and the United States that Donald Trump has made the centerpiece of his campaign, in a sort of synecdoche for national resistance to globalization.

The preponderance of these imposing concrete walls, which seem begging to enter the regional map, beg a clearer comparison not only to the physical structure of the walls often built from old military surplus, but also in relation to the prevalence of wall building and barriers across Europe and much of the globe.  Walls completed or under construction most often seem to lie in the Middle East–may pale in comparison to those planned, but pose a problem as stark as that of refugees because they fail to place people in their maps.


Border Walls and Fences/The Economist (January, 2016)

So quickly did walls come to proliferate with abandon as if to define boundaries between economic difference that 2015 seemed 1989 in reverse–for rather than the Berlin Wall’s fall opening up a divided Europe, walls created a new “fortress Europe” based not only on physical walls, and razor and barbed wire fences, but even on “mental walls,” as Timothy Garton Ash argued, made from a “psychological mortar” that is the product of growing fears and stirred up with xenophobic prejudices and demanding increased border controls to guarantee security–as much as to prevent the arrival of Syrian displaced refugees.


Israeli state has cited numbers of other precedents for fences constructed “between peoples,” from the US-Mexico border fence, designed to naturalize the economic inequality of two regions, or the EU fence built to separate its enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco to thwart poor refugees originating from sub-Saharan Africa from entering Europe’s southern boundary, or the barrier built between India and Pakistan, and partitioning of Belfast in Northern Ireland into Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.   But the Security Fence seems to stake claims for priority by confining populations, in ways that bury the historical nature of future development of Palestinian claims to the region, and normalize a new frontier where one did not once exist.

Digging further back over fifteen years, a recent study counted twenty-five new walls built along national borders, in an incredible resurgence of border barriers designed to keep out unwanted others. Their construction is a massive collective illustration of growing insecurity–both to maintain their own fragile senses of identity, and to reject open borders, and preserve its place on the map, which while associated with refugees and the growing fluidity of populations in globalization, preceded fears about refugees–although they are often linked to economic inequalities as much as insecurities.

A full half of the nations to build walls around their borders did so, sharpened specifically by a sense of heightened danger and a compromising of economic security, and an unprecedented compromising of human rights.  But the power of the barriers built to create boundaries of safety in Israel and to partition the land in ways to secure these lines became more increasingly prevalent, long more routine–and openly accepted–in Israel than anywhere else.

947499_2_Walls around the world_standard.jpg

University of California, Berkeley/University of Quebec in Montreal

A final pressing question is perhaps how the limits these walls intentionally create for human rights will ever be able to be overcome in future generations.


Sandra J. Milburn/The Hutchinson News (via AP); Boston Globe


Filed under boundary walls, collective memory, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish diaspora

4 responses to “Hostile Homelands: A. B. Yehoshua Excavates Jerusalem’s Boundary Lines

  1. Fred Skolnik

    Dear Blogger

    I would very much like to use the Lebanon War map above (with the northbound arrows) in a novel I’m writing. Could you possibly tell who holds the copyright so that I can obtain permission.


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