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09.30  Heritage at War in the Mediterranean Region: Palestine

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Today, the state of war that characterizes the daily life in Israel and Palestine is so rooted that it seems to have existed for a long time, generating a permanent conflict among two peoples sharing a common heritage. After the birth of Israel, many Arab villages were converted into Jewish ones, creating new urban identities. Arab heritage sites, used as tools of appropriation, were renovated and turned into picturesque elements of landscape, generating economic profit for Israel.

According to Lefebvre’s theories (1970) urban settlements, projecting on the ground their social, political, and economic structures become a special target of conflict, fought to affirm each people’s legitimate right to the land. This concept is best expressed in Israel and Palestine, where the coexistence of different cultures often creates conflicts, manifested in urban space. 

This paper, based on urban studies, will aim at re-considering the concept of built heritage as a product of cultural diversity, one of the main features that characterizes ancient Palestinian heritage sites that could represent a key source of exchange and innovation. Through a historical perspective, based on Braudel’s longue durée approach, it will point at rediscovering some of the ancient layered structures, still lying in the area now contended between Israel and Palestine, once united within the greater region of Bilād al-Sham.

Following this approach, heritage will be investigated as a tool to re-enact the past cosmopolitan and multicultural identity of Palestine, based on regionally shared social values and entwined histories, where multiple identities were and still are at stake, all equally entitled to their own cultural and historical legitimacy. 

Methodologically, the paper will concentrate on some case studies of representative architectural and urban heritage sites (among them, Jaffa, Lidda, Ramleh, Siwan, Lifta, Ein Karem, Ein Hod). They can be seen as exemplifying valuable records of persisting multi-layered memories. Should the local context allow it, they could encourage specific examples of mutual recognition.

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