Photo: W. Hagens.

Jerusalem was first established on the hill on which you are now standing, almost 4000 years ago, during the Canaanite period (Middle Bronze Age II). . . . A journey to the City of David is a journey to the source. The City of David was the first capital of the tribes of Israel and the spiritual and political center of the Jewish nation. Many of the books of the Bible were written here and from the small mound of the City of David came forth the belief in one God and the basic human values taught by the prophets that have inspired the entire world.

 The City of David is the place where Jerusalem was born—the place where it all began.[1]

What more meaningful place on earth could there be than this? It seems extraordinary that archaeologists have pinpointed the site and a modern tourist facility has been built on it, so visitors can stand on the very spot where much of the Bible was composed, where David danced in ecstasy before the Lord, and the powerful idea of monotheism first made its way into world history. Yet here I am in East Jerusalem, reading a wall text, standing on a windy platform built out over a maze of ancient stone foundations clinging to the side of a hill. I have returned to the source.

The City of David is an archaeological brand. In the gift store you can buy City of David mugs, bags, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, a T-shirt with CITY OF DAVID: DIG IT! written in a fun, funky font. The City of David lyre logo (1 Samuel 16:23, “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand”) is everywhere, on the uniform polo shirts of the guides, on signs that hang from houses on the route of a history walk that takes visitors through the streets near the site. The location of a new dig is enclosed by boards with imagery of happy, smiling people, boys on lyre-adorned Segways, friendly archaeologists in lyre caps helping elated white children sieve and wash soil to recover fragments of their Middle Eastern cultural heritage.

Monotheism’s ground zero is just outside the so-called Dung Gate of the old city of Jerusalem, near the Western Wall. Charities pay for young diaspora Jews to come here, so they can learn about their past. The government pays for soldiers to come here, so they can learn about why they fight. From the lookout you can see the necropolis on the side of Jabal al-Zaytun (otherwise known as the Mount of Olives) and, on the hill opposite, a slightly down-at-the-heels-looking neighborhood, with washing lines strung over flat roofs and trash tumbling down a steep slope behind the houses. After a while you may notice the minaret of a mosque. If you are there at prayer time something startling flows over these stones, so saturated with Jewish history and culture. Muezzins call from all around, their keening voices instructing the Muslim faithful: Hasten to prayer, hasten to success, prayer is better than sleep. . . It becomes apparent that there are mosques in several nearby locations, not just on the opposite side of the hill.

Competing with the muezzins’ amplified call, the tour guide raises his voice. “David says, you know what? I feel so bad. I live in a great palace here, made out of cedar. But the Ark of the Covenant, the holiest thing imaginable, is just sitting in a tent. . .” He’s wearing a kippa and carrying a red clothbound book of scripture, a prop that seems unnecessary, for he narrates his story fluently, giving his ancient kings and courtiers a folksy American-accented patter. As we listen, I can feel Yoni Mizrachi fidgeting beside me. “What are they actually looking at?” he whispers. “This place he’s calling the palace of King David? Some stones, and a man telling a story. How do they know if he’s telling the truth?” Mizrachi is an archaeologist who has spent his career working on excavations around Israel. While there is nothing to absolutely disprove their claims, in Mizrachi’s opinion, “There is nothing here to tell them where they really are. Nothing to say what the purpose of all this is.”


Nadav Weiman is a brooding, dark-haired thirty-year-old who served as a sniper’s spotter in an elite reconnaissance unit of the IDF. He came, he says, from a military family. It was expected that he would serve “at the tip of the spear.” One of his jobs was to conduct so-called straw widow operations, taking over Palestinian homes all over the West Bank for use as temporary military posts. His team had the authority to choose any house that seemed suitable to them. Under cover of darkness, they would enter as quickly as possible, waking the family and concentrating them in one of the smaller rooms, usually a bathroom or one of the children’s bedrooms. While one soldier stood guard, the others would open a tripod near the largest window, hang camouflage nets, and set up a sniper rifle and observation equipment. Their role was to provide cover for other units operating in the city. A straw widow could last overnight, or for two or three days. During that time, the family could not leave.

Nadav did this three or four times a week. He estimates that on any given night in the West Bank, there are probably ten units doing the same thing. Forty or fifty families a week. More than two thousand families a year, having the same experience, the soldiers breaking in, adrenalized and violent because they have no idea about what could be waiting for them in your house, perhaps smashing the lock on your front door, taking the window out of its frame, breaking things as they move your furniture. Your children terrified, having to ask permission to go to the toilet. Hours, even days, unable to go to work or to school. The rage that comes from helplessness, of being unable to protect those dearest to you, of seeing your parents deferring to the young conscripts, eighteen or nineteen years old, who are lounging about in your home.

The logic of the occupation doesn’t see this metastasis of resentment as a negative. It is part of a tactic, the creation of “a sense of persecution” among the Palestinian population. I hear the phrase used several times by former soldiers. It is, it appears, an IDF term of art.


So what am I looking at?

A deep hole, beneath what was once a parking lot. I can see some walls, a few fragmentary columns, a mosaic floor. It’s by far the most visually impressive part of the City of David site. I assume that I’m looking at the remains of ancient Judean houses.

It’s a Roman villa, says Mizrachi. From about the third-century CE. It was probably destroyed in an earthquake.

So this isn’t anything to do with David?


We walk back to the place where the tour guide was telling his breathless story about the ancient king.

Well, says Yoni. We can say that’s a wall. He pauses. In my admittedly limited dealings with archaeologists, I have come to know what that pause means. It is the scrupulous hesitation that signifies, As for the rest, we don’t know.

A wall. A palace wall? The wall of the palace of King David?

I would be inclined to say it dated to the twelfth or eleventh centuries BCE, and was constructed by the inhabitants we call Canaanites. It’s possible that it dates to the tenth century BCE, which biblical tradition marks as the beginning of the House of David.

But a palace wall.

You can see it’s a thick wall. Perhaps it had a defensive function. Little by little, Yoni dismantles the origin story being retailed to the tourists by their guide. There is, in Yoni’s opinion, no archaeological evidence to link this place to the biblical King David. No artifacts, no inscriptions. The site is a jumble of ruins from every period from the early bronze age to the Ottoman period. They don’t exist in neat strata, but are jumbled together in ways that make assigning dates to individual features very difficult. There were, for example, significant remains from the period of the Umayyad Caliphate, but those have been removed, so that the focus of the site falls solely on the people whom modern Israelis are taught to claim as their ancestors. As for monotheism, there’s the small matter of the female votive figurines, thousands of them, made of clay and found in strata from the times of the Kings of Judea. They have heavy breasts. They are assumed to have a religious function.

Mother goddesses? From the time of David?

Yoni’s pause seems to stretch out forever.


Five a.m. There’s a fierce February chill in the air. Men are climbing out of minivans and running to get in line at the checkpoint, jostling as they enter a large, metal-roofed shed. They have their hoods pulled up, their hands jammed into their pockets. They smoke cigarettes and carry plastic bags containing their lunch. Thousands of Palestinians must pass through this place every morning, workers entering Jerusalem from the West Bank.

If the checkpoints and the so-called separation wall did not exist, the journey from Ramallah to Jerusalem would take around twenty minutes. As it is, for Palestinians it lasts several hours. For those requiring emergency medical care, the delay can be much more than an inconvenience. Down the road is another checkpoint, used by Jewish settlers, who can drive through freely, rarely having to stop for inspection. When erecting the wall, the Israeli planners made special environmental provisions, carefully moving a population of rare irises and creating tiny passages for animals. Many Palestinians were, on the other hand, cut off from their farmland or their water supply, or simply had their homes and businesses demolished. What traces of all this will archaeologists find a thousand years from now? What will they understand to have been the function of this structure?


So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward.
—2 Samuel 5:9

Once you’ve seen the ruins and perused the trinkets in the gift shop, you can walk out of the main site of the City of David, taking what appears to be an official trail down a street of picturesque stone houses. Sign boards bearing the ubiquitous lyre logo give their names: the Tirah House, the Tamar House. They have the feeling of landmarks, pieces of heritage. They also have prominent security features. Intercoms, heavy doors, high fences, multiple security cameras.

Once you’ve got used to the pleasing honeyed stone, the security cameras are the most prominent features of the streetscape, at least until you turn a corner and see that on the roof of one house is a guard post, manned by a sour-looking young security man with a semiautomatic weapon. Why are all these precautions necessary, in a place where tourists are being encouraged to wander? The answer lies in the lyre. Before it was the logo of the City of David, the lyre was the logo of the organization that runs it, the Ir David Foundation, commonly known as Elad. Its founder, David Be’eri, is a former special forces commander who got to know the area during the first intifada, when his men conducted operations across the West Bank. Archaeology is not Elad’s primary concern; or rather, archaeology is only a means to a political end. As the group puts it on its website:

The Ir David Foundation is committed to continuing King David’s legacy as well as revealing and connecting people to Ancient Jerusalem’s glorious past through four key initiatives: archaeological excavation, tourism development, educational programming and residential revitalization.

What is King David’s legacy? Music? Smiting Philistines? It’s a phrase with a feel-good ring but little content, except that it clearly has something to do with Jewish tradition. Behind the anodyne phrase residential revitalization hides Elad’s primary agenda. The ruins that it has branded as the Ursprung of the Israelite people were found beneath Silwan, a Palestinian village that was annexed into Jerusalem in 1967. An Elad board member, Adi Mintz, told Haaretz in 2006 that the organization’s goal was “to get a foothold in East Jerusalem and to create an irreversible situation in the holy basin around the Old City.” That is to say, Elad’s purpose (as another spokesman put it, in conversation with a reporter for the New York Times) is to “Judaize” Silwan, acquiring homes and property by a variety of means and placing ideologically committed settlers in them to create a “Jewish presence.” Coupled with the archaeological invocation of a primal Jewish past, the hope is that this will bind Silwan to Israel, so that in any future territorial negotiation it will appear to be a “natural” part of the Jewish state. The tendentious “educational programming” offered by the City of David, “geared towards Israeli students, adults and soldiers” to “reconnect them to their history and heritage” reinforces this message. Our history. Our land. Elad is a political project conceived by a trained military strategist, an apparatus for capturing territory.

Duvdevan is one of Israel’s most mythologized military units. The nickname means “cherry,” the fruit that goes on top of “the cream,” as the IDF special forces like to term themselves. Established in 1986, shortly before the outbreak of the first intifada, Duvdevan was formed to infiltrate Palestinian urban areas undercover with the objective of identifying, locating, and then capturing or killing terrorists. Be’eri, who is a former student at yeshivas associated with the far right of the Israeli settler movement, became the unit’s deputy commander. This is how he got to know Silwan, a neighborhood where his teams operated.

According to “Shady Dealings in Silwan,” a report commissioned by the Israeli NGO Ir Amim[2] about settlement activities in Silwan, after he left the military, Be’eri continued to move through the urban terrain of Silwan, sometimes posing as a tour guide. He looked for houses and land that had been passed back and forth in relatively recent history, land that had some documentary history of Jewish ownership. It was a feat of historical research that relied on two primary sources—records of a purchase made by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in the early twentieth century on behalf of the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, and records of land that had belonged to a community of Yemeni Jews that had formed in the late nineteenth century and been violently dispersed in the wake of Arab rioting in 1929.

According to Ir Amim’s research, Be’eri got to know the terrain inch by inch, meticulously recording any property he felt he could plausibly claim as Jewish. He secured a quasi-official role as a locator of Jewish property for the Jewish National Fund, the group that flyers American neighborhoods with pictures of happy folk planting trees, and which has a deep involvement in evictions and forced displacement. Be’eri also cultivated contacts in the Ministry of Housing, the Office of the Custodian of Absentee Property, and the contractors overseeing the redevelopment of East Jerusalem. While he was identifying his target houses, Be’eri secured financial support to “Judaize” additional parts of the historic basin of East Jerusalem. When he was ready, he acted systematically, petitioning various authorities to have Palestinian residents removed from their homes.

Many houses, many lawsuits. Litigation lasting years. The Ir Amim report describes the practices used by the settler groups: Palestinians cajoled into selling, shabby houses in Silwan bought by Palestinian front men or anonymous front companies, companies with neutral names and pockets deep enough to pay extravagant sums, many times what those houses would otherwise be worth.

Gradually Elad has become almost inseparable from the Israeli state in Silwan. The Jewish National Fund signed over its absentee interests to the settlers for a nominal sum, and the legal and planning systems worked in concert to grow the City of David inside the community. One house, five houses, a dozen houses, family homes suddenly declared vacant, or their owners absentees. The letter of the law, always backed up by force. They would arrive and take possession of the expropriated houses under the protection of guards, who stood watch as they mounted the cameras and welded heavy security doors onto their new forward operating bases.

For Elad, the cherry on top is control of the past. Of the urgency of the historian’s task, Walter Benjamin famously wrote that one must be convinced that “not even the dead will be safe from the enemy” if that enemy is victorious. In 1997, over the initial cautions of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Elad took over responsibility for the archaeological ruins in Silwan from the Israel Land Authority. Eventually, however, the Israel Antiquities Authority came on board with the transfer of a supposedly important site to a private nonprofit organization, which, in the eyes of some, had little or no credibility in the world of academic archaeology, and in 2008 the director stated that he couldn’t see a problem with Jews discovering more about their heritage and “didn’t like bringing politics into archaeology.” Elad was now the law in Silwan, a law always tending in one direction, toward the erosion of the Palestinian presence on its hillsides.

There are facts and there are facts on the ground. Ancient history grows out of the barrel of a gun, and reportedly out of offshore accounts in Panama. Between 2006 and 2013, Elad took in $115 million in donations. At the opening of the City of David visitor’s center, the guests included Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, Lev Leviev, who made his fortune processing and mining diamonds in Angola and apartheid-era South Africa, and the former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel served as chair of Elad’s International Advisory Council.

Palestinians find it almost impossible to get building permits in East Jerusalem, but Ateret Cohanim, another settler group operating in Silwan, has thrown up a six-story tower, far taller than anything around it. It is a fortress, with metal bars on the windows and a huge Israeli flag draped down the facade. The reality of life for its inhabitants is grim; they are surrounded by people who hate them and whom they seem to yearn to displace. They have named the place Beit Yonatan, after the imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. One afternoon I watch the children returning from preschool, in a van with wire mesh over the windows, spattered with paint and dented by stones. A border police patrol waits outside the house, alongside a team of private security guards. A father emerges from the house and welcomes his little son with a tender kiss. I have a boy that age. I kiss him just like that. I cannot help but ask what sort of man would choose to put his family in such a situation. A dozen armed guards to get you in and out of your home? Only a fanatic would make his child endure such a life. In justification, the settlers point to the historical presence of Yemeni Jews in Silwan, Zionists who arrived in the 1880s and were expelled in the upheavals of the early twentieth century. The Palestinians of Silwan tell stories of settlers attacking their children, of police personnel who have orders only to discipline them, never their Jewish antagonists. Their own violence is clearly visible on the bodywork of a settlers’ school bus, the strain on the wan little faces peering out from behind the mesh.

In 2010 David Be’eri was filmed running over two children from Silwan with his car. Elad claimed its director had been surrounded by a stone-throwing lynch mob. The video showed four boys with stones, two of whom were hit and injured. An investigation cleared Be’eri of wrongdoing. A Palestinian is never innocent. The technical term used in the Israeli military is uninvolved. A Palestinian is either involved or uninvolved. But in this place, who can really say they are uninvolved? I meet Palestinians. I listen to them discuss politics. All I can do is record, scribble down fragments of a conversation that has been going on for half a century.

We need a Palestinian Gandhi.

Are you joking? The Gandhi times have gone. How can you have Gandhi with these settlers?

Gandhi took thirty years.

Thirty years! We don’t have the luxury of time.

Conversations in cafés, in a Ramallah conference room, a chopped-down olive grove, a Red Cross tent on farmland in the South Hebron Hills.

If it’s an occupation, it needs to end so we can build our state. If we’re too weak to make a state then it’s a civil rights movement and we need to gain our civil rights. Our right to freedom of movement, our water rights. . . 

Conversations. Burning cigarettes. Sipping tea.

Once we were part of the General Union of Palestinian Women. We were one of the founding organizations of the PLO. Women participated in all forms of struggle. After Oslo we were very optimistic. We thought we were heading towards the end of the occupation. The implementation of the two-state solution. We were aiming very high. We were looking for secular laws in which the rights of women are respected. But the role of women has been deteriorating since Oslo. I maintain we had much more democracy under armed struggle than we do now. We were activists. Now we are NGO employees. Before Oslo, these organizations were the government of the Palestinian people, giving services, mobilizing people. With the arrival of the donor community they became more professional, they became the agents of the donors. Now I spend my time writing reports and arguing about where I put the donor’s logo.

Smoking, looking out the window at a communications antenna, a line of red roofed settlement houses on a hill. Her eyes moving back and forth, as if looking for a place to put her bitterness.

I have only one child. I had to wait a long time. Fifteen years. I had to have a lot of operations. And I am not ready for him to die because of some stupid Israeli soldier. So sometimes I keep him inside. But I cannot keep him inside. He is a teenage boy. He wants to go. What can I do? The settlers are running Israel now. They want to kick us out of the country. I see it coming very soon. Now the world is concerned with Syria and the Israelis are showing their true face. They are savages. They will kick us out. I bet none of these human rights defenders in Europe will say a word. The least we can do, we are doing. Which is to stay here.

Conversations, cigarettes, sipping bitter tea.[3]


I am in Hebron, standing in the “sterilized zone” of Shuhada Street. It is a ghost town, the bustling market emptied of people, the shops sealed. This is my house, shouts the settler at my colleague, the sardonic Palestinian journalist. I have better papers than you do. I have title to my house. I bet you don’t have papers.

I ask the settler if he was born in Hebron. No, he says. Brookline, Massachusetts.

Ah, papers. Look out over this unholy land and think of papers. Deeds, assignments, documents with signatures and seals. It is early spring. The valleys are green, but the hilltops are barren and rocky. Look out over this land and think of law. How do you take the land, if you believe it is yours by right? You need to do it by law. You need papers. Throughout the West Bank, almost every relevant agency of government collaborates to create or perpetuate insecurity for Palestinian landowners. Elad is far from the only organization that solicits money from sentimental diaspora Jews and uses it to research and fight court cases, dunam of land by dunam of land, house by house. This is not your house. Before it was your house it was my house. Now it will be my house again. My house, our house, my people’s house, my father’s house, with its tiled red roof and its guard post and its security camera.

But there is more land. Land that is cultivated by Palestinian fellaheen, grazed by Bedouin herders. To take it you need papers, so you look back further in time, until you find older laws that will justify what you want to do. Look back to Ottoman times, to the Land Code of 1858. For the Ottomans, to own land meant to exploit it, to cultivate it. All uncultivated land reverted to the state. Look again at the land. At the green below, the rocky hilltops. Those hilltops are not cultivated land. Invoke the old Ottoman laws and, at a stroke, all those high places now belong to the state. The state can now give it to those who will make use of it, who will build red-roofed houses to look down on the old fellaheen villages.

The land belongs to the cultivator. Who cultivates the land? Come down from your new red-roofed house, with your automatic rifle slung on your back. Come down and ask to see the farmer’s papers. Does he have title? Does the shepherd have a paper to prove his right to the pasture? He says he has always been here. Before his always comes your always. Before it was his house it was your house. Come down from your red-roofed house and bring a court case. While the case is in progress, the farmer can’t carry on cultivating the land. That wouldn’t be just. It wouldn’t be right to let him farm land that might not even be his. If he tries, you chase him off with your gun. Perhaps the state decides this unfarmed land is vacant and reassigns it to you. Perhaps you begin to cultivate it yourself. You can cultivate it by planting a seedling in a rusty barrel and placing it on the ground you wish to claim. You don’t have to water it, or do anything much at all. In the eyes of the law you are a cultivator, making the land bloom.

Ali is a shepherd. I meet him in the South Hebron Hills, a middle-aged man with a flock of twenty or thirty goats. He grazes them by the roadside, a narrow strip of green. He can’t go up the hill, because he will be trespassing. He can’t graze them in the field with the stunted seedlings in the rusty barrels. Once that was his village’s pasture, but not anymore. It belongs to the settlers, who are making it bloom. There is good pasture near the settlement, but he constitutes a security risk, and he fears they would shoot him if he went there. So he uses the strip by the roadside, where the trucks thunder past, bringing produce from the settlements to sell in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

This is not Ali’s land. Maybe it never was. The land always belonged to the men from Brooklyn and Melbourne and Johannesburg and Kiev. All those years that his father and grandfather roamed these hills grazing their goats, and they never realized that the real owners had yet to arrive.


Two Orthodox boys, wearing kippas and black trousers and drip-dry shirts and scuffed thick-soled shoes. They stand on the wall at the viewpoint at the top of Mount Scopus, surveying the Jordan Valley far below. In the distance lies the Dead Sea, just a sliver of hazy gray blue. Nearer you can see a black ribbon of road, and the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. One of the boys laughs and begins to stride down the hill. The other, shivering slightly in the cold, slips on a green New York Jets sweatshirt.

Hey, he says, turning to us. Is one of you a tour guide? He speaks English with an American accent. Hagit asks him what he wants to know.

My buddy is walking down to the highway. How long will that take? He says he can do it in five minutes.

It will surely take him longer than that. Maybe twenty minutes, half an hour? I’ve never done it.

Okay. Thanks.

He stands and watches. After a while he takes out his phone and begins to shoot video, talking to his friend, the hands-free wire dangling down by his waist.

I’m looking right at you! Yes, I am. Pose! That’s right.

This is what mastery looks like. Two carefree boys, surveying the terrain. Who gets to survey the land from high places? Who gets to walk down to the highway, ignoring paths or boundaries? Who gets to walk just as far as he wishes to go?


This is why that [sic] we opted for the methodology of walking through walls . . . like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing. We were thus moving from the interior of homes to their exterior in a surprising manner and in places we were not expected, arriving from behind and hitting the enemy that awaited us behind a corner.

 The speaker is an Israeli paratroop commander called Aviv Kochavi, interviewed by the architectural theorist Eyal Weizman in 2004. During the 2002 attack on Nablus, Brigadier General Kochavi’s troops advanced into the city through aboveground “tunnels” which they blasted through the dense urban fabric of houses, shops, and workshops. The soldiers avoided the streets and alleys of the city, moving horizontally through party walls and vertically through holes blasted in floors and ceilings. Thermal imaging technologies allowed them to “see” adversaries on the other side of solid barriers, and 7.62mm rounds could penetrate to kill on the other side. Much fighting took place in private homes, and the civilian population was profoundly traumatized.

A retired brigadier general called Shimon Naveh, who taught at the IDF’s Operational Theory Research Institute, told Weizman of the IDF’s interest in the philosophical work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, particularly the concepts of “smooth” and “striated” space:

In the IDF we now often use the term “to smooth out space” when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. We try to produce the operational space in such a manner that borders do not affect us.

Elad’s multidimensional project to smooth out the Palestinian space of Silwan seems entirely continuous with these French-theoretical military tactics. They are an organization that has grown out of war, a very modern full-spectrum war in which the distinction between combatants and the civilian population is blurred, and the battlefield could potentially be everywhere, including inside civilian homes. Elad’s attack is slow, but it is happening. It is unfolding at the pace of spades and excavators, the pace of planning hearings and court dates and fundraising galas, an assault on an urban area slowed down to the speed of archaeology.

Elad’s latest tactic in Silwan is burrowing. It has already built a tunnel (billed as “the pilgrims’ route”) to connect the City of David to the Temple Mount, and the highlight of tourist offerings is the chance to walk underground along part of an ancient aqueduct system, through which water still flows. Other tunnels are confidently identified as the work of King Herod, or as hiding places for Jewish rebels against the Romans. The new tunnels (no doubt supplied with their own attractive biblical backstories) are worming in all directions under Palestinian Silwan. Part of their routes are secret. Residents complain that they are seeing cracks in their walls, in the foundations of their houses. They wonder whether it is because of the tunnels that in several places the streets have collapsed.


In the tourist shops in Jerusalem’s Old City you can buy pictures of the Temple Mount with al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock airbrushed out. You can buy pictures of the Temple itself, coming down over the Western Wall like a returning UFO, a structure made of Hebrew text, of scripture.

In Silwan there is—or was—a wall, the front wall of a house on which a muralist had carefully painted, in English, a famous line of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. My homeland is not a suitcase and I am no traveler. The worm soon arrived in the guise of municipal workers, sent to erase the “graffiti.” Local people prevented them. So the mural stayed, at least for a while.
—June 2016

[1] Text on the wall of the City of David archaeological site.

[2] Following the publication of the report authored by journalist Meron Rapoport, Elad filed a lawsuit in Israel against Ir Amim. The suit was settled, without retraction.

[3] Speakers: Ala Hlehel and Lama Hourani, Sam Bahour, Lama Hourani.

* * *

The above is an excerpt from Kingdom of Olives and Ash, forthcoming from HarperCollins on May 30, 2017. Copyright Hari Kunzru.

Hari Kunzru

Hari Kunzru, born in London, is the author of the novels The Impressionist, Transmission, My Revolutions, and Gods without Men, as well as a short story collection, Noise, and a novella, Memory Palace. His forthcoming novel White Tears will be published in 2017. His short stories and essays have appeared in diverse publications including the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The London Review of Books, Granta, BookForum, and Frieze. He was a 2008 Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library and a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow.

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One Comment on “Architecture of Persecution

  1. Weaponized against “palestinians”?
    It is a wall protecting Israeli citizens (Jew, Christian and Muslim alike) from terrorist attacks.
    There is no “p” sound in Arabic.
    Palestine was the name given to the Holy Land under Roman occupation. “Palestinian” was the name the Romans called the Israelites living in “Palestine”, in an attempt to separate them from their Hebrew/Jewish identity.
    Prior to 1922, none of the countries of the region existed, as they were part of the Ottoman Empire (1299 – 1922), then under jurisdiction of the British Empire. Countries in the Middle East became states (after 600 years) as follows: Turkey – 1923; Syria – 1946; Iraq – 1930; Jordan – 1946; Egypt – 1922; Libya – 1951; Saudi Arabia – 1932; Cyprus – 1960; Lebanon – 1946; and Israel – 1948.
    The “palestinians” were offered statehood … they declined.
    They want nothing less than genocide of the Jewish people.

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