Fig­ur­ing Jerusalem: Pol­i­tics and Poet­ics in the Sacred Center

  • From the Publisher
January 3, 2022

Fig­ur­ing Jerusalem explores how Hebrew writ­ers have imag­ined Jerusalem, both from the dis­tance of exile and from with­in its sacred walls.

For two thou­sand years, Hebrew writ­ers used their exile from the Holy Land as a license for inven­tion. The ques­tion at the heart of Fig­ur­ing Jerusalem is this: how did these writ­ers bring their imag­i­na­tion home” in the Zion­ist cen­tu­ry? Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi finds that the same dias­poric con­ven­tions that Hebrew writ­ers prac­ticed in exile were main­tained through­out the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. And even after 1948, when the state of Israel was found­ed but East Jerusalem and its holy sites remained under Arab con­trol, Jerusalem con­tin­ued to fig­ure in the Hebrew imag­i­na­tion as medi­at­ed space. It was only in the after­math of the Six Day War that the temp­ta­tions and dilem­mas of prox­im­i­ty to the sacred would become acute in every area of Hebrew pol­i­tics and cul­ture.

Fig­ur­ing Jerusalem ranges from clas­si­cal texts, bib­li­cal and medieval, to the post-1967 writ­ings of S. Y. Agnon and Yehu­da Amichai. Ulti­mate­ly, DeKoven Ezrahi shows that the wis­dom Jews acquired through two thou­sand years of exile, as inscribed in their lit­er­ary imag­i­na­tion, must be redis­cov­ered if the diverse inhab­i­tants of Jerusalem are to coexist.

Discussion Questions