Atlantic Cities

Designs for a Divided Jerusalem

As part of TheAtlantic.com's and the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace's ongoing Is Peace Possible? special report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Karen Lee Bar-Sinai, Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, and Chen Farkas, a trio of Israel-based architects involved with the group SAYA/Design for Change, have offered up a series of designs developed in collaboration with Palestinian planners that illustrate options for specialized border crossings in a potentially split Jerusalem. It's a fascinating case study of the challenges urban planners would face should a two-state solution ever come to pass.

The architects' preferred design for an entry/exit point on Road 60 (above), for example, the main north-south artery through Jerusalem that's used by both East and West Jerusalemites, calls for a pedestrian border crossing composed of two structures, east and west of the road, and connected by a bridge. They write:

The crossing would not only create a physical link between the two sides of the crossing, but also connects two main urban routes -- Derech Shechem/Salah Ad-Din in the east to Shmuel Hanavi/Shivtei Yisrael on the west. This proposal would create a centrally located, flexible crossing that maintains security but enables economic and social links between the two sides.

Creating a border though Jerusalem that connects the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem would require roads and corridors that cut through Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. But designing border crossings that are sensitive to the city and its routines, including crossing structures and procedures that allow varying degrees of permeability, can allow for the formation of two viable capitols, with effective separation and connection between them. Jerusalem can transform from a city bound by its fabricated unity to a city liberated by well thought-out separation.

As the authors themselves point out, Jerusalem of course already operates very much like two separate cities, but the issue they're attempting to solve here is that a more formal, built border, a concept which many Israeli security experts are now behind, would require a fair amount of "salamandering," or long extensions of Israeli territory that would connect the few Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to the rest of the Israeli part of the city. Such meandering borders would create odd disruptions in the design and flow of a new Palestinian capitol, a scenario a city planner virtually anywhere else would want to avoid.

Check out more of Bar-Sinai, Greenfield-Gilat, and Farkas's designs here, and the rest of the Is Peace Possible? series here.

Sommer Mathis is editor of The Atlantic Cities. Previously she spent five years editing and reporting on the D.C. metro area at DCist.com and TBD.com. All posts »

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