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Living Together Separately, by Michael Romann and Alex Weingrod

- Abstract

In Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, Amos Elon observes that Jerusalem “has never been ‘one’ or ‘united,’ never a ‘mosaic,’ as its well-wishers hoped, but a collection of alienated islands” of Jews, Muslim Arabs, Circassians, Armenians, and others. Michael Romann and Alex Weingrod, two other long-time residents of the holy city, argue in this fascinating book that nowadays there are just two islands: Arab and Jewish. The many other ways to categorize Jerusalem’s population (for example, Muslim and Christian Arab, pious and secular Jews) pale in significance. The authors count no fewer than four lines—language, religion, national affiliation, ethnic-group membership—dividing Arabs and Jews. Add to this brew a clash of aspirations, and the result is a “tight, almost impermeable” ethnic boundary.

And they do mean impermeable. There are Jewish blood banks and Arab ones, Jewish and Arab electricity companies, Jewish and Arab brands of cigarettes, and two kinds of telephone books. Likewise, hotels, movie houses, schools, and buses all come in two forms, as do social services and most government offices.

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