The influence of socio-political changes on religious institutes

Moriel Ram (Post-Doctorate)Picture Moriel

In my project I examine how place-making strategies pursued by immigrant religious communities evolve in relation to changes in the urban environment where they are located.  The empirical research design consists in a comparative study of non-establishment synagogues serving Jews of North-African descent in the city of Acre. I chose two synagogues as sites for our ethnographic fieldwork. The first is Or Tora (Hebrew for Light of Tora) which was conceived as a house of prayer that commemorates Tunisian, Jewry and the majority of the attendees came from this community. The synagogue is noted for the mosaic work that covers it walls, which have turned it into a considerable tourist attraction for many Israelis, as well as Jews from various countries.  The second is Sha’arey Shamayim (Hebrew for Gates of Heaven), which was founded Moroccan immigrants and is located in a shelter of an apartment block. While there are significant differences between the two cases, I contend that given the specific status of immigrants’ places of worship both synagogues are important sites to investigate the interaction between religious public institutions and changes in the urban sphere. The project will thus contribute to empirical knowledge of the strategies, practices and means through which spatial arrangements of religion in cities unfolds.

Urbanity at the intersection of theater, urban space and the public – Acre as a case study

 Sharon Yavo Ayalon (Doctorate)Picture Sharon

The proposed research will ask what kind of urbanisy arises at the intersection of urban space, theater as a socially engaged art, and publicness in a specific community. The study will focus on Acre, a mixed peripheral city in Israel, in which a tradition of theater events exists. This is a qualitative research, which will document, analyze and focus on 5 theater scenes in the city: 1. Acre fringe theater Festival, 2. Acre Theatre Center with fringe theater subscriptions and an annual festival for single plays in  Arabic (Msharid), 3. Acre Auditorium and community center which holds a community theater group with amateur actors of all ages, and theater classes for school children, 4. Department of Theatre at Western Galilee College, 5. Public High school Theater graduates.

Acre will be the main scene of event , but the focal challenge of the research will be in promoting the theoretical toolbox which deals with these issues.

From urban planning perspective, public art deciphered within the body of knowledge of urban renewal. Academic research examined the success of culture led urban renewal plans by focusing on their ability to create economic or social changes. My intention in this study is to exceed those discourse conventions and to focus on the concept of Urbanism. Acre urban spaces will be examined as they are being formed under the artistic intervention, Together and within the local community who share stressful, ethnically mixed urban space. Acre will serve as a research commentary framework in which the concept of Urbanism will be discussed at the intersection of three theoretical fields: urban space, publicness and art.

Acre is a historic city, a peripheral city and a mixed city with ethnic and social complexity. Its Fringe Theater Festival, which takes place every year during Sukkot, for the last 35 years, constitutes as an extend field for art events in public spaces and contributed to the development of public art scene in the city.

The contribution of the research will be in opening out the discussion, outside the urban renewal discourse and in the theoretical development of the concept of urbanism and the ways in which theater as an artistic intervention formulate urbanism. The research will link theater to concepts that shape our time: space, place, public and publicness and will ask what kind of urbanism in being formed at that intersection. The main contribution of this study will be in the Integration of philosophical, sociological, and political points of view into the discourse of urban planning.

Urban renewal programs and most of the theoretical knowledge were created in the Western world, the study will examine how these theories which were copied and pasted here, like formulas for success, are implemented on the local scene, the Middle East and Acre in it. Adjacent contribution of the research will be in examining their implications in this specific space, place and public.

Center vs Periphery

Noga Shani (Master)Picture Noga Shani

A main feature of holy cities is that they mainly act as central cities. Holy cities are centers for pilgrimage, and as such, they are magnets for important economic, political and social development. These cities combine the physical and spiritual aspects, and thus have a unique effect, which attracts both pilgrims and tourists alike. However, during the last sixty six years of Israel’s existence the status of Israel’s holy cities has significantly deteriorated; instead of functioning as central cities, policy makers currently perceive them as peripheral places.

By conducting an urban-ethnographic examination within a Breslov Hasidim (an ultra-orthodox Jewish community) in the city of Safed, this study offers a critical examination of the relations between ‘center’ and ‘periphery’ in the state of Israel. Although ‘center’ and ‘periphery’ are culturally dependent and relational categories, both concepts have recently gone through a process of objectification. This objectification determines the status of cities in Israel in general and the status of holy cities in particular. Analyzing holy cities by alien parameters, which highlight the neo-liberal ideology and the secular academic education, is what constitutes their ‘failure’ and marginality. This definition and perception of holy cities as peripheral diminishes their actual centrality and significance.

           By drawing on a critical toolbox, this research examines the status of holy cities in Israel, as simultaneously being a religious center and in-state periphery – without perceiving either of these categories as canceling each other out. In the first chapter the findings show that the tension between the religious centrality and the in-state peripheral status of Safed can be explained by the concept of ‘Avodat Ha-makom’ (which literally translates to work of the place, but is commonly used to describe the worship of god).[1] Moreover, the Breslov Hasidim community is involved in ‘Avodat Ha-makom’ in both meanings which are mentioned above: On the one hand, the worship of god; and on the other – urban-spatial work. This dialectical concept pinpoints on twofold attributes of the action of worship: on the one hand ‘worship of God’ strengthens the city as a holy center yet limits individuals’ ability to enter the labor market. Hence, on the other hand it perpetuates the place’s status as a ‘state periphery’. The term ‘worship’ is the watershed, which simultaneously constitutes the weakened attributes of a place on the secular-state dimension, as well as the centrality of a place in the spiritual-religious dimension.

The second chapter findings present the intensive and meaningful associations between Breslov Hasidim in Safed and other Jewish communities around the world (the Jewish Diaspora). In this research I have found that in resemblance to global cities, holy cities in general, and Safed in particular, maintain intensive transnational connections. Therefore, in similarity to global cities, Safed’s status can be examined not only in the scope of the national state, but also in the global arena. Akin to the global city, the holy city encourages movement, flow, pilgrimages, and is located on the global network exchanging finances and ideas and providing its inhabitants with a strong sense of identity. As such, it functions as a central city.

This research has been primarily on qualitative research methods. However, since I wish to present a complex picture that is not based exclusively on the Breslov Hasidim outlook, this study also includes quantitative data. Using the ‘mixed method’ approach I have combined the knowledge derived from quantitative methods and qualitative methods. The quantitative knowledge was generated from research tools such as observations in the old city of Safed and in-depth interviews with Breslov Hasidim and officeholders; while the quantitative data was gathered from existing databases. The materials from both methods were gathered into a thematic analysis and were assembled in the findings chapter.

The methodology consists of three levels of investigation. The first focuses on the action-set of the Breslov Hassidim who make a pilgrimage to Safed and live in the city. The second layer explores the meanings of this action. Finally, since spatial acts constitute and establish the urban map of the holy city, the third layer evaluates the implication of spatial activities on the urban and the physical space.

The study seeks to contribute different and alternative examinations for the public and professional discourse regarding holy cities. The research tackles central questions which preoccupy urban studies research in Israel. Moreover, the study seeks to contribute to the formation of new urban strategies in holy cities in general and in Safed in particular. A critical examination of the state policies, urban planning systems, and the associations between communities within planned areas will be an applicable tool for urban planners and policy makers alike. By drawing on new tools and concepts, and by providing examination on multiple scales, this study offers a different strategy for the analysis of the urban spatial structure in Israel.

Qualified Engineer, Working as a waiter: Success and Failurein Capital Conversion

The Intel – ‘Kiryat Gat’ Case

 Nadav Penn (Master)

This research, in accordance wPicture Nadav Pennith the urban sociology tradition, questions the forms in which regional development, fifteen years after initiated, meets the inhabitants and triggers a change in their lives. The research examines the ability of ‘Kiryat Gat’s’ citizens to utilize the “Intel Kiryat Gat” resource in terms of capital (in all of its manifestations) and then to convert the acquired capital into different kinds of capital as a necessary step in Social Mobility. Contrasted to the dominant school of thought in economics and urban planning which focuses on the (economical) macro benefits of regional development this research explores the gap between economical regional development and the condition of the inhabitants. The research focuses on the young (24-30) inhabitants of ‘Kiryat Gat’ and methodologically-wise is based on two main pillars: 1. quantitative research that analyzes in categorical terms the capital conversion challenge; 2. an ethnographical research of guidance and counselling sessions in the youth center of Kiryat Gat (‘Merkaz HaZeirim’). The ethnographical research will examine the dialogue between a counselling governmental institution and a young ‘Kiryat Gat’ inhabitant according to the “Embodiment of Institutions” thesis, as laid out by Mountz (2004). Out of these encounters a new body of knowledge about the mechanism of Capital Conversion will emerge.

Architecture Preceding Discourse – Upper Nazareth as a case study

Yamit Lazimi (Master)Picture Yamit

The research attempts to show a unique point of view of new towns, Israeli largest type of settlement, planned and established in the first decades of the state of Israel. In the second half of the twentieth century, as part of the emerging architectural culture in Western Europe, the “new towns” idea (Merlin, 1972) was developed alongside the formalization of welfare state. Israeli versions of new towns began once independence was achieved in 1948, as part of the “Sharon Plan”. The phenomenon of founding new towns was particularly notable in Israel, since the project significantly shaped Israel’s built environment. Following the war of 1948, the political authority outlined ideological sense of housing as part of attempts to rehabilitate and accommodate masses of jewfish refugees, along with the wish to establish territorial integrity to secure the newly delineated borders (Tzfadia, 2006). This approach that guided the 1950s’ planning, referring to the social notion of “the New Jew”, reflected the social-realism hegemony. These managed to impose an effective mechanism for the creation of planned culture and the belief in the power of planning to change reality (Kallus & Lo-yon, 2000). In 1953 at the ninth congress of CIAM (Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne), critical discourse developed, reviewing the high modernism approach to perceive design as “Tabula Rasa”, and the lack of contents as identity, community and texture (Steiner, 2011). At the same time, the failure of the Israeli new towns and the housing problems aroused social criticism among Israeli planners as well. An ideological turn in the design discourse took place only at the 1970s, from “glorification of housing”, to the idea of “creating residential environments”. Nonetheless, the turn was reflected in the professional practice years before. Upper Nazareth, founded in 1956, was established as an immigrant-absorption city, as part of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s vision to strengthen Jewish control over Galilee (Amikam, 1982). The town served as a link in a chain of new (development) towns built in the fifties. The planning team was made up of immigrants who, uncommonly, were also residents of the area themselves (interviews with Yehudah Drechsler (1998), Avraham Salomon (2012) and Moshe Adam (2012)). The physical space and the planning team, both indicate of a different architectural logic, an instinctive architecture dealing with housing environments, enabling different kind of social and community behaviors. The research refers to Upper Nazareth as a unique space. It wishes to examine its particular model of urbanization and design, questioning the ability of its planning to strengthen social unity, promote cooperation and create communities. The research asks whether Upper Nazareth promoted an alternative model of planning by creating a sense of place and thus becoming such an enabling space.

Urban Space and Jewish Law

Miriam Feldman (Master)Picture miriam

In the domains of architecture and Jewish Law, the Sukkah constitutes a temporary and minimalistic housing unit, to be used during the Sukkot holiday. According to Jewish Law, the Sukkah has to be an alternative to the permanent house, and suitable for all everyday needs. As it has to conform to Jewish Law and rules that define its minimum and maximum measurements, the structure functions, year after year, as a dominant element in space. Furthermore, the structure has to stand under the open sky; its size has be adjusted to the needs of the family – eating, sleeping and lingering – and it has to define space with three walls. These rules, among others, have caused the Sukkah to become a conflict-arousing element in regard to defining urban space.

In this treatise, I will explore the topic of the Sukkah and the relationship between the phenomenon and the social significance of urban space. In this framework, the research will focus on the following question: how does the phenomenon of constructing a Sukkah, with all its components, structure the social significance of urban space, and which meaning do public spaces assume during construction and dismantling of the Sukkah, and during the holiday itself?

This research will implement a combined methodology that brings together the information field of Jewish sources, ethnographical operation fields, and the morphological-urban operation field. Through a study of the meeting points created in this triangle, in relation to the urban field – in the upper north of the Musrara neighborhood – an architectural and ethnographic analysis will be presented on a year-long timeline, and will include a participant observation, a tour, mapping, research, documentation and description of the findings in the field. By collecting materials from urban space, a comparison between everyday life and that of the “event” of the Sukkot holiday will be examined.

Since this research will focus on the case study of a neighborhood with an ultra-orthodox population, it might contribute, on an ethnological level, to an understanding and explanation of the phenomenon that occurs each and every year in religious and ultra-orthodox society in Israel. The study will show how belief, religious practices and customs of orthodox society have become a factor in the shaping of urban space in Israel. Thus, it will be possible to establish a connection between the ethnography of the community and the way it realizes Jewish ideas and the architectural, physical expression that is subordinated to Jewish Law.

Ultra-Orthodox and Urban Changes

Yoad Shahar (Master)Picture Yoad

Throughout history, Ultra-Orthodox homogeneous spaces have evolved in the city of Jerusalem in the older neighborhoods in order to deal with the “fear of the effects of modern culture”. However, in recent decades, due to high natural increase among the Ultra-orthodox and high housing density in the older neighborhoods, occurs a widespread phenomenon of “living outside of the walls” and moving to non-Ultra-orthodox neighborhoods, in contrast to the Ultra-orthodox values. Haredization of neighborhoods is a socio-spatial process in which an Ultra-orthodox community is spreading to non-Ultra-orthodox spaces and those resulting undergo a significant change of character.  Haredization is not a neutral term. it often seems as takeover, coercion and literally as black cloud.

In contrast to this discussion, I would like to get to the bottom of Haredization as a specific case of the process of demographic, cultural and social urban change. In particular, the research deals with a specific point in that process – the Tipping point, in which the expectations of the future character and identity of the neighborhood changes. The most prominent manifestation of that point is migration of old residents and a massive entry of newcomers.  The attempt to describe a tipping point in time and space that reflects the watershed of the changing process requires reliance on the social infrastructure that stands at the scene of the conflict, namely, the social institutions (educational, cultural and religious institutions).  Those institutions affect the local social climate and can be used as a strategy to hasten the process toward the tipping point.

 The research method will combine quantitative analysis of statistical data from different sources including qualitative fieldwork that will be conduct in Kiryat Ha’Yovel, Jerusalem, and in adjacent neighborhoods. To enable a broad reflection on the processes in the neighborhood, the research will combine inductive and deductive methods. That combination would enable, on one hand, examination and documentation of top-down strategies for the spread of Ultra-orthodox in the neighborhoods, and on the other hand to investigate the positions of the existing and potential residents toward that process. Spatial analysis of the statistical data combined with the findings of the fieldwork will be used to create a map-base distinctions relating to the connection between population distribution and the activities around the institutions. Using key themes from that integrated mapping could help to understand the changes taking place in the neighborhood and the conditions for the outbreak of the tipping point.

You Want to Maximize your Financial Gain. What about Mine?” Analysis of National Outline Plan No. 38 as a Planning Deal

Noa Prawer (Master) Picture Noa

Around Tama 38 (National outline plan for strengthening buildings against earthquakes) evolved a wide and strong development coalition, which includes the state and the municipalities, developers and homeowners. In order for a deal under the Tama to be executed, consent is required of all parties. Therefor between the coalition members exists an interdependence relationship. This work discusses the degree of which homeowners’ organization abilities are a key factor in the execution of projects under Tama 38. Unlike the other partners in the deal (the state and the developers), homeowners are not a cohesive and organized group.

As an organizing conceptual framework for analyzing the research findings, I will argue that Tama 38 is a “planning deal”: a way of promoting development projects through Collaboration between the public and private sectors, while balancing the investments and incomes of the parties. This definition presents the Tama as an agreement, according to which the country creates a planning tool (national outline plan) that allows trading of building rights, in order to generate capital for the developer. In return the developer undertakes a public task – In the case of Tama 38, the public objective is to strengthen the building against earthquakes and in some cases even provide a residential secure space.

The research question is what are the social conditions which allow or prevent homeowners to get organized in order to improve their living conditions?

The field research I choose was the city Tel Aviv. I chose three buildings: two in the center of the city, and one in Jaffa (three buildings that examined a joint project). In each of the buildings I joined the project from its beginning while combining two tools of qualitative research: participant observations and in-depth interviews.

Research findings

Owner’s conduct in an economic arena: In the research I found that reinforcing structures against earthquakes is not perceived as a public task in the eyes of the homeowners. Therefor the basic logic of cooperation between owners and developers is mainly related to the potential financial gain both sides stand to win from the deal. These findings are reflected in the language used by homeowners, a language that represents a desire for personal gain, while comparing the profits of others. The fear from unfairness and the concern of being perceived as “suckers” compared to others, causes the owners to try to create equal conditions in an unequal situation (one that is often a result of a municipality policy, the apartment’s location or the shape of the plot).

The perception of the building as a group: In terms of the Tama the building is perceived as a group: there needs to be consent from 66%[1] of the homeowners in the building in order to execute a project under the Tama. Also, developers often require an appointment of a representative of the building that will manage the building throughout the process. In terms of planning there needs to be uniformity in the facades and the location of the residential secure spaces. Meaning, certain interior decisions also have to be made together. However, can we define a building as a group? There are several reasons why a priori definition of a building as a Group is not accurate, particularly in the framework of a “planning deal”.  This research argues that the framework of the “planning deal” dictates the homeowners’ ability and way of organizing together, and makes it harder for them to organize as a group. Thus reduces the chances of projects under Tama 38 of being implemented.

This work provides an explanation that captures the relationship between the kinds of responsibility the state takes (the development of Tama 38) and the organization of homeowners. There is a pattern that the government created in which development is perceived as a “planning deal”’ and this pattern dictates the conduct of the various players in projects under Tama 38.






[1] In cases of Tama 38/2, which means demolition and construction, 80% is required.