1 Jerusalem/ Into the 1920s

When the British began their period of Mandatory administration in Jerusalem, what they thought would be “a rescue from Ottoman filth” would result in the increased rise of tension between the already escalating anxieties to the undecided fate of its identity. By the 1920’s the Arabs became increasingly fearful to the growth of the Jewish presence, both to its numbers, (the population had doubled by 1949 (Troen, 3)), and by the British empathy towards reestablishing Zion. Urban planning strategies became an important tool in establishing boundaries: to integrate or to segregate. However in the planning initiatives about to be explored, one could see a series of conflicting ideals so complex that the sacrifices made in creating the plans fall short of a “peaceful mediation”.


  1. Religious Interest

The hot seat of religious sacred sites to the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam reside in the Old City: the Temple Mount, and within it the Haram al-Sharif. European interests in the sacred city were driven by a romantic vision of the city of Biblical times. The religious motivations of the British are discussed at length here (Bovis).

  1. Imperial Power

The British bore in mind the need for order and control in planning, both externally and internally. For the former, international interests in Palestine grew near the end of the First World War due to its strategic location and its sacred sites (Gitler) and the Jerusalem basin would form an effective buffer zone. The colonial practice consisted of establishing the ruling power in the form of monumental buildings, street naming and other. However as events unfold, this practice does not make its way explicitly into the planning of Jerusalem.

  1. Balfour and the Mandate

The bulk of the reason to inhibit the implications of Imperial power were the Balfour Declaration and the Mandatory status of the city. The British promised to rebuild Jerusalem as a Jewish city and effectively act as caretaker of its development. The universal declaration at the League of Nations is as such:

“Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”(Hertz)

  1. Zionism Rising

Jews embraced the declaration with open arms despite the negative response from the Arab population. The doubling of the Jewish population from 1921-1945 is indicative of the growing hope in Jerusalem as a “Jewish Homeland”. This posed a threat to the Arab population and would be the cause for a number of violent revolts, “aliyahs”, beginning from 1920.

  1. European Planning Ideals

The proposal plans of Jerusalem were not as once thought a generic product of an Imperial power but full of the individual urban planner’s motivations that were each uniquely ranged from segregated and sacred to integrated and secular.


Each of these particular themes are interconnected to form complicated alliances and escalate as time progresses. The planning proposals suggested by Mclean, Geddes, Ashbee, Holliday and Kendall suggest of responses not solely to the much discussed religious and imperial motivations but to the change in political paradigms created in the additional layers of conflict upon the city. As we shall explore, their plans appear to become increasingly based upon social livelihood and increasingly integrated in physicality.



Ashbee, C.R., Jerusalem, 1918-1920; being the records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council during the period of the British military administration.1924.

Bovis, H.E., The Jerusalem Question, 1917-1968, H. Eugene Bovis, Hoover Press 1971, p. 2-6

Hertz, E., “Mandate for Palestine” The Legal Aspects of Jewish Rights. Myths and Facts, Inc. 2005. http://www.mythsandfacts.org/conflict/mandate_for_palestine/mandate_for_palestine.htm

Poppy, Jerusalem: The urban environment during the British Mandate, May 2014. https://poppynotes.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/jerusalem-the-urban-environment-during-the-british-mandate/

Troen, S.I., The Transformation of Jerusalem into a Capital City. Ben-Gurion Universtiy of Negev. July 1997.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.