March 2-3, 2009 | ASU Tempe campus

The relationship between holy sites, religion, political conflict, and violence has become a point of great interest and even urgency in scholarship and in the popular press alike.

Much of the focus has been on the role of holy sites as catalysts to violent conflict. By bringing together scholars working on disparate aspects of holiness and conflict in the Middle East, this symposium seeks to combine such a focus with an attentiveness to the construction of often competing sacralities under situations of conflict, and the complexities involved in delineating the religious and the secular. Together, we will seek a deeper understanding of the relationship between religion and violent conflict as they intertwine with the construction of national identities and modern religiosities, paving the way ultimately to new insights into the roles played by processes of secularization and sacralization in shaping the modern itself.

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Symposium presenters

Doron Bar (Ph.D., Hebrew University, 2002) heads the Department of Land of Israel Studies at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He is the author of Sanctifying a Land: The Jewish Holy Places in the State of Israel, 1948-1968 (Yad Izhak Ben Zvi, 2007) [in Hebrew]. 

Kobi Cohen-Hattab (Ph.D., Hebrew University, 2001) is a lecturer at the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar Ilan University. He is the author of Touring the Land: Tourism in Palestine During the British Mandate (1917-1948) [in Hebrew].

Juan R. I. Cole (Ph.D., University of California, 1984) is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). 
Yoav Gortzak (Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2005) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Arizona State University. His work focuses on power and conflict in international relations, with a particular interest in the interplay between religion and violent conflict.

Richard Hecht (Ph.D., University of California, 1976) is Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is co-author (with Roger Friedland) of “Changing Places: Jerusalem’s Holy Places in Comparative Perspective” (Israel Affairs, 1999) and To Rule Jerusalem (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Hannan Hever (Ph.D., Hebrew University) is Professor of Hebrew Literature in the Department of Hebrew Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a senior fellow at the Van Leer Institute. Professor Hever recently published the collections Reading Poetry, Reviews, Essays and Articles About Hebrew Poetry (Keshev Publishers, 2007) and From the Beginning, Three Essays on Nativist Hebrew Poetry (Keshev Publishers, 2008).

Motti Inbari (Ph.D., Hebrew University, 2006) is a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Brandeis University. He is the author of Jewish Fundamentalism and the Temple Mount (Magnes Press, 2007) [in Hebrew] (and forthcoming in English, SUNY Press). Inbari is the co-editor of Who is a Jew in Our Days: Discussions on Jewish Identity (Tel Aviv: 2005) and The War of Gog and Magog: Messianism and Apocalypse in the Past and in Modern Times (Tel Aviv, 2001) [in Hebrew].
Gregory Khalil (J.D., Yale Law School) is an attorney and former legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team. He is a leading expert on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Palestinian Christian community.

Orde Kittrie (J.D., University of Michigan, 1992) is a Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and a visiting Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Professor Kittrie is a member of a special Congressionally-created committee on how to better prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Prior to joining the College, he served at the U.S. State Department where, as its lead nuclear affairs attorney, he negotiated five U.S.-Russia nuclear agreements and a U.N. treaty to combat nuclear terrorism.
Merav Mack (Ph.D., University of Cambridge 2002) is a Research Fellow at The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Her dissertation was titled “The Merchant of Genoa: the Genoese, the Crusades and the Latin East (1187-1220s).”

Arieh Saposnik (Ph.D., New York University, 2002) is Jess Schwartz Assistant Professor of Hebrew Culture at Arizona State University. He is the author of Becoming Hebrew: The Creation of a Jewish National Culture in Ottoman Palestine (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Avraham Sela (Ph.D., Hebrew University, 1986) is Associate Professor of International Relations, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is the author of The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence and Adjustment, (Columbia University Press 2006) and the editor of The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East (Continuum, 2002).

Shahla Talebi (Ph.D., Columbia University, 2007) is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Her doctoral dissertation was titled: “Discourses of Self-Sacrifice: State and Dissident Martyrs in Post Revolutionary Iran.”

Sponsors and support

This conference was made free and publicly accessible, thanks to the following: 


additional support