Patrick Geddes: Luminary or Prophet of Demonic Planning
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When we review Israeli plans for the so-called national parks, which include archeological sites and “green areas,” we can see that they are drawn more or less in accordance with British urban planner Patrick Geddes’ scheme, as presented in the maps below. The various Israeli plans, all based on Geddes’, are clearly propaganda aiming at minimizing the Palestinian cultural landscape of the Old City and its environs and maximizing its Israeli-Jewish narrative. The result of these policy documents, if fully implemented, would be the destruction of most of the neighborhoods of Silwan and the expulsion of a great number of families. The term “national parks” is very attractive, but misleading. Simultaneous with approving the “national” and archaeological plans for the area located to the south of the Old City, the Israeli authorities also approved the construction of a huge multilevel Kedem settler compound just twenty meters to the south of the city wall: while Israel claims that protection of the cultural landscape must be implemented in Silwan’s Bustan neighborhood (500 meters south of the Old City), it has no problem with the construction of the settler Kedem compound in the buffer zone adjacent to the city wall.

Figure 1. Patrick Geddes; online at (accessed 29 July 2019).

Much has been written about the use of planning for human settlement structures as a tool for political, ethnic, and religious control, in addition to, of course, controlling social classes, and there is no need to discuss this here.1 Also much has been written on the successive building plans for Jerusalem, whether during the British Mandate or after the Israeli occupation of the city. These plans have become a factor in the expulsion and impoverishment of Palestinian Jerusalemites, and an essential tool for controlling the smallest details of their daily lives; it dictates their housing conditions, livelihoods, and development or the lack of it, as well as population growth or decline, the quality of life, daily movement, and even the quality of the air they breathe – not to mention the scenery a Jerusalemite is allowed to set eyes on. On the other hand, these plans opened the door for the colonizers to build their colonies on Palestinian lands and enjoy the breathtaking nature of Jerusalem’s mountains. They provided the incentives needed to encourage settlement in the eastern part of the city, where Palestinians live under the grinding grip of settlement activity and the segregation wall. Moreover, these same plans turned the western part of the city, which was more developed even before 1948, into a flourishing modern city that attracts investment and functions as a modern urban hub.

In the eastern part, Jerusalem’s Palestinians remain to suffer from cultural and social pressures, population overcrowding, political repression, and lack of a political horizon, all in the name of the law, which was drafted precisely and amended numerous times throughout the more than fifty years of occupation, exactly for that purpose. Appropriate mechanisms were put in place to ensure implementation of the plans and to enable the expropriation and demolition of homes, paving of roads, separating Palestinian neighborhoods from each other, and stripping them of all elements crucial for economic and social viability, to keep them absolutely dependent on the western part of the city, its services and labor market.2

Moreover, successive building plans, especially after 1967, aimed not only to control the territories occupied in June 1967 – the plans resulted in Israeli control of almost 87 percent of the eastern part – but also to achieve a Jewish majority. In this way, Palestinians could be turned into a minority living in isolated neighborhoods, and with the reality of the segregation wall, surrounded by Jewish settlements that can be further expanded and developed. In fact, the majority of the population in the eastern part is Palestinian still, and control over the population in what is known as “unified Jerusalem” has not been successful. Palestinians make up more than 40 percent of Jerusalem’s total population, but all these developments have been at the expense of Palestinians who now live in isolated neighborhoods, suffering very complicated and dire social and economic circumstances. In principle, these quarters cannot be improved without a revolutionary change in the city’s components, which cannot be attained without a long wearisome journey, and only decades after ending the occupation and drawing master plans that cater to the various developmental needs of the residents. Of course, master planning cannot be separated from legislation and bylaws that complement what master planning does not manage to address.3

This brief review assumes that initial principles for Israeli master plans were not set up after June 1967 and the occupation of the rest of Jerusalem, despite the numerous amendments that were introduced, but actually much earlier than that. The master plan foundations for the city were in fact developed by the urban planner Patrick Geddes (1854–1932). But before explaining and commenting on his plan, we should acknowledge that British occupation did not waste any time in drawing up plans for Jerusalem according to its own vision of the city’s future, with the vision of establishing a Jewish entity in Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital according to the Balfour Declaration.

William McLean, the Beginning

The first city planner brought by the British occupation to Jerusalem was William McLean, who worked as an engineer in Alexandria, Egypt, to present ideas for town schemes for Jerusalem.4 In his plan, McLean divided Jerusalem into four zones. The first was the Old City; here, according to his plan, building was absolutely impermissible in order to preserve the historical and cultural identity of the city, being part of world (Western!) heritage. The second zone, located in the environs of the Old City, was vacant of any structures. He suggested that any unnecessary structures in that zone should be removed to create a green belt to protect the Old City from urban development and recreate the imagined ancient biblical Jerusalem. The third zone was located in the north and northeast of the Old City, where building would be possible according to specific conditions and permits (he possibly had in mind some projects that he did not reveal).5 Finally, the fourth zone was located to the north and west of the Old City; this zone was to be developed and expanded, and consisted mainly of the Jewish neighborhoods near the Old City, meaning that the only development intended was mainly for the Jewish neighborhoods.

McLean had established the intellectual foundations for the formation of Jerusalem: a Jerusalem with an eastern part that is denied development and growth, while the Old City will be preserved as a museum for the Western world to keep the portrayed image of Jerusalem alive, as if the city is still living in biblical times, while development and growth happens in the western part of the city, where a Jewish majority lived, or was on its way to becoming so.6 The separation between the Old City and the rest of Jerusalem, growing outside the gates, assumes that the fate of old Jerusalem should substantially differ from that of new Jerusalem, instead of new Jerusalem being an extension of it. McLean’s plans for the Old City, encircled by the Ottoman walls, reinforced this separation and surrounded it with a green protective belt extending east to include the Mount Olives and al-‘Ayzariya until the south of Silwan, where the water system and the archaeological sites are located. It also extended several kilometers to the northeast to include Mount Scopus, which is actually the northwestern extension of the Mount of Olives.7 Indeed, McLean’s ideas are considered the foundation on which his successor Patrick Geddes built his work, but with clearer and closer connections to the Zionist movement.

Sir Patrick Geddes: Delegated by the Zionest Movement

Many researchers have written about Patrick Geddes and in a number of languages8 due to his place as one the most important – if not the most important – of city planners in the early twentieth century. He left his mark around the world, especially in the United Kingdom, India, and Palestine.9 Geddes, of Scottish origin, lived during the apex of the British colonial era in India and the Middle East. He was a product of the conservative orientalist movement which aimed to tighten its grip over the colonies, and grew up glorifying the empire on which the sun never sets. The man excelled in multiple disciplines, from biology to sociology and geography, but he was most famous for being an urban planner who utilized his knowledge in other disciplines in an innovative way. Many consider him a kind of prophet in the field of urban planning, as his name was associated with unprecedented innovation and sensitivity to all that is humanitarian and environmental. In fact, Geddes’ concepts in urban planning have been used as principles in many schemes in various parts of the world.10 We do not intend to discuss here his high environmental awareness and his social approach to planning; he proposed undeniable innovations and led a school that had significant influence for decades in the field of urban planning, and in world culture. It will suffice here to look at his plans for the city of Jerusalem, and not examine his plans for Tel Aviv, the first Zionist urban colony in Palestine.11

First, we should note that Geddes was celebrated and praised in Israeli fora by urban planners, geographers, and historians alike. They commended his innovative work in the “Land of Israel,” which reflected a nationalist (Jewish) vision. He is considered the godfather of using the tools of urban planning for the protection and renovation of Jewish physical culture (not very different from the idea of renovating the Land of Israel that was popular within Evangelical/Messianic circles).12 Geddes’ plan for Jerusalem can only be understood as reflecting his desire to realize the Jewish dream in the land of Palestine – which makes him a firm Zionist – who was employed by the Zionist movement to realize its goals. For Geddes, Jerusalem was an integral part of “Jewish Heritage,” and developing plans to protect this heritage was of utmost importance, while other factors become complications that required an innovative approach to solve.

Geddes came with ideas from his Western Evangelical Zionist background to develop a plan for the realization of the Jewish State in Palestine.13 It is indeed possible to review Geddes’ work using post-colonial theory, and the concepts of preservation of physical cultural heritage, which were new at the time. His work, in fact, can be examined as an employment of the excessive planning powers by a representative of the authority and a reflection of its planning intentions. It is important to refer here to the European Western influence, as it was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, on Eastern societies, including Jerusalem. These societies were considered to be underdeveloped and unaware of their own interests, and requiring the machinery of colonization, including its experts, intellectuals, and urban planners who were more capable of understanding the reality of the East, even more than the locals themselves.

Figure 2. Planning Jerusalem: the master plan for the old city of Jerusalem and its environs Author: Aryeh Sharon; David Anatol Brutzkus; Eldar Sharon; Publisher: New York: McGraw-Hill, [1974, ©1973]

This understanding excludes the historical, cultural, and social contexts of the city, as if the planner might be drawing up the scheme in London. A planner today cannot think in the same way Geddes did: urban planning has developed using concepts of participatory planning that involves local communities in planning the space they will be active in, and the responsiveness of the plan to the social and economic needs of the city they are planning. Otherwise the outcome would defeat the purpose of the plan, by turning it into a restrictive factor to urban development instead of a driver for it. Since Jerusalem is still under occupation, Geddes’ concepts are still relevant, and have been implemented to a great extent. Indeed, the Israeli occupation does not take into consideration the interests of Palestinians in Jerusalem while planning for the city; on the contrary, it excludes Palestinians and aims to control them.

From an objective point of view, Geddes could only have presented a plan that meets the needs of the British colonization in Palestine, mandated by the League of Nations, and facilitate the establishment of a Jewish entity there (the Mandate document). As for the Palestinian population, they were perceived as a complication that should be solved or an obstacle that should be removed.

Geddes was known to be creative in social and organic planning, and in integrating nature in urban planning, but while working on Jerusalem’s scheme, he failed to adopt any of his theories and followed an ideology instead. He lost his insight – for which planners sang praises for decades after his passing – and became a tool for the British Zionist colonization project.

The British colonization in Palestine commissioned Geddes in 1919 to present town planning schemes in full coordination with the Zionist movement and its leadership, especially Chaim Weizmann and others in London. Geddes’ ideas, which are actually an amendment to McLean’s scheme which failed to impress the Zionist movement, became a foundation for a master plan scheme for Jerusalem. He presented a brief report that included the main principles (the report was never published), accompanied by a map of the Old City and its vicinity.14 The year before, in 1918, he was commissioned by the Zionist Federation to design the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which he developed with his son-in-law, Frank Mears.15 Geddes chose a location for the university overlooking al-Aqsa Mosque, which to his mind represented the “Temple Mount,” from which inspiration was to be taken for sources of knowledge as well as for its political project, especially that they would be linked on the scientific and cultural level, and that the university should embody all of these concepts.

Structures in old Jerusalem lacked a formal plan, since they developed in an organic accumulative manner at almost consistent heights, and reflected the various historical periods and the spirit of the different eras they witnessed, integrating between the different architectural schools and making up a rather beautiful intricate fabric. However, Geddes’ scheme of the Hebrew University portrayed organized buildings, including a number of magnificent castles that belonged more to the world of “biblical” myths. The scheme of the Hebrew University expresses the Orientalist spirit that was popular during Geddes’ time; some of the sketches are comparable to drawings made by European travelers and researchers after visiting Jerusalem in the nineteenth century, which portrayed the city from the Western perspective, and reflected more of what they wanted Jerusalem to look like rather than how it really was.16

What is interesting about the scheme is that its focal point is a large dome, mirroring the Dome of the Rock, which performs the function of the temple inside the university. The dome attracted much attention and has become one of the university’s distinctive symbols, and a holy body on its own. In his design of the dome, Geddes kept in mind the idea of synagogues built in late Ottoman style in Jerusalem (Classic Ottoman), such as Hurva synagogue and Tiferet Yisrael synagogue.17 To be fair, Geddes tried very hard in his design of the main hall to insert some elements from the culture of monotheistic religions – and this may be the reason behind the rejection of the Zionist movement for the design of this hall, because they insisted that all buildings should reflect pure biblical Judaism.18

The Hebrew University was a Zionist priority, promoted internationally to prove the “exceptional capability” of Jews, as well as their right in the land of Palestine. They invested significantly in it, and considered it a religious and national symbol of the utmost importance. The Zionist movement decided in its conference in Vienna in 1913 to build the Hebrew University, to revive the “Hebrew Identity” and the old heritage in the “Land of Israel.” Indeed, the idea of the Hebrew University, including the design of its buildings, was linked to the idea of rebuilding the third temple on the ruins of al-Aqsa Mosque.

The association of the suggested university with the rebuilding of the temple had a significant impact on the university’s image. Since then, the university has become one with the temple in an identical prominent mythical image. Mount Scopus became the selected location for the erection of the university, as if it was chosen by a divine decree.19 Geddes’ Presbyterian upbringing (some attribute the origins of Presbyterianism to Scotland, Geddes’ home), which respects the Zionist idea of establishing a Jewish State in Palestine, was evident in his work.

Jerusalem’s Scheme

The short, thirty-three-page report in which Geddes presented his vision for Jerusalem’s scheme was never published and remained a written document. The report does not include many details, but it does contain guiding principles and a map demonstrating his vision. In the introduction, Geddes writes that Jerusalem’s military governor, Colonel Ronald Storrs, summoned him on July 1919 in London and asked him to develop a report to improve Jerusalem’s scheme. After coordinating with representatives of the Zionist movement in London,20 Geddes travelled to Jerusalem in September of that year. Since the time he spent in Jerusalem was not enough to complete the assignment, he considered his report to be a guide for the main ideas and preliminary planning concepts. He mentioned that he will visit Jerusalem again to discuss the matter with specialists in various disciplines and will accordingly write a detailed report.

The main challenge that faced Geddes in drawing up a plan for Jerusalem was that at that time the city was traditionally oriental in every sense. Only recently emerging from World War I, Jerusalem, despite the appearance of modern neighborhoods around it, had an Arab, Islamic, and Eastern Christian style. Modernity could only be seen in the new European style neighborhoods that had adopted modern urban development approaches.

Figure 3. Geddes sketch of the Hebrew University, 1919; online at (accessed 29 July 2019).

Figure 4. Geddes and Frank Mears' sketch of the Hebrew University showing the huge dome on the left, 1919; online at (accessed 29 July 2019).

Western organizations from various religious and civil fields flourished in these neighborhoods, situated in buildings that were exaggerated in size, beauty, and national and religious symbols, in a city that was otherwise relatively humble. Moreover, several modern European buildings were planted in the Old City in the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. But in the Western mentality and consequently Geddes’ mentality, Jerusalem in its essence is the Old City, where the buildings and religious sites were concentrated, and where the religious and historical heritage accumulated within its walls and in their close vicinity. Interestingly, for Geddes, his perception of all that is old in Jerusalem and its vicinity was his understanding of the Old Testament and the Jerusalem landscape. The terraces surrounding the foothills of Jerusalem’s mountains evoked for him the Old Testament.21 Of course, these terraces can be found on most of Palestine’s mountains and date mainly to the Ottoman era; so how do they remind him of the Old Testament? The issue at hand here is the imagined Jerusalem, while the historical reality was of no importance to him. Noah Hysler Rubin writes about Geddes’ biblical aspiration:

Figure 5. Mears and Benjamin Caikin’s sketch of the Hebrew University, 1928 based on Geddes; online at (accessed 29 July 2019).

He later expressed his admiration of the Zionist society in Palestine, picturing its recent homecoming as the re-instatement of a biblical entity in the Holy Land and assigning it the ancient role of a regional leader among its neighbouring countries.22

To begin, Geddes conducted an intensive survey of the city to identify its topography and main landmarks. He then studied the available maps and gathered information on the population. He used statistics to create a database, and through that tedious work he developed an impression of the city. Geddes stated at the beginning of the report that the dimensions used in the available maps of the city were not accurate; there was a deviation of about one hundred meters, and an accurate map of Jerusalem should be drawn. He reported being glad to learn that Jerusalem’s municipal engineer was working on that, and using the maps of the Palestine Exploration Fund (1872–77) as the foundation for the new survey.

Taking a somewhat different approach from that of his predecessor, McLean, about the relationship between the old and new parts of the city, Geddes stressed that any planning process should start with the Old City, and afterwards it would be possible to think about the new city which should be connected to the old one. According to the report, he held that planning should begin in the Old City and the area located directly to the east of it, where only a minimum number of buildings should be erected since it was possibly the most important and holiest park in the world (as simple as that!). The planning for urban development should concentrate on the area north of Damascus Gate and Jaffa Street, which means the areas to the north, northwest, northeast, and south of the Old City. He recommended that work begin along the “New Axis,” beginning at the Ottoman train station, and organized in a way that immediately gave arrivals (coming from Europe, of course) the impression that they are in the Holy City that they have dreamt about, and hence that their fate is manifesting directly in front of them.

His ideas for the Old City were consistent with the expected outcome of his assignment: protection of the city’s cultural heritage and identity by forbidding new construction, and renovating the city and developing the services provided for its residents and visitors, of which both goals are important and unobjectionable. One problem for him about the Old City was al-Buraq Wall (he refers to it only as the Wailing Wall in the report). In order to expose the wall and the area around it, he suggested the demolition of a number of buildings known as “the Moroccan Village” (the Mughrabi quarter) located closest to the wall, until the rest of the residents were relocated and the remaining buildings could be demolished by the municipality.23 In this way, the visible area of al-Buraq Wall could be doubled easily (as simple as that!). He also suggested demolishing a building next to Tankaziyya School (located to the west) and building steps that would lead directly to al-Buraq Wall from Bab al-Silsila Road without passing through the Mughrabi Quarter, to stress the centrality of al-Buraq Wall and improve accessibility.24 Geddes writes:

Figure 6. Geddes Scheme, 1919. Reproduced from “Jerusalem, 1918–1920: Being the Records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council During the Period of the British Military Administration,” ed. C.R. Ashbee (London: J. Murray for the Council of the Pro-Jerusalem Society, 1921), 13.

The decongestion of the southern and mainly the Jewish portion of the Old City is thus easily practicable. The village of the Moghrabi Arabs should also be attended. Some of those who require to remain in the city may be rehoused along the vacant areas immediately west or south of their present homes; while it also need not be impossible by and by, when archaeological enquiries are fully satisfied, to house a small group of them ouside the walls upon some portion of the southward slope.25

In his vision for the future of Jerusalem, Geddes focused on the centrality of the Old City given its religious significance and biblical background, on the one hand, and the idea that this city will become the Jewish capital (Balfour Declaration), on the other. His basis was that the historical Hebrew state formed the foundation of Western Christian civilization, and so he allocated the east and south part of the Old City, including Silwan neighborhood, for a “national park,” where construction was not permitted. With that decision, he denied the eastern part of the city any chance of development, leaving the possibility open only in the north, where structures had been built decades earlier, and where a number of Western organizations were already rooted (such as the German Paulus House, known as Schmidt Girls School, opposite Damascus Gate, École biblique et archéologique française, the British Mutran School, and St. George Cathedral), and cannot be touched. If otherwise, he would have presented a different suggestion for the northern area; instead, he allocated a green belt in front of the city’s northern gate, which would require tearing down several buildings erected near Damascus Gate.

Noticeably, the scheme extends over Mount Scopus, taking a shape that resembled a long tongue, which allowed abundant land on which to build the Hebrew University. Geddes considered the university project to be vital to support the ideas of Judaism and biblicism, and in the interests of the project he did not hesitate to give up the idea of the green zone which he imposed on the whole of the surrounding area. This was consistent with the idea of Zionism, given the importance of the university’s role in reviving biblical heritage and embedding it in Jerusalem through the university’s various disciplines: archaeology, history, geography, and Jewish theology. Moreover, there was the possibility of turning the Hebrew University into a regional university, and, if that evolved, then there was no harm in violating some of his principles.26

The rest of the report includes useful principles that relate to the western part of Jerusalem, while development in the eastern part was restricted as much as possible. Thus, Geddes actually split the city into two parts: a restricted eastern part with no chance of developing or becoming modern; and a western part with all the features necessary for modern development.

Geddes also did not mention the relationship between the city and the rural area surrounding it, because his vision was completely city-centric. He thought only about preventing the expansion of villages surrounding Jerusalem, although in fact they are considered to be city neighborhoods (Silwan south and southeast of the Old City, and al-Tur on the Mount of Olives, for example). To guarantee their limitation, Geddes included the lands and structures of these neighborhoods in the “holy” green belt which protects the archaeological and architectural remains from the Old Testament and “Great Israel” with all its manifestations as described in the Old Testament. As for the complementary relationship between rural and urban areas, which has existed forever, he did not address this since it was not within his vision for the Holy City: reviving the Holy Landscape as portrayed in the Old Testament and as he believes it should be.

Geddes did not undertake the next step as promised in his report; no information is available on why he did not complete his plan, which was completed by Charles Ashbee, the civic advisor to the British Mandate, and chairman of the Pro-Jerusalem Society.27

It is not possible to understand Geddes’ scheme without referring to McLean’s scheme and the architect Charles Ashbee’s directions, which he included in his vision of the biblical city, after he polished them according to his planning vision. Geddes even stressed that buildings should maintain the traditional shape – flat roofs or small domes. He advised against using tiled saddle roofs, which were beginning to be seen in the city, although they reflect modernity and introduce new construction material, nevertheless they deform the holy scene as imagined by Geddes.28 His plan was built on the basis of the imagined past, the past that had become popular in the UK in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as the publications of that era were replete with details about the glorious past of the “Jewish State,” that will be rebuilt.

For Geddes, planning the city of Jerusalem was a realization of a dream built on a religious vision, in addition to being a chance for him to leave his fingerprint on one of the most important cities in the world, which would guarantee him professional and personal esteem. Geddes never tried to hide these facts while working in Palestine. His work was shown in an important international exhibition in London before touring various cities in India. Through his participation in the exhibition, Geddes wanted to show how the great cities that have contributed in writing human history can be approached. The same exhibition was organized in Jerusalem in 1920 and inaugurated by the mayor at the time, Ragheb al-Nashashibi.29 It is interesting to read here from a press release summary of the inaugural speech:

Mr. Nashashibi, the mayor of Jerusalem, stressed the importance of bringing Eastern and Western cultures together, and he expressed his hope for the success of the High Commissioner’s ambitious program to improve the situation in Palestine. Mr. Ussishkin, who welcomed the audience in the name of the Zionist Movement, said that the Zionist Movement is the organization that brought Geddes to Palestine.30

Geddes did suggest establishing a museum near the location of the current Palestine Archaeological Museum (Rockefeller Museum) as part of a series of museums, including a museum of war history in the citadel of Jerusalem31, to document the various battles the city was involved in throughout its glorious history. The museum he suggested was meant to exhibit the glory of David and Solomon, and Israel’s long history, as well as present the development of the city throughout history. History has a major role to play: it will lead to the establishment of the state of Israel and the turning of Jerusalem into a Jewish capital, and the conclusion that the city needs to be revived and modernized to recover its glorious deep-rooted past.32 This is how Geddes imagined the Jerusalem museum, to which he did not give a name:

In fact, the long history of Israel, from the Patriarchs to the present . . . how attractive will be a series of good Relief Models of Jerusalem, illustrating . . . the extent and character of the city from its earliest Jebusite days, to its glories under David, its greatness under Solomon, and so on throughout its chequered history. In the sketch it will be noted that those Galleries, namely: (1) those of Geography (2) general history and (3) of Hebrew and Jerusalem history, all lead into a final Gallery, for the renewing Palestine with its developing Cities and Capital.33

Figure 7. “National Parks in East Jerusalem,” Emek Shaveh; online at (accessed 29 July 2019).

From Geddes to Israeli Occupation

The British Mandate was not able to implement all of Geddes’ suggestions due to factors relating to its lack of absolute control over the ground, and the expansion of the city in the eastern part, which except for the Jewish quarter in the Old City, did not have any Jewish residents. The separation and segregation of Palestinians and Jewish settlers, which began after al-Buraq uprising in 1929, and the Arab Revolt in 1936–39, concentrated Jewish settlement in the western part of the city. The city in fact turned into two cities; even the Jewish quarter in the Old City was isolated from the rest of the city by cement walls and barriers erected by the British Mandate, although there were some mixed neighborhoods in the western part. The 1948 war put an end to urban development plans in Jerusalem, although the comprehensive building scheme was completed by Henry Kendall.34 Israel commenced the planning process based on what was already completed, but against a background that focused on controlling more territory while controlling population growth.

Israel did not wait long to implement Geddes’ plan and remove the Mughrabi quarter: bulldozers tore down the quarter in June 1967, even before the war was over. It also went much further and turned al-Buraq plaza into a huge Jewish center, established more projects there, and connected them with a series of tunnels.35

As for green areas, most of which Jordan had preserved when Jerusalem was under its administration (1948–67), Israel started to gradually implement all of these plans through successive master plan schemes under various names and numbers after 1967 – according to Kendell’s plan36 which was based on the concepts Geddes laid out in 1919. It legislated these schemes through urban planning laws and bylaws and called them “national parks.” It can be noticed through the enclosed parks map that most of these parks are located in the eastern part of the city, and isolate the Old City from nearby Palestinian neighborhoods, especially those in the east and south, as if it is a segregation wall disguised as a civilized front of “green parks” surrounding the eastern part of the Old City. They vastly exaggerated implementation in the southern (Silwan) area: the parks extended much farther than Geddes suggested, and were clearly linked to settlement aspirations in this area. This is where environmental and settlement goals mixed to force Palestinians out of the area through non-stop excavations, and aggressive activities by settler associations, especially Elad, in this area.

What is known today as the “National Park” in East Jerusalem is in reality a Palestinian residential neighborhood where tens of thousands of people live, hence making the “green” area a weapon pointed at the heads of residents, restricting their movement and growth, and rendering them incapable of dealing with long lists of restrictions and prohibitions written in Hebrew. This area also includes Muslim cemeteries, which extend along the eastern wall of the Old City, where even the dead are paying the price of the “national parks.”37

The changes Israel made to Geddes’ plan are obvious: they excluded the Jewish cemetery, located on the western foothill of the Mount of Olives, from the National Park, because Jewish holy graveyards cannot become “parks,” while Muslim cemeteries located along the eastern wall of the Old City can be categorized as parks, as they are not as holy as the Jewish ones. Thus they can even be obliterated for purposes of development as has happened to the historic Mamilla cemetery.38


Figure 8. Henry Kendall’s 1944 Zoning Plan for Jerusalem; online at
(accessed 29 July 2019).



1 See example Rassem Khamaisi, “Restructuring the Urban Perimeter for Jerusalem, the Heart of the Palestinian State,” Hawlayat al-Quds 16 (Fall/Winter 2013): 37–50.

2 See the detailed study, ARIJ, “al-Takhtit l-il Quds 1948–2010,” [Geopolitical Planning for Jerusalem 1948–2010], online at (accessed 12 July 2019).

3 Francesco Chiodelli, “The Jerusalem Master Plan: Planning into the Conflict,” Jerusalem Quarterly 51 (2012): 5–20; Bimkom, “Trapped by Planning: Israeli Policies, Planning, and Development in the Palestinian Neighborhoods of East Jerusalem,” (Jerusalem: 2014), online at (accessed 12 July 2019).

4 William McLean, “PALESTINE 18, City of Jerusalem Town Planning Scheme, 1918,” National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, UK. The report was never published.

5 This area was already occupied by several western institutions as well as a Muslim cemetery (maqbarat bab al-sahira). It is not clear why Geddes wanted to restrict building activities there.

6 The idea of the division of the city into two parts in the urban plans of the British Mandate and the occupation was pointed out by researcher Nicolas Roberts. For his important article, see Nicolas E. Roberts, “Dividing Jerusalem: British Urban Planning in the Holy City,” Journal of Palestine Studies, 42, no. 4 (2013): 26–70.

7 Rana Barakat, “Urban Planning, Colonialism, and the Pro-Jerusalem Society,” Jerusalem Quarterly 65 (Spring 2016): 25–27.

8 There are hundreds of publications on Geddes, among them: Kiyoshi Okutsu, Yamaguchi Daigaku, Alan Johnston, Murdo Macdonald, and Noboru Sadakata, eds., Patrick Geddes: By Leaves We Live (Yamaguchi, Japan: Yamaguchi Institute of Contemporary Arts 2005); Philip Boardman, The Worlds of Patrick Geddes: Biologist, Town Planner, Re-educator, Peace-warrior (London, Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978); Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London, “Patrick Geddes and the Digital Age,” May 2007, online at (accessed 13 July 2019); Helen Meller, Patrick Geddes: Social Evolutionist and City Planner (London: Routledge 1990); D. Shillan, Biotechnics: The Practice of Synthesis in the Work of Patrick Geddes (Richmond, Surrey: New Atlantic Foundation, 1972); Paddy Kitchen, A Most Unsettling Person : the Life and Ideas of Patrick Geddes – Founding Father of City Planning and Environmentalism (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1975); H. G. Simmons, “Patrick Geddes – Prophet Without Politics,” in Studies in Modern European History and Culture,” 2 (1976): 159–91; Volker Welter-Biopolis, Patrick Geddes and the City of Life (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2002); Noah Hysler Rubin, Patrick Geddes and Town Planning: A Critical View (London: Routledge, 2011); Philip Mairet, Pioneer of Sociology: The Life and Letters of Patrick Geddes (London: Lund Humphries, 1957); Israel Zangwill, “Without Prejudice: A Northern Seasonal and Its Significance,” Pall Mall 8, 34 (February 1896): 327–29.

9 He developed master plans for Tiberias, Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, focusing on cities that had considerable numbers of Jews at the beginning of the British Mandate. We can infer the obvious objectives for planning these cities under the Zionist project.

10 Geddes is celebrated in Scotland: the University of Dundee named an institute in his honor, the Geddes Institute for Urban Research, online at (accessed 29 July 2019); and Edinburgh has named an educational and cultural center in its Old Town for him, the Patrick Geddes Centre at Riddle’s Court, online at (accessed 30 July 2019).

11 He presented his plans for Tel Aviv in 1925; he had met several times with the Zionist movement, and corresponded with representatives before he was commissioned to undertake this task. For more on his plans for Tel Aviv, see Volker M. Welter, “The 1925 Master Plan for Tel-Aviv by Patrick Geddes,” Israel Studies 14, no. 3, (2009): 98; Neal Payton. “The Machine in the Garden City: Patrick Geddes’ Plan for Tel Aviv,” Planning Perspectives, 10 (1995): 359–81; Noah Hysler Rubin, “The Celebration, Condemnation, and Reinterpretation of the Geddes Plan, 1925: the Dynamic Planning History of Tel Aviv,” Urban History 40,1 (2013): 114–35.

12 For more information on Christian Zionism, see the detailed study: Stephen Sizer. Christian Zionism: Its History, Theology and Politics, 2005, online at (accessed 12 July 2019).

Geddes was celebrated in Israel for his awareness and deep knowledge of Jewish heritage in Palestine, and employing this knowledge in planning for the establishment of a Jewish state. He was even considered a partner in the dream of establishing Israel, as his plans and ideas are still important elements in the planning of cities in Israel. His creativity was his ability to combine the colonial policy of the British Mandate, with his adoption of Zionist aspirations in planning. He was able to demonstrate his vision by using architecture, artefacts, and holy sites in Jerusalem to prove Jewish history there, and hence turn Jerusalem into a Jewish city that serves this heritage. See the debate in Noah Hysler-Rubin, “Geography, Colonialism, and Town Planning: Patrick Geddes’ Plan for Mandatory Jerusalem,” Cultural Geographies, 18, 2 (2011): 231–48.

The complete unpublished report is available in several libraries. My thanks to Jack Persekian for providing me with a copy. Patrick Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible: A Report to the Chief Administrator of Palestine and the Military Governor of Jerusalem on Town Planning and City Improvements,” November 1919.

Frank Mears (1880–1953) was a Scotttish architect and urban planner from 1930–50. In addition to his work with Geddes he worked from 1925–29 with the Jewish architect, Benjamin Chaikin, designing a number of buildings in the Hebrew University.

See, for example, sketches in William Henry Bartlett, Jerusalem Revisited (London: A. Hall, Virtue & Co., 1855).

The Zionist movement did not adopt all of Geddes’ schemes for the Hebrew University, as there were some disagreements. It was partially implemented, including the library, and the math and physics building. His son-in-law continued the work on the university’s schemes.

For more on the planning and building of the Hebrew University, see Patrick Geddes, The Proposed Hebrew University of Jerusalem: A Preliminary Report. December 1919; and Diana Dolev, The Planning and Building of the Hebrew University, 1919–1948: Facing the Temple Mount (Maryland: Lexington Books 2016).

See Graeme Purves review of Diana Dolev, The Planning and Building of the Hebrew University, 1919-1948: Facing the Temple Mount (London: Lexington Books, 2016), online at (accessed 12 July 2019).

Several letters were exchanged between the office of architect Richard Kauffmann in Kristiania (now Oslo) and the Zionist Organization in London. One dated 23 January 1920 concerns the Geddes report (the report was annexed to the letter for Kauffmann’s comments). Kauffmann moved to Palestine later that year and became chief architect of the Zionist movement. The Colonial Office in London also handed over the “confidential” Geddes report to the Zionist Federation of Germany in Berlin on 23 January 1920, and to several leading members of the organization in Berlin. Other copies were sent to Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist Organization of France, and the Zionist Organization of America, and some ZOA individuals. These letters are clear evidence of the close coordination between city planning and the Zionist program in Jerusalem and also reflects the level of engagement of Jewish organizations worldwide in the details taking place in Jerusalem.

Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 3–4.

Hysler-Rubin, “Geography, Colonialism, and Town Planning,” 235.

Geddes stressed that the demolishing should be implemented by the municipality and not by the Jewish community; see Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 11.

Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 11.

Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 8.

In his report Geddes celebrates the Hebrew University: “It is gratifying therefore that the long dreamed University will now soon begin its work. Dr Weizmann having decided to bring his distinguished research experience to the initiative of research laboratories in the outbuilding of the Gray Hill House”; Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 30.

British architect and designer Charles Ashbee (1863–1942) was appointed civic adviser to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1918, overseeing building works and the protection of historic sites and monuments as the chairman of the Pro-Jerusalem Society. Ashbee wrote a kind of terms of reference for the Geddes mission in Jerusalem. In the Geddes report there are several references to the Pro-Jerusalem Society, which means actually Ashbee. For details regarding Ashbee, see Wendy Pullan and Lefkos Kyriacou, “The work of Charles Ashbee: Ideological Urban Visions with Everyday City Spaces,” in Jerusalem Quarterly 39 (2009): 51-61. The other city plans of Jerusalem are reviewed by Henry Kendall, Jerusalem: The City Plan, Preservation and Development during the British Mandate, 1918–1948 (London: H. M. Stationery Office,1948).

Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 9.

Ragheb al-Nashashibi (1880–1951) was appointed mayor of Jerusalem by the British Mandate after Musa Kazim al-Husayni was removed from office in 1920. He stayed in his position as mayor until 1934; afterwards Husayn al-Khalidi was elected mayor before he was removed by the British Mandate and a Jewish mayor (Daniel Esther) was appointed as mayor in 1937.

Quoted in Rubin, Geography, Colonialism, and Town Planning, 238. Menachem Ussishkin (1863–1941) was a Russian Zionist leader who settled in Jerusalem in 1919 and became president of the Jewish National Fund; he remained in that position until his death.

The idea of war museums was popular in Britain and Scotland at the time. The museums exhibited old and modern weapons and detailed the glorious battles in the history of the nation. Therefore, it was not unusual for Geddes to suggest establishing a war museum in Jerusalem where many battles were witnessed that are described in detail in the Old Testament.

Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 27. Israel turned Geddes’ dream into reality, as it established a museum for Jerusalem’s history in the citadel after 1967 that serves the goals he mentioned in his report. For more on the museum, see Tower of David museum, online at (accessed 12 July 2019). As for the National Museum, the British Mandate established it a few meters away from the northeast corner of the Old City, and called it the Palestine Archeological Museum. It later became known as the Rockefeller Museum. For more on the Rockefeller Museum, see online at (accessed 12 July 2019). In this context, it is important to mention that the Ottoman state established a museum in the Old City thirty years earlier. For more on this, see Beatrice St. Laurent and Himmet Taşkömür, “The Imperial Museum of Antiquities in Jerusalem, 1890–1930: An Alternate Narrative,” Jerusalem Quarterly 55 (Autumn 2013): 6-45.

Geddes, “Jerusalem Actual and Possible,” 29.

See Kendall, “Jerusalem: The City Plan, Preservation and Development.”

Nazmi al-Ju‘beh, The Jewish Quarter and the Moroccan Quarter in Old Jerusalem: History and Fate between Destruction and Judaization (Beirut-Ramallah: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2019), 257–71.

Kendall presented two structural schemes for Jerusalem: the first was in 1944, before the city was divided into two as a result of the Nakba in 1948; and the second was for the eastern part of the city, which the Jordanian administration commissioned. In both schemes, which cannot be discussed within this review, Kendall used the concepts laid out by Geddes.

Nazmi al-Ju‘beh, “The Bab al-Rahmah Cemetery: Israeli Encroachment Continues Unabated,”Journal of Palestine Studies

For more on the parks surrounding Jerusalem, refer to the report of Emek Shaveh, “From Territorial Contiguity to Historical Continuity: Asserting Israeli Control through National Parks in East Jerusalem,” online at (accessed 12 July 2019).

Author biography: 

Nazmi Jubeh is an associate professor of history and archaeology at Birzeit University, and director of the Birzeit University Museum. Previously he was codirector of Riwaq - Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, and director of the Islamic Museum at al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.