The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive and the Virtual Illés Relief Initiative
Full text: 

Are you saying there’s an original sin? True, there is. Deal with it.

– Meron Benvenisti (2013)

Few spaces are more emblematic of Jerusalem today than the Western Wall Plaza, yet few people – including Palestinian and Israeli residents of Jerusalem alike – are aware of the destruction of the old Mughrabi Quarter that literally laid the groundwork for its very creation.

For the longue durée of almost eight centuries, the Mughrabi Quarter of Jerusalem had been home to Arabs from North Africa, Andalusia, and Palestine. However, within two days after the 1967 War (10–12 June 1967), the historic neighborhood, located in the city’s southeast corner near the western wall of the Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif), was completely wiped off the physical map by the State of Israel – in flagrant violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates:

Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.1

Two decades prior to the Mughrabi Quarter demolition, Jerusalem’s designation as a “corpus separatum” had been intended to depoliticize the city through internationalization, under a special regime to be administered by the United Nations, as confirmed in UN resolutions 181 (1947) and 194 (1948). Two centuries earlier, the so-called Status Quo arrangement for the Holy Places had been codified by Ottoman decrees to negotiate conflict between and among different religions and religious groups over shared or contested religious sites. These legal obligations guaranteed all faiths access to their holy sites and the right to consent to any change, either in procedure or substance. Although sovereignty over Christian holy sites was of primary concern, the Status Quo embraced the Western Wall (claimed by Jews as the Kotel and by Muslims as al-Buraq), where Jewish challenges to the Status Quo began in the late Ottoman era and continued to escalated during the 1920s, culminating in the deadly riots of 1929.


Figure 1. Vue Générale de la Mosquée d’Omar, Robertson, Beato & Co., 1857. Photo: National Science and Society Picture Library


The Status Quo was breached with the destruction of the Mughrabi Quarter and decisively inaugurated a still ongoing Zionist program to establish illegal “facts on the ground” in East Jerusalem – “facts” that concomitantly stripped the Quarter of communal assets (awqaf) in order to expand the Jewish Quarter to four times its pre-1948 boundaries.2 Recent scholarship has investigated the systematic destruction and appropriation of non-Jewish heritage that the demolition initiated. New documentation and interpretation – of the immediate and the long-term impact of the Mughrabi demolition – are advancing a very vital discussion. This discourse is of critical urgency given Israel’s master plans to further “Judaize” the city, including illegal excavations and tunneling in progress that gravely threaten the structural integrity of the Noble Sanctuary at the heart of Jerusalem. Organized provocations to the Status Quo at al-Aqsa Mosque along with the Israeli government’s construction plans for the area and heated debate about control of the Mughrabi Ascent, which provides access to the Noble Sanctuary for non-Muslims, further exacerbate the tense conflict.3


Figure 2. Western Wall Plaza and Kotel/al-Buraq, 5 February 2020. Photo: Sani Zughayer


The Mughrabi Quarter may have been physically obliterated in 1967, but it remains intact – albeit in miniature – as part of the Illés Relief of Jerusalem (1873), an extraordinary topographic simulacrum of the Old City. The model’s creator, Stefan Illés, a Catholic Hungarian bookbinder from Pressburg (today’s Bratislava), resided in Jerusalem for nearly a decade (1864–73). After causing a sensation in the Ottoman Pavilion at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna, the Illés Relief traveled through Europe, where it was eventually purchased in 1878 by the Republic of Geneva and placed on display in the city center. In 1984, however, the model was sent on permanent loan from the Maison de la Réformation SA in Geneva to the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem, where it yet remains. The artifact’s location, deep in an ancient cistern which discourages visitation, and the scant curatorial attention accorded it suggest discordance with the cultural politics of the institution.

Following years of neglect, the Illés Relief will soon be made available online to a global audience – in the form of an interactive digital replica – for unhindered investigation and exploration.4 This photogrammetric recording is of great intrinsic value as it has digitally preserved a rare historical artefact of outstanding universal cultural value.

The Virtual Illés Relief Initiative, that will be fully described later, begins with the digital recovery of the Mughrabi Quarter through a virtual archive. It will be website accessible, thereby enabling visitors to visually explore the destroyed quarter via screen-based visualization. In this way the path toward reimagining the vibrant Mughrabi Quarter involves a detour through the late-nineteenth-century European fad of relief maps – to the Illés Relief, rendered as a virtual replica.

Subsequent to the completion of the Mughrabi Quarter digital reconstruction, a global research initiative will be launched to digitally map the entire three-dimensional Illés Relief. International scholars and computer experts will cooperate to produce a detailed, interactive digital palimpsest of Jerusalem on which multiple versions of events and relevant historical phenomena will be overlaid, including maps, images, videos, texts, and oral narratives. The groundbreaking endeavor to digitally map the Illés Relief virtual facsimile will be collaborative, interdisciplinary, and open source, with the double objective: to encourage fresh enquiries and welcome ongoing contributions alike.

The Mughrabi Quarter under Muslim Rule

Pilgrims from the Maghreb (the northwestern region of Africa that comprised what is now known as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and sometimes Libya) had an age-old connection with Jerusalem, first recorded during the rule of the Ikhshidids (935–69). Several notable Imazighen (Berbers) had settled in Jerusalem under the Fatimids (909–1171).5 Ibn Jubayr (1145–1217) claimed that every Muslim in Frankish Syria provided a testamentary bequest for the liberation of Mughrabi prisoners held by the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099–1187).6

Following the reconquest of Jerusalem (1187) and the reconsecration of the Haram al-Sharif by Ayyubid Sultan Salah al-Din, his eldest son, al-Malik al-Afdal, established the Mughrabi Quarter about 1193 as a Muslim waqf – an inalienable charitable trust under Islamic law. The endowment was extraordinarily inclusive: “For the benefit of the community of Mughrabi of all description and different occupations, male and female, old and young, the low and the high, to settle in its residences and to benefit from its uses according to their different needs.”7 Every Mughrabi who chose to live in the waqf quarter was guaranteed habitation – “an unprecedented event in Islamic history.”8 Al-Afdal also provided funds for the establishment of the long, narrow Harat al-Sharaf neighborhood (contiguous to the Mughrabi Quarter) and Harat al-Maydan, both of which would be illegally confiscated by the State of Israel, along with more than a dozen other neighborhoods, then incorporated into the greatly expanded Jewish Quarter following the 1967 war.9

Al-Afdal founded al-Madrasa al-Afdaliyya in Jerusalem (1193–96) to disseminate Maliki jurisprudence. The madrasa, often referred to as al-Qubba due to its fine ashlar dome, was a spiritual lodestar for Maliki scholars from the Maghreb and Andalusia. It was also the shrine (maqam) of Shaykh ‘Id, a venerated Sufi with whom the mosque became associated after his death in the seventeenth century. Benjamin Z. Kedar, emeritus professor of history at the Hebrew University and chairman of the board of the Israel Antiquities Authority (2000–12), who established its great architectural significance in collaboration with an Israeli Antiquities Authority team, correctly judged its destruction in 1967 as an “archaeological crime.”10

During the European Middle Ages, Mughrabis traveled to Jerusalem as pilgrims and/or to participate in its vibrant scholarly life. The Mughrabi Quarter was home to a diverse flock of immigrants from the Maghreb (Marinids, Hafsids, Berbers) as well as the Nasrids (the last Muslim dynasty in Iberia, who ruled the Emirate of Granada from 1230–1492). The famous Maliki judge and scholar Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi al-Ishbili compiled the oldest Mughrabi description of a journey to Jerusalem during a three-year sojourn in Jerusalem (1093–96).11 Mughrabis made distinctive contributions to Jerusalem, as renowned Andalusian mystic Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi observed while visiting in 1206:

The Moroccans [Mughrabis] are very well remembered in this town because they did wonders in the defense of the Muslims. Their money is found there, and people use that money very often. The Moroccan mats, which are more beautiful than silk, are very well-known to everybody there. The red Moroccan felt is the desire of all savants and dignitaries, and al-Jahiz mentioned that in his book on trade.12

Jean de Tournai, a French textile merchant who visited Jerusalem in 1488 with a keen eye for attire, noted that, “Moors wear white, with head wraps of fine cotton or toile de Hollande.”13

During the first half of the sixteenth century, the population of the Mughrabi Quarter quadrupled. Its spiritual stature was enhanced in the next century due to the advent of notable Sufi shaykhs who joined high government officials already residing in the area. Most Mughrabis adhered to the Maliki doctrine. Among those who advocated for other schools of Islamic jurisprudence was Shaykh Muhammad bin Muhammed al-Tayyib Talafani of Morocco who attained the position of Mufti of Jerusalem in 1777. Rare manuscripts in three private Jerusalem libraries (al-Aqsa, al-Khalidiyya, and al-Budayri) preserve the records of twenty Mughrabi judges who served in Jerusalem, as well as Mughrabi scholars who resided or sojourned in the city.14

Mughrabi pilgrims were hosted upon arrival in two zawiyas at almost opposite corners of the quarter. The Mamluk zawiya (Qantarat Umam al-Banat), a Sufi hospice endowed in 1303 by the scholar ‘Umar bin ‘Abdallah bin ‘Abd al-Nabi al-Masmudi al-Mujarrad, was the first waqf established by a Mughrabi for the benefit of Mughrabis in Jerusalem. His grandson, the mystic Shu‘aib Abu Madyan al-Ghawth, endowed another zawiya near Chain Gate (now Ha-Kotel Street) and assigned the lands of ‘Ayn Karim as waqf to sustain the zawiya and provide assistance to the Mughrabi.15 The top floor of the extant late-Ottoman building (referred to as al-Mughrabi Court in oral histories) preserves small cubicles for pilgrims and a mosque with a maqam. The plaque on the facade commemorates a waqf made by a descendant, Shaykh ‘Umar al-Mujarrad al-Masa‘udi (1901) to finance a soup kitchen for the “poor and needy.” The family waqf holdings formed the most substantial part (70 percent) of the Mughrabi Quarter.16 However, after 1948, ‘Ayn Karim fell on the opposite side of the Green Line, and the waqf was effectively deprived of revenue-generating resources. At this time, the French colonial government stepped in to assume partial financial responsibility for the sustenance of Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians, disbursed by the consulate general in Jerusalem.17

Within the urban mosaic of Old City neighborhoods, the Mughrabi Quarter extended to roughly ten thousand square meters. Ottoman municipal archives document the integral role it played in the city’s economic, social, spiritual, and cultural life.18 Mughrabi artisans produced hand-made paper, belts, rugs, and metalwork. The aromas of paprika, pepper, cumin, and harissa sauce wafted through the air. In addition to notable religious edifices and al-Kitab school near the Dung Gate, the Quarter hosted a tribunal, local commercial enterprises, a mill, communal ovens, and numerous fruit trees in family enclaves. Several historic maps demarcate the large Hakurat al-Khatuniyya (Garden of the Noblewomen), located at the Quarter’s southeast corner, cultivated with fruit trees, vegetable plots, and pulse crops. Nineteenth-century photographs show a wild abundance of prickly pear trees brought from Andalusia after 1492. The neighborhood also included extensive archaeological remains from Roman and Byzantine periods and ruins of splendid Umayyad palaces. As French journalist Simon Pierre observed, albeit with a touch of hyperbole: “It was the perfect Moroccan city in the heart of Jerusalem.”19


Figure 3. Detail, Wilson Ordnance Survey (1864–65), Photo: The British Library


When Chateaubriand visited Jerusalem in the early-nineteenth century he commended the Mughrabis, who were “sought after on account of their intelligence, and couriers esteemed for their swiftness. What would Saladin and Richard say if, suddenly returning to the world, they were to find the Moorish champions transformed into doorkeepers of the Holy Sepulchre?”20 Mughrabis also guarded markets, public facilities, and city gates, and provided security detail for the wealthy and powerful. They were also chosen as imams of the Mughrabi mosque by the community on the basis of their knowledge, probity, and wisdom.21

Destruction of the Mughrabi Quarter

Fast forward to the second half of the nineteenth century, when the viability of the Mughrabi Quarter began to be severely compromised by the ambitions of the ascendant secular Zionist movement. A handful of wealthy Zionists attempted unsuccessfully to purchase the Western Wall. These included Baron Rothschild, who in 1887 tried to buy the entire Quarter in order to demolish it to create a plaza. Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn and the Zionist Palestine Land Development Company also attempted to purchase the wall in 1895. Then, in 1914, with the Ottoman empire bankrupt and recently entangled in World War I, the Turkish governor of Jerusalem, Zeki Bey, offered unsuccessfully to sell the Mughrabi Quarter for a sum of £20,000. Five years later, in 1919, just after the League of Nations granted the British Mandate for Palestine, Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann sought to raise £75,000 to purchase the Mughrabi Quarter, demolish it, and relocate its residents, but the British upheld the Status Quo. Further Zionist challenges to the Status Quo continued to exacerbate tensions in the 1920s. A 1926 proposal by American Jewish millionaire Nathan Straus to initially lease and subsequently purchase the quarter was also rejected by the British, who again upheld the status quo ante. Three years later, in August 1929, deadly riots erupted between Jews and Muslims over access to the Western Wall after a cohort of Jews raised the Zionist flag and sang the Zionist anthem.22 In defiance of official prohibition by Mandatory authorities, militant Zionist rallies continued though the 1930s and 1940s.

Long-thwarted efforts to destroy the Mughrabi Quarter in order to appropriate the entire area finally fell into place following Israel’s victory in the 1967 war and belligerent occupation of East Jerusalem. On 8 June 1967, David Ben-Gurion firmly declared sur place to Teddy Kollek, mayor of West Jerusalem, who was accompanied by a National Parks Authority official: “The area must be cleared to reveal the wall.”23

Forcible clearing began just two days later. At ten o’clock on Saturday, 10 June 1967, a volunteer demolition crew of private contractors, recruited by Zalman Broshi at the behest of Kollek, arrived in convoy through Zion Gate; they had been ordered to cloak their wreckage operation under cover of night. Broshi’s crew followed a rather sketchy hand-drawn plan conceived earlier in the day by architect Arieh Sharon, president of the Association of Architects and Engineers, and an employee of the National Parks Authority. A handful of key officials signed off on the main instructions: “Destroy blocks A and B except for the enclosure walls and buildings marked as C and D.”24 The destruction, commanded by IDF Captain Eitan Ben-Moshe, would exceed the demarcated areas of the sketch.

Loudspeakers ordered residents of the Mughrabi Quarter to evacuate their homes. Former residents recall hastily gathering whatever possessions they could within several hours. Oral histories recount personal and collective experience of trauma. Destruction continued for two consecutive nights; excavators and bulldozers worked relentlessly under floodlights to flatten the mainly one-and two-story stone and brick-domed residences clustered densely along narrow alleyways. A security perimeter impeded residents from returning to retrieve documents and memorabilia – memorabilia subsequently buried or ground into rubble. It was organized ethnic cleansing, as exiled Mughrabi resident Ahmad Jaridi recounts in an oral history: “The Israelis had buses waiting at Damascus Gate for those who wanted to go to the bridge that leads to Amman. They gave chocolate to people who got on the bus.”25

Figure 4. Mughrabi Quarter Destruction Plan, Photo: Israel State Archives GL - 3847/4


By dawn of 12 June 1967, the historic neighborhood had been leveled. Eyewitnesses reported that homes seemed to have collapsed onto each other like a house of cards. One elderly woman was found dead in her bed; there were reportedly other corpses plowed over in the wreckage, but this is now impossible to confirm officially. The entire neighborhood was gone. Historic monuments, among them two mosques and numerous properties belonging to the waqf, had been razed. Approximately 650 residents were evicted from 138 homes. At the end of July, Kollek wrote Broshi to thank him for leading such an efficient enterprise “to restore the glory of Jerusalem.”26 Broshi’s contractors, who had founded a faux knighthood, the “Order of the Kotel,” during a three in the morning break from their demolition machines, would go on to meet annually to commemorate what they saw as a “heroic deed” of liberation and purification.27

The ad hoc coalition of at least eighty military and civil officials shared a more fundamental motivation that Teddy Kollek later justified as “an act of war.”28 Misinformation was deliberately circulated that the Mughrabi Quarter had been destroyed in the 1948 war. The local press abetted the dissimulation campaign. An article in the Jewish Herald (13 June 1967) claimed that, “Before the area was opened to the Jewish civilian population [in 1948], Israel sappers had blasted the Arab guardhouse and some other buildings to open up a wide square before the Wailing Wall – an area great enough to hold 100,000.”29

Top decision-makers were extremely cautious to avoid personal culpability in the face of Article 53 of the Geneva Conventions. Their nexus of collusion left a deliberately thin paper trail. Major General Uzi Narkiss, head of the IDF’s Central Command, was the most senior authority to give the demolition order, according to Shmuel Bahat.30 “Practical considerations were the determining factor in the demolition of the buildings of the Arab Quarter,” as Meron Benvenisti, Kollek’s deputy mayor (of Jewish Moroccan heritage), flatly stated.31


Figure 5. Cropped Zeppelin Photo, 1931. Yellow lines added by author. Photo: Archiv der Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, Friedrichshafen, 193/008


In riposte to this bald expression of ethno-nationalist ideology – cloaked as pragmatism – expressed by Israeli officials, Ruhi al-Khatib, then mayor of East Jerusalem, poignantly conveyed the human tragedy in a memorandum delivered to Dr. Ernesto Thalmann, UN envoy in Jerusalem, on 26 August 1967:

One hundred and thirty-five houses in the Mughrabi Quarter adjoining the Wailing Wall and adjacent to the two Mosques of Omar and Aksa, which are Muslim Holy Places, have been dynamited and razed by bulldozers. Because of this, 650 Muslim, all of them poor and pious persons living near the Muslim Holy Place, were removed from their homes and driven away, after having been allowed no more than three hours to evacuate their homes, which they had to do while the curfew was in effect. One can easily imagine the consternation of these families, who had to see to the removal of their property and take care of their children and their aged. One part of these buildings, comprising some houses and two small mosques, belongs to the Muslim Waqf. The other part was private property over which the Jews had no rights.32

“The works undertaken on this site of the Old City [ . . . ] have given it the appearance of a gaping wound in the flesh of the City,” lamented René Maheu, sixth director-general of UNESCO, a few years later.33 A broad esplanade of twenty thousand stone blocks laid over the ruins of the Mughrabi Quarter conceals that wound. However, psychic scars caused by forced displacement have not healed.

Scars of Destruction

In the immediate aftermath of the neighborhood’s destruction, the desperate Mughrabi diaspora sought emergency shelter with family and friends in the Old City, the Mount of Olives, Silwan, and other localities. Subsequently, some went to Morocco, others to Jordan or the West Bank. Many settled in refugee camps in Jerusalem, in Shu‘fat, and south of Qalandiya (al-Ram). Jerusalem’s Mughrabi community was scattered to the winds.34

Kollek’s patently disingenuous remark that Mughrabi residents “had no special feeling for the place” is jarringly discordant with lived reality and memory.35 The pain of exile resonates in video testimonies included in the Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive. Nawal Qasem al-Daraji, wife of Mughrabi mukhtar Mahmoud Ahmed al-Maslouhi, who was pregnant with her first child at the time of the quarter’s destruction, expresses melancholy for the “old life, for the company of neighbors, especially the celebratory occasions, as well as the protection of people in need” – like the mukhtar’s sister who suffered from epilepsy. “It was a very close-knit community – like one big family.”36 Aisha Ahmad al-Maslouhi recalls special preparation by the elderly women of traditional Moroccan couscous, and the “strong relations that don’t exist anymore and that we miss.”

Muhammad ‘Abd al-Jalil ‘Abid al-Mawludi al-Mughrabi (b. 1933) often visits the family flat, on the top floor of the Zawiya ‘Umar al-Mujarrad al-Masa‘udi (al-Mughrabi Court) on Ha-Kotel Street, which originally belonged to his grandfather. The intimate vaulted chamber hosts a small museum of memory dedicated to the Mughrabi Quarter: its walls are lined with family documents, old photos of the quarter and its residents, historical books on Arab Jerusalem. Muhammad proudly dubs himself the “best historian of the Mughrabi Quarter” thanks to a remarkable recollection of many neighbors.37 They all merit recognition, he affirms, citing each by name, due to the unjust fate inflicted upon them by the occupying state.38


Figure 6. The logo of the Sawwaf Bakery, owned by Muhammad and Mahmud Sawwaf, advertising ka‘k and qarshala in Bab Harat al-Sharaf. From a bakery bag c. 1960. Photo: Maryvelma Smith O’Neil.


The Mughrabi Quarter’s demolition caused grave structural damage to what Dame Kathleen Kenyon described as “the finest medieval Muslim architecture outside Cairo.”39 In 1968, Hasan Tahbub, director of the Muslim Waqf, wrote an official letter to Mayor Kollek to protest against breaches of waqf authority: experts had been denied access to inspect the condition of vaults and arches under the Tankaziyya school to prepare a technical report on the damages the site had sustained. Moreover, ongoing demolition and excavation work were being carried out without any notification, “in spite of the fact that the waqf department is the proprietor of all those properties and buildings.”40

Just a year later, in 1969, Israeli authorities destroyed a unique architectural complex located adjacent to the historic Mughrabi Ascent, which comprised fourteen structures of great cultural and historical significance.41 The site, known as the Abu al-Sa‘ud complex (after the family that had resided there for centuries in service to al-Aqsa Mosque), included the Mamluk Jami ‘al-Maghariba, as well as the Sufi al-Zawiya al-Fakhriyya, attached to al-Aqsa Mosque, that had been endowed sometime before 1332 by Qadi Fakhr al-Din Abu ‘Abdallah, a profoundly religious Coptic convert to Islam.42 It had also been home to Yasir Arafat during early childhood (1933–36), following the premature death of his mother.43

Those who are knowledgeable about the venerability and vitality of the Mughrabi Quarter and its illegal eradication surely experience intense cognitive dissonance upon entering the Western Wall Plaza through one of three Israeli checkpoints. Signs enjoin visitors to respect the place where the “Divine Presence always rests.” They are reminded – by way of large posters around the periphery depicting religious symbols and citing scriptural quotations from the Hebrew Bible – of the eternal bond of the Jewish people to the site.

Kollek’s deputy mayor Benvenisti, who actively participated in the destruction of the eight-hundred-year-old neighborhood which had been established as an inalienable waqf, engaged in casuistry when he later stated that this bond justified the grave transgression that had taken place there. When a young Israeli filmmaker who interviewed him in the plaza in 2013 alleged his moral responsibility for the demolition, Benvenisti retorted, “Are you saying there’s an original sin? True, there is. Deal with it.”44

Many Jerusalemites – including Palestinian and Israeli residents of Jerusalem alike – do not know that a veteran Israeli politician, a Moroccan Jew, judged the forced expulsion of the Mughrabi from their old neighborhood as “original sin.” Palestinians born after 1967 have little or no knowledge of the catastrophe that occurred there, even though Mughrabi diaspora continue to live in their midst. Although the Mughrabi Ascent is a highly contested site, the link between its name and the existence of an eight-hundred-year-old Quarter of Jerusalem, is not readily made by many – a great loss to Palestinian collective memory and shared identity.

When the old earthen ascent to the Noble Sanctuary collapsed during the harsh winter of 2004, a wooden pathway was built. It is the only entrance route for non-Muslims and is highly securitized. The Mughrabi Ascent was one of five highly contested sites included in the exhibition Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation, held in the Israeli Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale. The exhibition viewed these sites through the larger filter of the Status Quo agreements Israel is obligated to uphold. However, it gave concentrated focus to the critical use of architecture both as a system of daily organizational management and as a means of hegemony. Several models of the destroyed Mughrabi Quarter were included in the exhibition, which was viewed by one critic as, “the most concrete expression of the demolition of the quarter ever created by Israeli architects or academics, on a topic about which much has been written.”45

Construction by the Israeli government of a temporary ramp adjacent to the Mughrabi Ascent that began in August 2014 intensified political and religious tensions both in Jerusalem and regionally as a potential violation of the Status Quo at the al-Aqsa Mosque. Although it was soon dismantled under international pressure, the pathway remains one of the most politically charged and contested sites in the Old City and well beyond due to recurrent efforts by Israeli occupation forces to alter the Status Quo and provocative raids by settlers. The Statu Quo curators stated that, “The wooden bridge in its ‘permanent temporariness’ renders a postponed political solution and showcases monuments as active agents in the territorial conflict.”

In the face of what is seen as a permanent state of political stagnation, the Mughrabi Quarter Virtual Archive enables former residents, both those interviewed for oral histories, and the entire diaspora community, to regain active agency in defense of the Mughrabi Ascent. Historical documentation confirms their right to participate in a timely political solution in the face of hegemonic plans for the former neighborhood that they once occupied.

Figure 7. Model of Moroccan Quarter, In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation, Israeli Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2018. Photo courtesy: Mary Pelletier


History of the Illés Relief, 1873–78

It is our great fortune that a miniature representation of the Mughrabi Quarter was preserved in the Illés Relief, a marvel of craftsmanship and a primary source artifact of enormous documentary value.46 Like an analog version of Google Earth, the model provides a view – albeit an extruded, three-dimensional one – of what was then the regional seat of the Ottoman administrative district, known as the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, commonly referred to as Palestine, an independent province since 1872.47

The eighteen square-meter, 1:500 scale model is named for its creator, Stefan Illés, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1864. He first worked as a bookbinder at the Franciscan Monastery of St. Saviour before establishing an independent atelier. He embodied enormous passion for the city by way of a meticulous eye, an effort to obtain verisimilitude, and meticulous craftsmanship. The Relief is an intricately detailed miniature rendering of the stony hill fortress of Jerusalem, set on a promontory, bordered by mountains and enveloped by deep valleys.

Figure 8. Illés Relief, Tower of David Museum. Photo: ARCH Jerusalem


The Illés Relief is emplaced on a wooden framework divided into eight sections. Illés and two assistants painstakingly cut, melted, and shaped thousands of pieces of zinc; they then soldered, glued, and painted simulacra. The model is color-coded: ancient Jerusalem limestone was painted gray, modern buildings straw yellow, and natural areas green. Roads outside the walls were marked white; important roofs red and metal domes black.

Illés used the Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem undertaken by British surveyor Major General Charles Wilson (1836–1905) in eight months over 1864–65 as the topographic base-map for his model. He mirrored the natural topography, surface area, and built environment with its interpenetrating harat (neighborhoods), mirroring shared communal identity, be it shared place of origin, religion, or ethnicity. Although the city was predominantly Arab in its social landscape, confessional boundaries were porous and were only later demarcated by the British under the colonial pretense of creating a modern sectarian balance.

The model represents Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (which is almost unconstructed except for the Church of the Ascension) in the east to the Russian Compound in the west; from the spring of Ein-Rogel in the southeast to Damascus Gate in the north. Two gates (Herod’s and New Gate) had yet to be built. (These and many subsequent alterations that have been made since 1873 will be digitally mapped).

Illés represented in loving detail the extraordinary urban fabric and built heritage of the Old City, interconnected via an ancient network of one hundred forty streets, lanes, and ascents. His aerial view extends beyond the Ottoman walls to encompass the modernizing European suburbs. National flags identify newly established consulates and foreign residences that were connected to the world by recently installed telegraph poles (1865) outside Jaffa Gate. He also includes Mishkenot Sha’ananim – the first Jewish neighborhood established by British banker and philanthropist, Moses Montefiore, with funds bequeathed by New Orleanian tycoon, Judah Touro.

For six months the Illés Relief of Jerusalem was the star attraction of the Ottoman Pavilion at the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair.48 Relief models of cities were very fashionable in late nineteenth-century Europe, and Illés’ eight-section model had been cleverly designed to facilitate transportation and display during a five-year European tour. From 1873 to 1878, viewers in London, Munich, and Cologne flocked, like avian pilgrims, to marvel at the panorama of the Holy City. It was especially well-received in major Swiss cities (Zurich, Luzern, and Bâle), where reliefs had become a popular way to inspire patriotism – uniting the country’s ethnicities, religions, and language groups – after the federal constitution came into force in 1848.49 Neuchâtel Pastor Félix Bovet, a distinguished Swiss professor of theology, educator, and bibliophile, wrote on 14 February 1878, “We do not believe it an exaggeration to state that – given the religious and poetic emotions [elicited] . . . the spectacle of this relief replaces a journey to Jerusalem.”50

The booklet printed in Bâle in 1878 for the Swiss tour of the Illés Relief advertised its special claim to fame: “The first accurate model of Jerusalem seen with a bird’s eye view from the West.” Its documentary and artistic value was further underscored: “The topographic relief gives a precise and detailed representation of Jerusalem and its surroundings; other works of this type have the major shortcoming of not having been created with the artist’s eye, and consequently cannot give an exact and detailed representation of Jerusalem as it is today.”51

A team of experts who verified the accuracy of the Relief in the Bâle booklet also stressed its very faithful scale model of Jerusalem at the time. Father Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne, who enjoyed a “spectacular view of the Old City” from the terrace of his residence at the Monastery of the Religious of Notre Dame of Zion (located at the Ecce Home Arch on Via Dolorosa), praised the “astonishing exactitude of the ensemble even to the smallest detail,” judging it a “prodigious work [ . . . ] a relief photograph of Jerusalem.”52 Dr. Titus Tobler, the Swiss-German physician whose scholarly publications, fruit of four sojourns in the Holy Land (1835, 1845–46, 1857, 1865) which later earned him the epithet “Father of German Exploration in Palestine,” had advised Illés during its creation, as he attested:

The relief map of the city of Jerusalem and its environs executed by M. Illés is recommended for its scrupulous exactitude, in the measurement of the topography as well as the streets and buildings [ . . . ] I hope that others will take pleasure in it with the same degree as I have done, each time that I have examined it in detail, and I express the sincere desire that a great number of people will be interested in a work of art that is also instructive.53

Tobler was part of a coterie of European Christians who traveled to Jerusalem in the second half of the nineteenth century to identify archaeological sites, using the Bible as their sole frame of reference for field research. Only French archaeologist Charles-Jean-Melchior de Vogüé (1829–1916) had formal training in archaeology. However, others transformed themselves into specialists on the ground in Palestine; by dint of hard work and practical know-how, they gained deep knowledge of topography and the histories of architecture. Tobler was well-acquainted with other autodidacts, such as Conrad Schick (1822–1901), the German missionary who settled permanently in Jerusalem in 1846. As Nazmi al-Jubeh has observed, “Conrad Schick embodied the sum of imminent European concerns in Jerusalem in the second half of the nineteenth century, typifying the different historical and social sciences in combination with an unequivocally unique personality.”54 Schick’s aptitude for model-making took on mature form in several exceedingly valuable exempla. Afforded unusual permission from the Islamic waqf to explore the Noble Sanctuary from the inside, Schick produced a rare wooden model that was exhibited, alongside the Illés Relief, in the Ottoman Pavilion of the famous Vienna World’s Fair.55

Schick’s expertise as a model-maker stood out from the start. In 1859, he was asked to raise the standard of a geomorphic plaster relief map by H. W. Altmüller. His name figures boldly for having “improved and corrected” both quality and accuracy.56 Fortunately, he did not remove the marking for the “Coffe [sic] House” near St. George’s Greek Monastery, which must have been a local meeting place for foreigners in Jerusalem, of which Altmüller seems to have been a habitué. Schick, Illés, and Wilson may have met there to exchange expertise during Wilson’s eight-month sojourn as leader of the British Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem.57 Wilson’s biography describes the archaeological excavations, especially the “rough and difficult” explorations underneath the Noble Sanctuary (“rewarded by several discoveries”), as well as field research in Palestine in which he was simultaneously engaged.58 Five months before Schick died in 1901, he wrote Wilson to claim payment for work completed and pre-payment for architectural drawings of Jeremiah’s Grotto (the Garden Tomb).59 Evidence that the Europeans were a highly collaborative group is provided by the useful corrections and new discoveries appended to the 1876 edition of the British Ordnance Survey.60 The Wilson Ordnance Survey enterprise merits serious study, along with the Arabic nomenclature for places and street names selected by Carl Sandreczki.61

Figure 9. Altmüller Relief, Custodia Terrae Sanctae, The Custodial Archive at Saint Saviour Monastery in Jerusalem. Photo: Robert Dawson


Figure 10: Wilson Ordnance Survey, 1865. Photo: The British Library


The Illés Relief, from Geneva to Jerusalem

After its peripatetic journey through Europe, the Illés Relief finally found a permanent home in the Republic of Geneva. Gustave Moynier, president of the International Red Cross and major proponent of the humanitarian “Spirit of Geneva,” spearheaded the initiative for its purchase. Two appeals were launched in April 1878. Money flowed in from more than a hundred private donors, many from the city’s most distinguished families. The citizens of Geneva, from a wide social spectrum, also responded generously. Six thousand Swiss francs had been raised within a month, much by public subscription. The administrative council of the Société de la Rive Gauche contributed an additional 4,600 francs, thereby permitting the purchase of the model for CHF 9,500 on 26 October 1878 (estimated to be equivalent to at least CHF 220,000 in today’s economy). The remainder was designated for its installation in the Calvin Library of the Maison de la Réformation SA, a private evangelical association in Geneva that had assumed legal ownership. On 16 January 1879, the solemn installation of the Relief took place.

For forty years (1879–1919) the Illés Relief could be viewed two days a week. Then in 1920 it was removed to accommodate delegates to the inaugural meeting of the League of Nations. Henceforth, finding a suitable display venue became a challenge. Following a brief exhibition at Geneva’s Art and History Museum in 1963, it was relocated to several venues and eventually ended up in a locked depot of the Palais Wilson. On 6 April 1984, a University of Geneva art history professor unlocked the storage room for David G. Littman, accompanied by his wife and daughter. There they found the artefact for which Littman, a student at Hebrew University, had been searching.62

On 20 September 1984, a convention was signed before a Geneva notary between two officials of the Maison de la Réformation SA and Littman, who represented the mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek. However, the lenders expressed their civic obligation to protect the inalienable property of the citizens of Geneva. The permanent loan contract stipulated an initial ten-year loan to the Municipality of Jerusalem, after which renewal would be automatic every five years – unless specified to the contrary, or if the conditions of the contract were not met.63 The next renewal is scheduled for 20 September 2024.

The Virtual Illés Relief Initiative

Global audiences will soon be able to explore and inspect Illés’ Jerusalem, beginning with the destroyed Mughrabi Quarter, thanks to the recent digitization of the Relief as part of a groundbreaking project – The Virtual Illés Relief Initiative. The Initiative consists of three parts: first, the Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive, a content-dense website currently underway that aims to recover the Quarter’s past; second, the extensive digital mapping of the entire virtual Illés Relief in order to create an interactive, annotated model housed online; third, a digital museology exhibition enabling visitors to interact with the Relief through Augmented and/or Virtual Reality.64

The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive will be launched in the spring of 2020 on the internet. A website will offer a navigable 3D model of the Quarter as it stood in 1873, an orthographic map as well as a media-rich archive, that includes a series of video diaries from witnesses and survivors of the 1967 destruction.

Following this first phase, a global research campaign will initially focus on the histories of Jerusalem during the Ottoman era (1517–1917) by gathering then analyzing data to digitally map the entire virtual Illés Relief. Users will be able to navigate the Old City according to both place and time, excavating layers of geo-referenced data in the city’s built topography and exploring its transformation over four centuries. This interactive web platform will incorporate data that showcases the living city, inhabited by Jerusalemites who shared a communitarian ethos and multiple identities.

After the completion of the initial phase, the virtual Relief will be transformed into an experiential, spatial immersion installation, allowing viewers to experience the intricate, interwoven histories of Jerusalem thanks to a range of virtual and visualization technologies. Debuting in Switzerland, the interactive installation will be designed for portability in order to travel around the world to audiences far and wide. In conjunction with the digital museology exhibition, a unique VR film will transport viewers on a narrated time-travel tour of the Old City.

As a legacy project, the Virtual Illés Relief Initiative will be developed in various chronological phases over the course of a prospective ten-year period. The interactive platform will be regularly updated to reflect and incorporate ongoing contributions from scholars spanning myriad academic disciplines.

It is hoped that The Mughrabi Quarter Digital Archive and The Virtual Illés Relief Initiative will catalyze vital new discourses, especially vis-à-vis contested sites in Jerusalem, reinvigorating a commitment by the international community to uphold its legally designated status as “corpus separatum.” By making cultural heritage of outstanding universal value accessible to a global audience, especially when this heritage is increasingly under threat, it is also hoped that this Initiative will actively engage the global community in crucial debates about the very urgent role heritage plays in shaping the precarious future of Jerusalem.



1 Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article 53 (Prohibited Destruction), online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019).

2 Nazmi al-Jubeh, Harat al-yahud wa harat al-maghariba fi al-Quds al-qadima: al-tarikh wa al-masir ma bayna al-tadmir wa al-tahwid [The Jewish Quarter and the Mughrabi Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem: History and Destiny between Destruction and Judaization] (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2019); ‘Adnan ‘Abd al-Raziq, Harat al-yahud fi al-Quds: bayna al-haqa’iq wa al-tadlil [The Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem: Between Facts and Delusion] (Cyprus: Dar Manshurat al-Rimal, 2013), especially table 126.

3 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Heritage Center Decision 40 COM 7A.13, “Old City of Jerusalem and Its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (C 148 rev),” 2016, online at (accessed 11 December 2019).

4 For the only scholarly article, see Rehav Rubin, “Stephan Illes and His 3D Model-Map of Jerusalem (1873),” Cartographic Journal 44, no. 1 (February 2007): 71–79.

5 Jubeh, Harat al-Yahud.

6 Muhammad ibn Ahmad (Ibn Jubayr), The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, Being the Chronicle of a Mediaeval Spanish Moor Concerning His Journey to the Egypt of Saladin, the Holy Cities of Arabia, Baghdad the City of the Caliphs, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, trans. Roland Broadhurst (London: J. Cape, 1952), 322.

7 The original deed of charter of this endowment disappeared. After a special inquiry, it was twice reestablished in 1267 CE and 1595 CE. The last document (located in the archives of the Court of Islamic Law in Jerusalem) was published by Abdul Latif Tibawi, The Islamic Pious Foundations in Jerusalem: Origins, History, and Usurpation by Israel (London: Islamic Cultural Center, 1978), 13–15, Arabic text in Appendix. A somewhat abridged version (titles and honorifics removed) was published by F. E. Peters, Jerusalem: The Holy City in the Eyes of Chroniclers, Visitors, Pilgrims, and Prophets from the Days of Abraham to the Beginnings of Modern Times (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 1985), 357–58.

8 Şerife Eroğlu Memiş, “Between Ottomanization and Local Networks: Appointment Registers as Archival Sources for Waqf Studies. The Case of Jerusalem’s Maghariba Neighborhood,” in

Ordinary Jerusalem, 1840–1940, ed. Angelos Dalachanis and Vincent Lemire (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 75.

9 ‘Abd al-Raziq, Harat al-Yahud.

10 See Benjamin Z. Kedar, Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, and Tawfiq Da‘adli, “The Madrasa Afdaliyya/Maqam al-Shaykh ‘Id: An Example of Ayyubid Architecture in Jerusalem,” Revue Biblique 119, no. 2 (2012): 271–87. Kedar’s condemnation of its destruction as an “archaeological crime” appeared in Nir Hasson, “Rare Photograph Reveals Ancient Jerusalem Mosque Destroyed in 1967,” Haaretz, 15 June 2012, online at ( (accessed 18 June 2019).

11 Sabri Jarrar, “Saq al-Ma‘rifa: An Ayyubid Hanbalite Shrine in al-Haram al-Sharif,” Muqarnas 15 (1998): 77–78.

12 Abdellilah Benarafa, Mount Qaf: A Biographical Novel on the Andalusian Mystic Muḥyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi, trans. Abdulwahid Lu’lu’a (Singapore: Strategic Book Publishing, 2015), 237.

13 Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb, “Pluralism in the Holy City,” in Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb, eds., Jerusalem, 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016), 66.

14 Jubeh, Harat al-Yahud.

15 Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali, al-Uns al-jalil fi tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil [The Significant Ambiance in the History of Jerusalem and Hebron] (Amman, 1973), 45–46, 243. Michael Burgoyne, Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study (Northampton, MA: Interlink, 1989), 69 n5. The two-story Ottoman structure is in vulnerable condition and its residents are threatened due to its location on Ha-Kotel Street. There is a small mosque on the roof floor that includes Maqam Boumédiène al-Hawari. The building is the property of the Islamic Moroccan Institutes and flies the Moroccan flag. The Abu Madyan waqfiyya is translated from Arabic into French and published by Louis Massignon, “Documents sur certains waqfs des Lieux saints de l’Islam: principalement sur le waqf Tamimi à Hébron et sur le waqf tlemcénien Abû Madyan à Jérusalem,” Revue des études islamiques 19 (1951): 73–120.

16 According to Salim Tamari: “The Abu Madyan family owned the single highest aggregate of properties in the area – 73 property units, equivalent to 70 percent of all family endowments, followed by the Khalidi family (14 percent) and the Abu Sa‘ud family (6 percent).” Salim Tamari, “Waqf Endowments in the Old City of Jerusalem: Changing Status and Archival Sources,” in Ordinary Jerusalem, ed. Dalachanis and Lemire, 506. ‘Abd al-Raziq provides a table that lists the Mughrabi properties destroyed: 5 Islamic awaqf, 104 family awqaf, 16 private properties, 2 absentee properties for a total of 127. ‘Abd al-Raziq, Harat al-Yahud, 126.

17 Irène Salenson and Vincent Lemire cite the role played by the French colonial government in the financial sustenance of the Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians of the quarter after 1948, when the village of ‘Ayn Karim fell behind the Green Line. Irène Salenson and Vincent Lemire, “La destruction du quartier des Maghrébins: entre histoire, urbanisme et archéologie (1967–2007), Les Cahiers de l’Orient 130, no. 2 (Spring 2018): 129–46. See also Vincent Lemire, “1962. Le crépuscule de l’Algérie française à Jérusalem,” in Histoire mondiale de la France, ed. Patrick Boucheron (Paris: Seuil, 2017).

18 Jubeh, Harat al-Yahud.

19 Simon Pierre, “Harat-El-Maghariba: Le Marocains de Jerusalem,” Zamane 86 (May 2013): 88.

20 François-René Chateaubriand, Travels in Greece, Palestine, Egypt, and Barbary during the Years 1806 and 1807, trans. Frederic Shorberl (New York: Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814), 332, online at ( (accessed 20 February 2020).

21 Hanbali, al-Uns al-Jalil, 11, 253; and Jubeh, Harat al-Yahud.

22 Mary Ellen Lundsten, “Wall Politics: Zionist and Palestinian Strategies in Jerusalem,” Journal of Palestine Studies 8, no. 1 (October 1978): 3–27.

23 See appendix to Tom Abowd, “The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present,” Jerusalem Quarterly File 7 (Winter 2000): 15.

24 A copy of the sketch was first detailed by Daniel Seidemann in 2007, as signaled by Simone Ricca, “Heritage, Nationalism, and the Shifting Symbolism of the Wailing Wall,” Archives de sciences sociales des religions 151 (2010): 174 n11. I am grateful to Shmuel Bahat for the translation from Hebrew: “It would be good to leave the enclosure walls, if possible, especially the wall adjacent to the Kotel. It is only a temporary plan until the final plan is devised.” The signatories were Arieh Sharon, Michael Avi-Yonah, Yonathan Mintzker, Dan Tanay. The highest official was YaakovYannay, head of the National Parks Authority.

25 Interviewee filmed at his Old City home, 14 July 2019; online at “Oral Histories of the Mughrabi Quarter in Jerusalem,” (accessed 9 March 2020).

26 Kollek wrote a brief letter to Broshi on paper without official letterhead (31 July 1967, Jerusalem City Archive, Box 2059, Folder 10, n. 45): “Thank you for volunteering to expand the Kotel and for the efficiency and speed with which you did the work as a volunteer with no payment. The reward for all of us will be to restore the glory of Jerusalem.”

27 They were later decorated by the Knesset (1987) and commemorated in a fiftieth anniversary exhibition at Yad Ben Zvi. Nir Hasson, “How a Small Group of Israelis Made the Western Wall Jewish Again,” Haaretz, 3 June 2017, online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019).

28 Teddy Kollek and Amos Kollek, For Jerusalem: A Life (New York: Random House, 1978), 197.

29 “200,000 in Shavuot Pilgrimage to the Western Wall, Jewish Herald, 14 June 1967, 3.

30 Author interview, 17 February 2019.

31 Meron Benvenisti, City of Stone: the Hidden History of Jerusalem (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 84. Benvenisti appeared in a short Israeli documentary, Mughrabi Quarter (2013), that set him face to face with Muhammad ‘Abd al-Jalil ‘Abid al-Mawludi, who identified his original place of residence as al-Buraq (online at Benvenisti declared: “I took part in the uprooting. I was in charge.”

32 “Memorandum Concerning the Measures Taken by Israel with Respect to the City of Jerusalem, Submitted to UN Ambassador Thalmann by Ruhi al-Khatib, Mayor of Arab Jerusalem, 26 August 1967 [Excerpts],” in Documents on Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, 2007), vol. 2, 15. Ruhi al-Khatib participated in a debate at the UN in New York on 8 May 1968 in which he stated, “The bewildered inhabitants were scattered in the adjacent lanes and streets and some at a later stage found refuge in the neighboring villages. The total number of persons affected by this campaign was 650.” See verbatim record of UN Security Council meeting, 3 May 1968, online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019)).

33 Le Monde, 21 November 1974, translated by Henry Cattan in Jerusalem (London: Saqi Books, 200), 76.

34 The question of indemnification has been discussed in various UN documents and articles on the Mughrabi Quarter. It was part of the Israeli hasbara (public relations) and, in any case, did not offer real compensation to poor people whose lives were turned upside down. Noura al-Tijani lists, “The most well-known Palestinian families with Moroccan roots include al-Moghrabi, al-‘Alami, al-Tayyib, al-Maslouhi, al-Tijani, al-Fakiki, al-Mahdi, al-Filali, Bu Hamalah, al-Tazi, al-Khairi, al-Muwaqat, al-Qutob, and al-Muzaffar”; in “The Moroccan Community in Palestine,” This Week In Palestine online at ( (accessed 9 March 2020). The author’s father described the trauma of demolition and displacement for his own and other families, as reported by Rafique Gangat, “Jerusalem’s Moroccan Quarter,” Gulf News, 23 November 2016, online at ( (accessed 21 February 2020).

35 Kollek describes his decisive role with great panache in his autobiography in Kollek and Kollek, For Jerusalem, 197.

36 Author interview, 22 January 2019.

37 Author interview, 12 February 2019.

38 Jubeh, Harat al-Yahud (Appendix 6) lists 138 names of heads of household and their property components. The digital mapping project aims to contact as many as possible.

39 Tibawi, Islamic Pious Foundations, 40 n48.

40 Jerusalem City Archive, Box 2059, Folder 10, n124. The handwritten and typed letter is dated 9 April 1968.

41 The ostensible reasons were the enlargement of the excavation area and the improvement of access for Israeli military forces to monitor the Haram al-Sharif in case of troubles, as Ricca has observed (Ricca, “Heritage,” 175–76).

42 Burgoyne, Mamluk Jerusalem, 258–260. See also “Zawiyat Madrasat al-Qadi Fakhr al-Din Abu ‘Abdallah: al-Fakhriyya,” online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019). The Fakhriyya complex included fourteen buildings, including a mosque and chambers for Sufi prayer, as well as lodgings. Three spared rooms and the mosque are today occupied by the Archaeology Department of the Awqaf Administration and the office of the director of the Islamic Museum. For the highly contentious excavations that followed demolition of the Abu al-Saud complex, see Ricca, “Heritage,” 179–180; and Irène Salenson and Vincent Lemire, “La destruction du quartier des Maghrébins: entre histoire, urbanisme et archéologie (1967–2007), Les Cahiers de l’Orient 130, no. 2 (Spring 2018): 129–146. Salenson and Lemire highlight two recent excavation campaigns that uncovered household objects used by the Mughrabi community as well as a mihrab dating from the British Mandate period. See also Craig Larkin and Michael Dumper, “UNESCO and Jerusalem: Constraints, Challenges, and Opportunities,” Jerusalem Quarterly 39 (Autumn 2019): 16–28.

43 Azzam Abu Saud, “Yasser Arafat, the Early Years: A Personal Recollection of Arafat’s Childhood and Formative Years,” Palestine-Israel Journal 11, no. 3–4 (2004–5), online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019).

44 See Mughrabi Quarter (2013), online at (accessed 11 December 2019).

45 Naama Riba, “Deconstructing the Most Volatile Sites of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – at Venice Architecture Biennale,” Haaretz, 29 May 2018, online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019.

46 Maryvelma Smith O’Neil, “Liberate the Illés Relief,” al-Jazeera, 20 August 2012, online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019).

47 Johann Büssow, “Ottoman Reform and Urban Government in the District of Jerusalem, 1867–1917,” in Urban Governance under the Ottomans: Between Cosmopolitanism and Conflict, ed. Nora Lafi and Ulricke Freitag (London: Routledge, 2014).

48 Hermann Zschokke, “Palästina auf der Weltausstellung in Wien 1873,” Das Heilige Land 18 (1874): 4–8.

49 “Swiss Reliefs,” Terrain Models, undated, online at (accessed 11 December 2019).

50 David Littman, Le Relief of Jérusalem (Geneva: l’imprimerie Avenir S.A., 1986), 4.

51 Etienne Illés and Stephan IllésCourte Description du Relief de Jérusalem (Bâle: Chr. Krust, 1878), 3.

52 Illés and Illés, Courte Description, 16.

53 Illés and Illés, Courte Description, 16.

54 Nazmi al-Jubeh, “Conrad Schick: Pioneering Architect, Archaeologist, and Historian of Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Quarterly 67 (Fall 2016): 7.

55 Haim Goren Rehav Rubin, “Conrad Schick’s Models of Jerusalem and its Monuments,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly128, 2 (1996): 103–24. According to the authors, both Schick and Illés were encouraged to submit small zinc models to the Ottomans by the Austrian Consul in Jerusalem.

56 The relief measures 43.2 x 36 x 6.2 centimeters. For another plaster relief of Jerusalem by Altmüller, see “Plaster Relief of Jerusalem – Germany, 1859” (Auction 60, Lot 61), Kedem Auction House, online at ( (accessed 11 December 2019).

57 John James MoscropMeasuring Jerusalem: The Palestine Exploration Fund and British Interests in the Holy Land (London: Leicester University Press, 2000).

58 Charles William Wilson, The Recovery of Jerusalem: A Narrative of Exploration and Discovery in the City and the Holy Land (London: D. Appleton, 1871), 47.

59 See David Gurevich, “The Secrets between the Old Pages,” Palestine Exploration Fund Blog, 5 February 2015, online at ( (accessed 14 April 2020).

60 See Shimon Gibson, “British Archaeological Work in Jerusalem between 1865–1967: An Assessment,” in Unearthing Jerusalem: 150 Years of Archaeological Research in the Holy City, ed. Katharina Galor and Gideon Avni (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011), 23–57; Jubeh, “Conrad Schick.”

61 See Haim Goren, “Sacred, But Not Surveyed: Nineteenth-Century Surveys of Palestine,” Imago Mundi 54 (2002): 87–110. In his introduction to the 1980 facsimile of the Wilson Ordnance Survey, Dan Bahat underscored the invaluable nomenclature of the survey, thanks to Rev. Dr. Sandreczki, Protestant Minister of Jerusalem, and a thirty-year resident, who was fluent in Arabic. He included correct place names in Arabic in the margin, many of which have been subsequently distorted or forgotten. “In addition to listing the names of building and sites, Sandreczki often explains the course of the name, the use of the building, and offered other information.” Dan Bahat, “The Ordnance Survey and Its Contribution to the Study of Jerusalem,” introduction to Charles W. Wilson, Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem, facsimile edition (Jerusalem: Ariel Publishing House, 1980).

62 Rubin, “Stephan Illés.” The digital mapping project will fully investigate Illés contributions to the history of cartography and especially his collaboration with other European model-makers in late nineteenth-century Jerusalem, several of whom were Swiss. The purposes behind the creation of the Illés Relief will be examined and the patronage and scientific exactitude of the artifact evaluated. The exhibition of the model in the Ottoman Pavilion of the Vienna World’s Fair (1873) is also relevant for the study of late Ottoman Jerusalem.

63 Document no. 17 in the archive conserved at the Bibliothèque de Genève contains a letter dated 18 October 1984 from the Administrative Council (Jean-Pierre Guillermet and the Mayor Roger Dafflon) to Michele Pierre Micheli, President of the Maison de la Réformation SA, M. Michele, “Compte tenue de la valeur scientifique, historique et religieuse du Relief de Jérusalem, acquis à l’époque grâce à une source publique, le Conseil administratif souhaite très vivement que cette œuvre puisse être rendue dans quelques années à la collectivité genevoise selon des modalités qu’il conviendra de déférer le moment venu.” A letter to David Littman from Micheli published in Le Matin Dimanche (21 October 1984) conveys Micheli’s concern that the installment of the model in the Old City could provoke the Arabs. “J’ai fait tout mon possible pour lui faire comprendre qu’il s’agissait uniquement d’une affaire culturelle, qui ne concernait que la ville de Jérusalem et non de l’État d’Israël. Lorsqu’il a compris que la ‘Citadelle de David’ se trouvait dans la vielle ville, sa réaction a été immédiat ; ‘Ou’est vont dire les Arabes ?’ D’ailleurs. Il m’a demandé pourquoi l’objet n’avait pas pu être donne au prêté au Conseil œcuménique des églises de Genève. ‘Pourquoi Jérusalem ?’ Dans ses circonstances, je pouvais soit mettre fin à notre conversation.”

64 Virtual Reality most often uses a head-mounted display (HMD) to create a convincing interactive experience in a fully artificial en-vironment. Augmented Reality adds artificial/digital objects to a real environment.

Author biography: 

Maryvelma Smith O’Neil is a cultural historian and Senior Research Fellow at Webster University, Geneva. She is founder and director of ARCH Jerusalem (online at