The Jerusalem Light Rail in Historical Perspective: Urban Transportation and Urban Citizenship between Ottomanism and Apartheid
urban transportation
urban citizenship
intercommunal relations
urban segregation

In the summer of 2014 during riots that broke out in Jerusalem after the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, by Jewish settlers, three stations of the Jerusalem Light Rail were vandalized and set on fire; their destruction targeted the fantasy of a united, modern, and conflict-free Jerusalem that the light rail sought to embody. Since its opening in 2011, proponents of the light rail have held it up as an example of JewishArab coexistence in the city; after all, according to company reports, almost a quarter of the rail’s daily passengers are Palestinian. Despite this statistic, however, the light rail is instead an embodiment of the long-term failure of urban citizenship in Jerusalem. Examining the light rail in historical perspective against the plans for a tramway in late Ottoman Jerusalem sheds light on a very different moment in which the tramway represented aspirations for and interest in a shared Jerusalemite urban identity. Over time, however, urban segregation, political sectarianism, and colonialism transformed the possibilities for urban citizenship in Jerusalem.

Author biography: 

Michelle Campos is associate professor of History and Jewish Studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2010).