Conflict over sacred space: The case of Nazareth

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Nazareth is the ethnic-national center for Israel's Arab minority, and the epicenter of Christian sacred sites. For two decades Nazareth's Christian and Muslim Arabs have been divided over the proposed building of a new Mosque on the large public Plaza adjoining the Church of the Annunciation. The analysis of this disputed urban place addresses: (a) spatial, temporal, cultural and political dimensions of the dispute 'stories' as told by the stakeholders, and (b) vocabulary, expressed by frames, which constitutes spatial transgression at the micro-level in Nazareth.The case provides insights into what such sites may tell us about regime-minority relations, inter-group tensions and minority conflicts, local politics, and perceptions of landscape dominance. A framing typology - including Issues, Values and Process frames - of conflicts over sacred sites is applied in the analysis. Frames are a way of categorizing the unique understanding of each stakeholder as to what constitutes the agenda, the relevance and importance of various issues to the dispute, and the risks involved.Two types of disputes emerge from the empirical data - geopolitical and national, and intra-religious ethnic. The micro-scale analysis provides the ingredients needed to understand ways in which religion and politics intertwine in the Plaza. The Process frames proved most salient in terms of identification of spatial transgression. Whereas Value frames are immutable, insights point to possible changes to Process and Issue framing which might enable more astute management of future conflict flare-ups.Religion itself and enlargement of religious sites have a long-established history of disputes worldwide. This paper contributes to the study of geography of locational disputes and the concept of spatial transgression - group resistance to what one group perceives as an unwelcome invasion by another in its territory - with empirical emphasis on religious politics in Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-140
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Church of the annunciation
  • Framing typology
  • Nazareth israel
  • Political-religious conflict
  • Shihab a-Din tomb
  • Spatial transgression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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