Sacred sites are often at the center of intense contestation between different groups regarding a wide variety of issues, including ownership, access, usage rights, permissible religious conduct, and many others. They are often the source of intractable, long-standing conflicts and extreme violence. In our presentation we profile five sites: Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming, US), Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi (Uttar-Pradesh, India), the Western Wall (Jerusalem), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem), and the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif (Jerusalem). Telling the fascinating stories of these high-profile contested holy sites, we develop and critically explore five different models of governing such sites: “non-interference”, “separation and division”, “preference”, “status-quo”, and “closure”. Each model is grounded in different sets of considerations; central among them are trade-offs between religious liberty and social order. This novel typology aims to assist democratic governments in their attempt to secure public order and mutual toleration among opposed groups in contested sacred sites.
Yuval Jobani is a senior lecturer of Jewish Philosophy and Education at Tel Aviv University. His research interests include the variety of Jewish secularisms, religion and the public sphere as well as religion and education in contemporary society. He is the author of “The Role of Contradictions in Spinoza’s Philosophy: The God Intoxicated Heretic.”
Nahshon Perez is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University. His fields of research include toleration, pluralism, religion-state relations, and the rectification of past wrongs. He is the author of “Freedom from Past Injustices: A Critical Evaluation of Claims for Inter-Generational Reparations”.
Yuval Jobani and Nahshon Perez co-authored “Women of the Wall: Navigating Religion in Sacred Sites” (Oxford University Press, 2017) and “Governing the Sacred: Political Toleration in Five Contested Sacred Sites” (Oxford University Press, 2020).