From The Formation of Muslim Society in Palestine - Eretz Israel
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The Islamization of the Architectural Landscape in Palestine from 700-1500

Prof. Rachel Milstein, Dr. Gideon Avni & Dr. Katia Cytryn-Silverman


The theoretical framework of our research is based on the assumption that cultural and religious movements - in our case, Islamization and Arabization of the society in Palestine - entail modifications in the architectural landscape. These changes are expressed by appropriation and conversion of non-Islamic religious monuments and sites; foundation of monuments which serve the Muslim cult; construction of typical Islamic public buildings; modifications in the urban structure, mainly in the city center and around the mosque; and a slow process of change in the rural populations of Palestine, as a reflection of Islamization and the transformation from Christianity to Islam. Our research is based on three simultaneous and interconnected themes: 1. In cooperation with the other teams, our research of Islamic sites excavations and architectural remnants aims to thicken and broaden the “map” of Muslim settlement and activity (mainly religious) in Palestine. 2. A comparative study of architectural remnants in Palestine and the surrounding lands aims at developing a tentative model of the formation process of Islamic architecture. 3. A study of the Muslim towns in Palestine - structures and urban landscapes. Beside a survey of known material, the project supports Cytryn-Silverman’s excavations at the city-center of Tiberias, a site which clearly represents the process of Islamization of a classical town. The information derived from written sources (data produced by the other teams) and findings derived from material culture are compared, in order to interpret better the historical authenticity and the meaning of the findings. As a result we expect that the layout of the center of Tiberias in the early Muslim period, and the plan of the Umayyad Friday mosque will be revealed by the excavations; new parameters for the identifications of Muslim sites monuments will help analyze future excavations and re-evaluate the data of known sites; the “map” of Islamization in Palestine is updated; and the research gives a new basis for a model of the formation and the evolution of religious Islamic architecture on the one hand, and the Islamization of the urban and rural landscape on the other hand.

The Demographic Transformation in Palestine in the Post-Crusading Period (1187-1516 C.E.)

Prof. Reuven Amitai & Prof. Ronnie Ellenblum


In the aftermath of the Muslim reconquest of Palestine and nearby countries in the Levant (a process that essentially began in 1187 and was completed in 1291), we can discern several social and demographic among the local populations. Perhaps the most important of these processes was Islamization that had its beginnings in the early Islamic period (ca. 640-1099 C.E.), but had halted and apparently even been reversed during the time of Frankish rule. With the advent of Ayyubid rule (1187-1260) in parts of Palestine and then the Mamluk rule, it appears that the process of religious conversion was accelerated. With the beginning of the Ottoman period in 1516, it is commonly assumed, and may well be that the Muslim majority in the country was more-or-less like that of the mid-19th century, i.e. before the great changes wrought by Jewish and other immigration into the country. Our research looks closely at the Mamluk sources written in Arabic, as well as non-Arabic sources (Syriac, Armenian, Latin and Old French) to search for evidence of conversion of individuals and groups. No less important, we seek information on immigration and emigration into and out of the Palestine, which seems to play a major role in the religious transformation of the country. Other social processes (e.g., different birth rates in various communities) may have played a role too, but it may well be impossible to discern these in the sources. While working primarily on the question of conversion, we also keep our eyes open for evidence on other population changes (e.g., increasing or decreasing nomadism, extent of urbanism, general size of population, etc.)

This study also takes into consideration the role of the changing landscape in expressing the ongoing Islamization of the population, at the same time perhaps contributing to this development. This ties in directly with the work of other teams in the project.

Administration and Political Elites, Muslim Scholars and Learning in Palestine during the Early Islamic Period (634-1099)

Prof. Amikam Elad


The aim of the research project is to create a broader, deeper, inclusive picture of the administrative and political elites, the scholars and the learning in Palestine in the Early Islamic period. The geographic realm covers the southern districts of “Greater Syria” (al-Shām) that is the districts of Filastīn, al-Urdunn and part of Dimashq (Damascus) district. The political, cultural and religious transition which took place in Palestine and its surroundings during the mid-7th century was one of the most significant in the Middle Eastern history. During this transitional period, the region which so far had been under Byzanto-Christian control came under Islamic rule and cultural influence.

Despite the many studies devoted to this multi-faceted transition, none have so far conducted an in-depth interdisciplinary study. The historical research of the period is by itself fraught with methodological problems raised by the nature of the different sources involved and remains far from fully utilizing the countless data available.

This research takes advantage of the now available digitalized databases which includes a significant proportion of the relevant Early Islamic sources. The phenomenon of the compact disks and websites is revolutionary with respect to data and its interpretation. It enables, for the first time, collecting the majority of evidence for this project.

The Formation of Islamic Life and Space in Palestine from the Arab Conquest until the Mamluk Period

Dr. Daniella Talmon-Heller, Dr. Miriam Frenkel & Dr. Milka Levy-Rubin


This research aims at the reconstruction of the process by which life and space in Palestine became Muslim (seventh-fifteenth centuries). Such a reconstruction entails both the examination of the ongoing process of spatial Islamization, and of processes amongst the conquered communities - Christian, Jewish and Samaritan - which allowed this significant change. Spatial Islamization is researched via three trajectories:

By determining the chronology of the construction of Islamic institutions (mosques, sanctuaries, madrasas and sufi establishments), their geographic spread in the region, the social contexts of their establishment or appropriation from other religious groups and their later maintenance. By tracing the development of Islamic rites, beliefs, and ritual calendars in Palestine. By analyzing the discourse and topoi employed by the Arabic sources that deal with the transformations in question. The research of the processes which the local conquered communities underwent focuses on changes in their settlement pattern, the penetration of the Arabic culture and language (Arabization), and the process of conversion to Islam and the resistance to it, especially in the early Islamic period. The research regarding the dimensions and effects of this process may be complemented by an examination of the holy places, institutions, rites and customs which remained unchanged. We anticipate that the integration of the changes evident in both the conquering and the conquered communities will allow us to draw a clearer picture of the transformation of life and space in Palestine as a whole. The study is based on a systematic survey of both the Muslim and the non-Muslim narratives, religious and legal sources, and the integration of the textual evidence with the findings of relevant studies of epigraphy and archaeology. The analysis employs the tools of philology, history, historical anthropology and religious studies.