Moshe Safdie’s Life in Architecture

A citizen of Israel, Canada, and the U.S. born into a Levantine Jewish family, Moshe Safdie is today one of the most distinguished living architects and urban planners. His works include the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore, Ben-Gurion Airport’s Terminal 3, the Harvard University Hillel, and the National Gallery of Canada; he also helped to design Israel’s Merkavah tank. In a review of Safdie’s recently published memoir, Michael M. Rosen writes:

Born in 1938 in hilly Haifa in British Mandatory Palestine, Safdie came of age during Israel’s fight for independence. His earliest architectural experiences involved the contrast—still very much evident today—between the sleek, modernist downtown near the port, the vaulted, domed Arab villas of the lower city, and the Bauhaus-inflected buildings higher up the hill.

Adopting [a] modernist approach, Safdie unapologetically rejected both traditionalism and postmodernism. The modernists insisted that architecture “provide housing for masses of people, not just the affluent” and regard cities “as a holistic environment, not just a locus of a few grand public buildings,” in Safdie’s estimation.

Both [the Harvard Hillel] and Terminal 3 reflect Safdie’s profound commitment to merging function and form, to making public spaces accessible and useful while elevating and inspiring them, to unifying their distinct pieces.

Returning to his native Israel [after many years in North America], Safdie helped redesign the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as the Mamilla neighborhood just outside its walls, a project that spanned more than three decades and has proved a smashing success. Mamilla has become a gorgeous gateway to the Old City, its terraces trickling down the biblical Valley of Hinnom, its combination of residences, hotels, and shopping representing, in Safdie’s words, “a rare example of a planned public space that performs as anticipated” and one of “the few places in Jerusalem where Arabs and Jews enjoy the city together.” Later, he would also redesign Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum.

Read more at Arc Digital

More about: Architecture, Haifa, Jerusalem, Modernism

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount