Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City

10/10/2017 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM ET


  • $10.00  -  JCA Member
  • $12.00  -  General public


Jewish Community Alliance
1342 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04102
Room Number: Sam L. Cohen Community Hall


Co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program at Colby College.


A remarkable view of one of the world's most beloved and troubled cities, Till We Have Built Jerusalem is a gripping and intimate journey into the very different lives of three architects who helped shape modern Jerusalem.


The book unfolds as an excavation. It opens with the 1934 arrival in Jerusalem of the celebrated Berlin architect Erich Mendelsohn, a refugee from Hitler's Germany who must reckon with a complex new Middle Eastern reality. Next we meet Austen St. Barbe Harrison, Palestine's chief government architect from 1922 to 1937. Steeped in the traditions of Byzantine and Islamic building, this "most private of public servants" finds himself working under the often stifling and violent conditions of British rule. And in the riveting final section, Hoffman herself sets out through the battered streets of today's Jerusalem searching for traces of a possibly Greek, possibly Arab architect named Spyro Houris. Once a fixture on the local scene, Houris is now utterly forgotten, though his grand Armenian-tile-clad buildings still stand, a ghostly testimony to the cultural fluidity that has historically characterized Jerusalem at its best.


A beautifully written rumination on memory and forgetting, place and displacement, Till We Have Built Jerusalem uncovers the ramifying layers of one great city's buried history as it asks what it means, everywhere, to be foreign and to belong.


Author biography:
Essayist and biographer Adina Hoffman writes often of the Middle East, approaching it from unusual angles and shedding light on overlooked dimensions of the place, its people, and their cultures. She is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century, and, with Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, which won the American Library Association's prize for the best Jewish book of 2011. The Los Angeles Times called her most recent book, Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City, "brave and often beautiful," and Haaretz described it as "a passionate, lyrical defense of a Jerusalem that could still be." Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Nation, the Washington Post, the TLS, the Boston Globe, and on the World Service of BBC. A Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and one of the inaugural winners of the Windham-Campbell Literary Prizes, she divides her time between Jerusalem and New Haven.

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