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This article explores two national parks in East Jerusalem and their legal administration as the focus of contradictory and complementary attempts at preservation, colonization, and normalization. Drawing on in-depth interviews with, and observations of, officials from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and others, I expose the Judaizing of the landscape in Jerusalem. Nature never stands for itself; it is always an echo of a human presence and, in this case, of a Jewish past and its modern reunion. The project of imagining the natural landscape as one that embodies an ancient past—what Israeli officials have referred to in our interviews as nof kdumim—and the contemporary Jewish people as those who hold the key to its revival as such, is a central aspect of Israel’s colonial dispossession agenda in East Jerusalem and a prerequisite to the land becoming Jewish in practice. Focusing on the perspectives of Israel’s nature officials, this article highlights not only the imaginary but also the legal technologies of erasing and remaking the national park landscape and the tensions between personal and collective, inclusion and exile, and memory and erasure that it inhabits. Arguably, while the identity of the Jewish settler as a nature lover who has returned to her lost Indigenous land is strengthened by the ancient biblical landscape of nof kdumim, the Palestinian is only granted authenticity and Indigeneity when she does not engage in what Israel perceives as “refugee camp” landscaping, and when she is willing to practice traditional forms of farming (or adam ba’har) so as to normalize this place as a universal tourist recreation site. Even then, however, the Palestinian’s labor goes to support orientalist environmental imaginaries. The natural landscape of East Jerusalem is thus recruited, only to discover that it has always been Jewish.

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Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

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Irus Braverman, Nof Kdumim: Remaking the Ancient Landscape in East Jerusalem’s National Parks, Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 4(1) pp. 104-139. Copyright © 2021, © SAGE Publications. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.