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The past, the present, and the road ahead




Jerusalem is a holy city for three world religions, and has been a meeting place between different cultures, religions and various ethnic minorities for thousands of years. Today, the society is becoming increasingly segregated, with growing religious divisions and impasse. How is the reality for those living in Jerusalem today?

In addition to the historical and the contemporary Jerusalem, there is a third: the idea of Jerusalem, as it appears in literature, art, in religion and culture. In what ways do the real Jerusalem influence our imagination of the place – and vice versa? And what role can literature play in the shaping of our identity, and in giving us insight into the story and experiences of “the other”?

Jerusalem is in many ways the very core of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but perhaps it is also the place to search for solutions. In this year’s Saladin Days, writers, intellectuals and activists will meet to talk about the historical, contemporary and imagined Jerusalem.



Simon Sebag Montefiore.jpg

SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE a historian and writer, who has published a number of fiction and non-fiction books. In 2011, he published Jerusalem. The Biography, which portrays the world city through the people who have lived and worked there through 3000 years. 

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..... is Associate Professor of history and archeology at Birzeit University, and the former director at the Islamic Museum of Haram Al-Sharif, with a thorough knowledge of the city's holy sites.



... is the former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authorities, and until recently the General Secretary of Kairos Palestine, a Christian organization working to end Israel's occupation and for a peaceful solution to the conflict.



... is a lawyer and the founder of the organization Terrestrial Jerusalem, which maps the changing landscape of the city.



... is a writer of novels like Good people and World Shadow, and translated into a number of languages. Born and raised in Jerusalem, Baram has long advocated for the rights of Palestinians. His last publication, the non-fiction book In a Land Beyond the Mountains, describes his journey around the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Jehan Bseiso.jpg


... is a poet and researcher. The poetry collection I Remember My Name (2016) won last year's Palestine Book Award. Bseiso is now at work on a new poetry collection, and edits the anthology Making Mirrors, by and for refugees.

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... is a Church Historian and academic at the Norwegian School of Theology. Her research has focused on, among other things, the first Crusade and its effects on Western Europe.



... is one of Norway's most internationally oriented writers. He has written about historical figures such as Saladin and Snorre, and his body of work consists of contemporary novels, children's books, essays and dramas. He is translated into more than 20 languages.

Ragnhild Zorgati.jpg


... is Associate Professor in Religious History at the University of Oslo, and her research has focused on cultural meetings between Christian and Muslim communities and on Scandinavian emigrants in the 19th century.




5 PM - The City of Cities
Opening lecture by Simon Sebag Montefiore

How did small, isolated Jerusalem grow into the Holy City, capital of two people, birth place of three world religions?

Nowadays, Jerusalem is often considered the core of the Middle Eastern conflict. Historically, the city is also the place where Saladin conquered the Crusaders, but chose to believe in coexistence, and granted amnesty to the various ethnic and religious groups. It is a city that for long periods of time has been marked by just that: coexistence between different people.

The city has made its mark on history’s powerful people, politicians and artists who have called it home for a longer or shorter period, among them Saladin, Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain.

The British historian and writer Simon Sebag Montefiore published the definitive biography of the city in 2011, entitled Jerusalem: A Biography, in which the world city is portrayed through the lives and works of its citizens. Montefiore will give the opening lecture of this year’s Saladin Days.


7 PM - After the Gaza War
With Nazmi Al-Jubeh, Hind Khoury and Marte Heian-Engdal

After Israel’s offensive in Gaza in 2014, Palestine and Israel has seen a growing cycle of violence. Can this increased violence be said to coincide with Benjamin Netanyahu’s term as Prime Minister? Donald Trump has also flagged a change in the US’ Israel policy under his presidency. How will this affect the stability in the country?
Nazmi Al-Jubeh is associate professor of history and archeology at Birzeit University, and the former director of the Islamic Museum – al-Haram al-Sharif, with extensive knowledge about the city’s holy sites. Hind Khoury is an economist and former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authorities. Today she is the general secretary of Kairos Palestine, a Christian organization working to end Israel’s occupation.
In what ways can history help us understand today’s situation, and in what ways is this situation unprecedented? How can we understand the political developments we are seeing today, both in Jerusalem and internationally? Nazmi Al-Jubeh and Hind Khoury join senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) Marte Heian-Engdal for a conversation.


9 PM - Film Screening: Saladin the Victorious

Saladin the Victorious is a 1963 war drama by the central Egyptian director Youssef Chahine telling the story of the Crusades and the battle for Jerusalem from the Muslim perspective.

Against all odds, Saladin conqueres Jerusalem from the European, and the Europeans’ unexpected loss launches a Third Crusade under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart from England, attempting to reconquer the city from Saladin.

Youssef Chahine is considered one of the greatest Arab film makers in history, and is behind films like Cairo Station and Alexandria…Why? Before the film screening, there will be a short iIntroduction by Gjermund Granlund from Arabian Film Days. 

English subtitles, 145 minutes.



5 PM - The Reality in a Divided City
With Daniel Seidemann, Hind Khoury, Nir Baram and Tove Gravdal

The citizens of Jerusalem live in an increasingly divided physical reality, according to Daniel Seidemann. He is a lawyer and head of the organization Terrestrial Jerusalem, which maps Jerusalem’s changing landscape, where new settlements spread out, displacing the Palestinians.

The division between Israelis and Palestinians is also a cognitive one: there is a fundamental schism in how Palestinians and Israelis view the occupation. The writer Nir Baram, himself born and raised in Jerusalem, has spent the last year travelling around the West Bank, talking to Palestinians and Israelis. The result is the book In a Land Beyond the Mountains, in which this cognitive schism emerges.

Hind Khoury is a former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authorities, and as an economist, she has focused on how the occupation and the wall ruin the economy of Palestinians and make their everyday life increasingly difficult.

They will join in a conversation about the situation on the ground in Jerusalem today, both the political reality and everyday life for the various ethnic and religious groups making up the city’s population.

The conversation is moderated by Morgenbladet journalist Tove Gravdal.


7 PM - The Stories of the Holy City

With Nazmi Al-Jubeh, Thorvald Steen, Eivor Oftestad and Ragnhild Zorgati

Nazmi Al-Jubeh is an historian and archeologist at Birzeit University, and well known for his expertise on Jerusalem’s holy sites. How is the city’s history and archeology used in a polemical and political context? Could it be said that archeology is part of an ideological battle over how to write the story about Jerusalem?
Beyond the real city, Jerusalem is also a mythical place. The holy sites have been subject to both geopolitical and religious dreams and desires, and the place has inspired generations of writers and artists.

The city has made its mark in Norwegian and Western cultural history, in psalms and the Bible as well as in the works of Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and the Swedish Nobel Prize laureate Selma Lagerlöf. Her two-volume work Jerusalem depicts the religious reverie and conviction that lead 37 people from the small town Nås in Dalarna to emigrate to Palestine in 1896 to await the second coming of Jesus.

How have Norway and the West influenced the history of Jerusalem, and vice versa? The event will begin with an introduction by Nazmi Al-Jubeh, followed by a conversation, in Norwegian, between author Thorvald Steen, theologist and Church historian Eivor Oftestad, and associate professor of cultural history Ragnhild Zorgati, moderated by executive director of the House of Literature, Andreas Wiese


9 PM - Film Screening: Self Made

Through a mix-up at an Israeli border check point, the identities of two women, an Israeli performance artist and a Palestinian suicide bomber, are mistaken.

Director Shira Geffen volunteered for a time with an organization monitoring the at times dramatic, at times absurd everyday reality at the check points. From these experiences, and with the occupation as a back drop, Geffen has created a complex and funny comedy that keeps surprising you.

English subtitles, 90 minutes. 


8.30 AM - Jerusalem the problem city
Breakfast meeting with Daniel Seidemann, Trond Bakkevig, Jacob Høigilt and Marte Heian-Engdal

Why is solving the problem over Jerusalem in the Israel–Palestine conflict so difficult?

Daniel Seidemann will talk about Jerusalem’s intricate infrastructure, and the practical challenges in dividing the city between the two people. Trond Bakkevig presents the burning religious aspects of Jerusalem, and Jacob Høigilt focuses on the situation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Marte Heian-Engdal gives an introduction and moderates the panel.

The seminar is co-hosted by the House of Literature and PRIO.


5 PM - The Saladin Lecture 2017
By Hind Khoury

Iraq was among the states to be born following World War I. Here, the northern region has belonged to the Kurds from time immemorial, and as the Iraqi state was created, the Kurds were not particularly willing to succumb to Baghdad’s will. In the Iraqi nation state project, the Kurds have been subject to massive injustices. The Kurds’ temporary alliance with Iran in the fight against Saddam Hussein was also severely punished. The al-Anfal Campaign executed by Saddam’s regime in the 1980s killed thousands of Kurds and turned even more into refugees.

Later on, for various reasons, the kurdish region became almost autonomous, and for the last few years, inhabitants in this region have experienced a relative stability that has not been granted the rest of the country. A few years ago, the news coming out of the so-called Iraqi Kurdistan, under the leadership of president Masoud Barzani, were characterized by reports of booming construction work and fi nancial growth – later to be replaced by reports of recession, unstability and fi ghts against ISIS. What is the situation in Kurdish Iraq now?

Choman Hardi is an academic and poet from Iraqi Kurdistan, currently living in Suleimaniya. Academic Gareth Stansfield has followed the development in the region closely for many years. The two will meet journalist and writer Åshild Eidem for a conversation about the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan.


8 PM - Badass Kurdish Women
With Dilar Dirik, Mustafa Can and Hannah Helseth

How does the recent development in Jerusalem look from the Palestinians’ point of view? What future scenarios exist for the city’s various ethnic and religious minorities, when all the Israelis that many Palestinian children have seen are soldiers, and many Israelis never have set foot in the Palestinian part of the city?

In October, thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women set out on a peace march across the country, from the Lebanese border to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.

The women were fed up with the growing separation and violence, and with the lack of constructive action from the political authorities. An increasing number of voices are claiming the two-state solution is dead, in effect if not in words. What courses does that leave for the road ahead, and what are the impediments to the possible solutions?

The organization behind the march, Women Wage Peace, founded after the 2014 Gaza war, claims there is no lack of proposals and possible ways to a peaceful solution, but lack of political will from the authorities. 

Hind Khoury was among the speakers at the march. She is a former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs for the Palestinian Authorities, and the general secretary of the Christian Palestinian organization Kairos Palestine. She has long claimed that what is lacking is the political will for change. She will give this year’s Saladin Lecture.


7 PM - Writing Jerusalem
With Nir Baram, Jehan Bseiso and Ane Nydal

We are bastard children of hyphens and supplements and sentences that start with Originally I′m from… (Jehan Bseiso)

What is it like to write with a Palestinian or Israeli identity? In what way  can literature offer  alternative perspectives  and views on a reality, and what are the expectations towards the writer in this regard?

The Israeli author Nir Baram has long been interested in the relationship between the individual and society, and of ethical limits in his writing. His book The World Is a Rumour is now published in Norwegian translation, a book that among other things deals with the Israeli left and the peace process, exploring kindness in the face of evil or indifference. The novel was published in Israel in 2013, and immediately became a bestseller.

The poet Jehan Bseiso is one of six million Palestinians living in the diaspora. Her language is English, interspersed with Arabic. Thematically, she brings conflict, news stories and activism into her poetry. How should one understand a Palestinian identity and sense of belonging? What can be said to be “home” for someone who has never lived in what is supposed to be a home country?

 Writer and literary critic Ane Nydal has frequently written about the political and the literary of the country. Now, she talks with Baram and Bseiso about finding a language to the stories about Jerusalem.



The program is developed with financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The film screenings are developed in collaboration with Arab Film Days.