Information in English

Saladin 2017 | March 6th - 8th


With Simon Sebag Montefiore, Hind Khoury, Nir Baram, Daniel Seidemann, Nazmi Al-Jubeh, Jehan Bseiso and more.


Over tehe last year, Jerusalem has been characterized by increasing violence, divisions and impasse. New settlements spread out, displacing Palestinians, and Donald Trump signals that he might close the door to a two-state solution. What is everyday life like for those living in Jerusalem today, and is there a road ahead at all?

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. It is the city Saladin conquered from the Crusaders in 1187, when he made the radical choice to let Muslims, Jews and Christians live side by side in the city.

Few places has made as deep marks in history, literature and culture - both in the region and here in the West. In what way does the real Jerusalem shape our perception of the place - and vice versa? And what role can literature play in shaping our identity and offering a glimpse into the stories and experiences of "the other"? At this year's International Saladin Days, writers, intellectuals and activists meet to talk about the historical, contemporary and imagined Jerusalem. 



MONDAY, March 6th, 5 PM
The City of Cities
Opening lecture by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Jerusalem’s history is the world’s history (Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881, British Prime Minister))

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. 


MONDAY, March 6th, 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. 


MONDAY, March 6th, 9 PM
Saladin the Victorious
Film screening and introduction by Gjermund Granlund

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 conquers 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? Introduction by Gjermund Granlund from Arabian Film Days.
English subtitles, 145 minutes.

TUESDAY, March 7th, 5 PM
The reality in a divided city
With Daniel Seidemann, Hind Khoury and Nir Baram

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.


TUESDAY, March 7th, 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. The conversation will be led by executive director at the House of Literature, Andreas Wiese


TUESDAY, March 7th, 9 PM
Self Made
Film screening

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.

Introduction by Gjermund Granlund, Project Manager, Arab Film Days.
English subtitles, 90 minutes. 


WEDNESDAY, March 8th, 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 (Terrestrial Jerusalem) will talk about Jerusalem’s intricate infrastructure, and the practical challenges in dividing the city between the two people. Trond Bakkevig (PRIO) presents the burning religious aspects of Jerusalem, and in what way these prevent a solution to the conflict. Jacob Høigilt (PRIO) focuses on the situation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. They feel forgotten and neglected, but their fate is central to the conflict. Marte Heian-Engdal (PRIO) gives an introduction and moderates the panel.

The seminar is co-hosted by the House of Literature and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).


Wednesday, March 8th, 5 PM
The Saladin Lecture 2017
By Hind Khoury

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 the only 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.


Wednesday, March 8th, 7 PM
Writing Jerusalem
With Nir Baram and Jehan Bseiso

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 are one of six million Palestinians living in the diaspora. She writes in 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.

Practical information

All events are conducted in English unless otherwise noted.

Alle events are free of charge, no registration necessary. 

The program is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

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