Sacred Sites in Contested Regions


Michal Bitton

Michal Bitton
The Hebrew University
PhD student, The Department of Geography

Michal Bitton is a landscape architect and a PhD student in Historical Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research interests include the geographical history of Israel's gardens and landscapes and design and experience in Christian sacred gardens in the Holy Land

Michal was graduated as a Bachelor of Landscape architecture at the Technion, Haifa, and was practicing her profession for several years in Shlomo Aronson's firm and additional other firms.

She also is a lecturer for the studies of landscape architecture in several colleges.

Her first academic research: “The Garden as Sacred Nature and the Garden as a Church: Transitions of Design and Function in the Garden of Gethsemane, 1800–1959”, was recently published (Cathedra, dec 2012, in Hebrew). In this research she traced five phases of design transition in this ancient sacred garden and located the political and ideological shifts which influenced these transitions, and also the development of visiting experience in accordance with these transitions.

Her PhD thesis is concerned with another important Christian garden in Jerusalem- the Garden Tomb- the Protestant alternative for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In this research she examines the different elements which constitute a creation of a new sacred site, and the manner in which the garden mediates between the worshiper to his subject of belief. Michal combines methods from Historical Geography and Anthropology to investigate the motives and experiences of the site's designers and visitors since the 19th century when it was created, until the present when it is frequented by thousands of visitors.

The historical and Anthropological research of gardens in Israel has not been sufficiently examined, though it has a great potential in shedding new lights on intercultural and inter-religious relationships in Israel and on relations between men and environment.