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What is Jerusalem 2050?

Jerusalem 2050 is a unique visionary and problem-solving project jointly sponsored by MIT's Department of Urban Studies & Planning and the Center for International Studies. By bringing together Palestinian and Israeli scholars, activists, business leaders, youth, and others, it seeks to understand what it would take to make Jerusalem, a city also known as Al Quds, claimed by two nations and central to three religions, a place of diversity and peace in which contending ideas and citizenries can co-exist in benign, yet creative, ways.

In order to break out of the stalemate that has reinforced the cycle of despair and conflict in Jerusalem and largely removed questions of urban livability from the public discourse, the Jerusalem 2050 project aims to bypass the standard route of negotiation between "representative" peoples and turn instead to the liberating potential of imagination and design. Rather than aiming for unity or synthesis among competing parties in their plans for the city, we will encourage the production of bold and “non-negotiated” visions for Jerusalem, with the assumption being that only through such methods can there emerge a shared understanding of the basic urban conditions necessary for a tolerant and culturally vibrant city to flower, independent of ethnic or religious partisanship.

Another goal of this project is to promote the use of design and other creative imaginings of space as techniques for arriving at a more positive social, political and economic organization of the city.

With these principles in mind, we will be hosting “Just Jerusalem,” an international, juried vision competition that will further our goal of creating opportunities for creative and positive dialogue on the future of this troubled city. Rather than crafting solutions based on the claims of peoples and their religious identities on the one hand, or nations and their historical and ethical claims to existence on the other, our hope is that this vision competition will provide opportunities for a wide range of individuals who care about the future of this vital city, encouraging Jerusalem's inhabitants to ask new questions and imagine new possibilities that may offer an exit from the destructive cycle of violence, hatred, and terror that has not just shattered peoples and nations, but also significant parts of the city itself.

The project is predicated upon the belief that the act of preparing and sharing visions of Jerusalem at mid-century may contribute to peace in a number of different ways: Within each team who enters the competition there will no doubt be individuals holding very different views. Their efforts to reconcile these differences within their own working groups will provide some insight for them into the way in which larger debates in the region play out. We also suspect that many of the participants will discover that they share a set of deeper values that will underlie their vision - and that these values may also resonate with many of those who see and debate the results. It is our hopes that some of the visions articulated by the entrants will prove so inspirational that they will prompt an effort to design a path of actions intended to achieve that vision. Finally, one or more of the visions may just make such good sense that it motivates political forces in the region to bring new and creative proposals to the current debates and negotiations.

Along the way, we will be able - with many partners in Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, the surrounding regions, and more broadly in the world - to develop practical ideas for addressing Jerusalem’s urban problems, be they large or small, from water to open space to IT to new commercial and industrial growth to housing to educational opportunities, and so on. Our emphasis is both these mundane issues that are the bread-and-butter concerns of urban planners, along with the visionary ideas that must enliven the hopes for all people of good will in this city.