The destruction of architectural and archeological sites by ISIS in 2014–2015 exposed conflicting, yet co-constitutive, perceptions of the historical past, its material remains, and the relevance of both for modernity. This claim is valid for ISIS’s destruction campaign, as it took place in sites already celebrated for their former ruination. Destruction emerges out of these sites as historically multi-layered, just like the loci it is inflicted upon. In this paper we thus argue that events of destruction should be similarly excavated to reveal their historical stratigraphy and to illuminate critical aspects not obvious to the first, shocked, glance. We demonstrate this argument through two events of destruction that occurred in the Great Mosque of Gaza in the twentieth century. Firstly, we examine the shelling of the mosque during the First World War to show how debris of war may be transformed into artistic and literary displays. Secondly, we analyze an intellectual debate over a Jewish candelabrum engraving on one of the mosque’s pillars and its later defacement. By so doing, we question the motivations preceding acts of destruction, especially in relation to their portrayal by the destructors themselves, and expose the making of historical relics into evidence of violence.
Keywords: First World War; Gaza; ISIS; destruction; mosque; ruins
Osheroff, Eli and Dotan Halevy. "Destruction as Layered Event: Twentieth Century Ruins in the Great Mosque of Gaza." pp. 45-69