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By Donald E. Wagner
The Ultimate Guide to Nazareth
"Beyond the Basilica: Christians and Muslims in Nazareth." By Chad F. Emmett, University of Chicago Press, 303 pp.; $22
When the cover says, "Geography Research Paper No. 237," the discriminating reader pictures it stamped with "Avoid This Book at All Costs"--especially if the book is a converted dissertation (from the University of Chicago, no less!). Such were my reactions when "Beyond the Basilica" arrived. Yet I discovered a reader-friendly, academically based, but eminently practical, well-balanced volume that I enthusiastically recommend to all who are interested in the Middle East.
The study centers on the Christian and Muslim quarters of Arab Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and home to a vital community of Christians and Muslims today. Its author, Chad F. Emmett, received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1991, having spent extensive time in Nazareth itself gathering data for this study, and is now an assistant professor of geography at Brigham Young University in Utah. He has compiled field research, statistical data, historical surveys, new maps, charts, and well-placed photographs into what could be described as a steroid-enhanced Baedeker. Having visited the city annually for the past 15 years, I learned more from this volume than I have from any previous study or even my firsthand experience. My future approach to Nazareth will have a more informed and sensitive perspective, thanks to Emmett's work.
The study begins with a useful 50-page historical survey from the prebiblical era to the present, tracing Nazareth's evolution from a tiny village into a city, and from a predominantly Muslim city (seventh to seventeenth centuries) to a largely Christian city (mid-1700s to 1948). Emmett's handling of the sensitive 1948 period, including the establishment of Israel and the forced displacement of the Palestinian Arabs, draws upon both Israeli and Palestinian accounts. His telling of the post-1948 period, however, including the new Jewish ...