Gideon Biger is Emeritus Professor in the department of geography and human environment at Tel Aviv University. His areas of interest include historical geography, history of modern Israel and political geography. Moreover, he is an expert in international and national boundaries. He is the author of The Boundaries of Modern Palestine, 1840-1947 (2004) and An Empire in the Holy Land: Historical Geography of the British Administration in Palestine,1917-1929 (1994), among many other publications.
Iconoclasm – a geographical viewpoint
Iconoclasm mainly concerns the destruction of icons, based on the Commandment of the Bible “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…” (Exodus, 20:4). This command, which was originally given to the Jews and later intermittently adopted by the Christians, was also adopted by the doctrine of Islam which, up to the present, does not allow the presence of icons or pictures inside mosques.
Iconoclasm can be presented in two different ways. One is that of an”inside aspect”, taking place within a given religious system. The other is an “outside aspect”, through which a religious system destroys the religious symbols of another religion. Dealing mainly with the “outside aspect”, one may find many religious sites which were destroyed or had their
functions changed their while these were occupied by another religious group. Thus, among numerous examples, synagogues and mosques in Spain were transformed into churches, churches in Jerusalem became mosques or were used as secular sites, temples all over the Roman Empire were transferred into Christian basilicas, etc.
Usually cemeteries, which still today in some countries are also religious sites, were destroyed while another religious regime held those corresponding areas. In Jerusalem, a Holy City for three religious groups, one can find, for instance, sites such as the Temple Mount, transformed from a Jewish Temple, into a Roman temple, then into a mosque.
All these changes took place by destroying previous icons and, eventually, replacing them with new ones. There are several other similar holy sites in Jerusalem, as well as in other sites in Israel-Palestine. Thus, iconoclasm not only changed the inside decoration of churches in Europe but also influenced the shape of important sites all over the world.
Key words: Inside act, outside iconoclasm, holy site, cemetery, Jerusalem, religious group