Cities, Diversity and Spatial Justice: Engaged Scholars

How can I combine academia with impact in the real world?” is a question we often hear– and for which we aspire to receive model answers. We teamed up with the Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity and the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies to launch a new group for 25 engaged scholars with backgrounds in planning, architecture, community organizing, journalism, law, finance, real estate, and public health, who aim, through their research, to improve spatial justice in cities.

During the sessions, we discuss how our studies can have a positive impact on urbanism, diversity and spatial justice: Who needs to know about the research and how to reach these people? As well as broader questions regarding the role of academia in changing the urban reality, its limitations and the dangers in doing so. In addition, throughout a series of workshops we expand our toolbox, acquiring new skills to mediate research findings to different audiences, using podcasts, journalistic writing, guided tours and more.

To read more about (some of) the group's activity click here.

To read more about our vision click here.

If you are scholars that research issues regarding cities, diversity and spatial justice in a way that the research can impact reality, contact us at:

Noga Keidar:

Dr Nufar Avni:

Noa Levi:


Learn more about the participants in the researcher's group:


Noga Keidar Dr. Malka Greenberg Raanan Marik Shtern Tamara Kerzhner Maliha Michael Ziv-Kenet
Noga Keidar

Marik Shtern

Tamara Kerzhner Maliha Zugayar Michael Ziv-Kenet

In partnership with:

Jerusalem institue for policy research Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity


Noga Keidar

Noga KeidarNoga is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto and a Connaught scholarship recipient, specializing in urban and political sociology. She is intrigued by the challenge of reinvigorating local leaders and activists in finding their ways to interpret and translate global urban trends to local knowledge and practices that sustain more just and equitable cities. In her work at the Urban Clinic, she is leading the Clinic's embedded research projects and developing platforms for engaged urban scholars.

Her dissertation research theorizes some of the current forms in which ideas shape cities, and particularly the interaction between cities and their so-called 'gurus', the super-star scientists who preach for urban regeneration models that have become extremely popular. As part of this project, she evaluates the global scope of the 'guru-urbanism' phenomenon, as well as closely documenting the interaction between cities and their 'gurus' by following the adoption and translation of Richard Florida's Creative Class model in Jerusalem and Toronto. Her recent work on these topics is forthcoming in City & Community. At the University of Toronto, Noga collaborates in several research projects examining world-wide public-art and cultural policy. One of the preliminary outcomes is the policy report "Redefining Public Art in Toronto" written for the City of Toronto.

Dr. Malka Greenberg Raanan

Dr. Malka Greenberg RaananMalka is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She holds a B.A degree with honors from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and an MA cum laude in geography and urban studies from the Hebrew University. Her academic background and work as an architect and urban planner in Jerusalem motivated her doctoral research in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University, on how women from the city's various communities perceive the city and navigate through it in their everyday activities. Her current research focuses on Mt. Scopus campus as a contested space of encounter in the city. In addition, she is a board member of the NGO Ir Amim and chairs the playground committee at her daughters' school. She is also a facilitator for the EU funded project: Jerusalem, From Vision to Action. She hopes to contribute through academic and social activism to the construction of Jerusalem as a more equitable and sustainable city for Israelis and Palestinians.

Marik Shtern

Marik ShternMarik is a PhD candidate at the department for Politics and Government in the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a research associate at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research. Marik has completed his MA (with honors) at the Geography department of the Hebrew University. His scholarly fields of interest are the intersection between geopolitics and neo-liberalism in contested cities and the study of Post-Oslo Jerusalem (2005-today). Under the supervision of Prof. Haim Yacobi, Marik is writing his dissertation (due to submit in June 2018) on the geography of encounter between Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem. 

Between the Wall and the Mall: The political geography of encounter between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem 

During my BA studies in the Hebrew University, I lived in the neighborhood of Musrara, on the seam-line between East and West Jerusalem. The distance between my house to the Palestinians city center of Jerusalem, was only 100M. Yet each time I have crossed the invisible border into East Jerusalem, I was struck by drastic change in the humanscape and in my own sense of security and belonging. On the hand, I have noticed a growing presence of Palestinians in West Jerusalem's public and commercial spaces. In light of the growing political tensions in the city, it had seemed as a surprising and intriguing phenomena.  This has led me to my PhD research on the geography of encounter between Palestinians and Israelis in Post-Oslo Jerusalem. In my research, I study the patterns of inter-group interactions in consumption sites, such as shopping malls and commercial streets. I investigate the ethno-national division of the local labor market; and I research the role of class identity and neoliberal cultural transformation in the construction of mixed spaces in the city. These holistic analysis allows me to build an holistic presentation of the spatio-political relations of Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

In my research I use mixed methods of empirical data collection (Surveys and data analysis) and qualitative investigation (Interviews, focus groups and observations). I think that my main contribution is the focus on dynamics that can challenge the ethno-national logic of separation and urban segregation, such as privatization of public spaces, class based encounters and cross-boundary daily life activities. During my studies I have published few papers based on my research, including articles in the leading peer reviewed journals – Cities and Urban Studies.


Maliha Zugayar

MalihaArchitect Maliha Zugayar holds a B.A. in Architecture from Birzeit University in Ramallah. She is currently completing a master's degree in Urban Planning at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lives in Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem.

In her research thesis, she explores informal high-rise construction through the case study of Kufar Akab, a suburb of about 80,000 people within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and outside the separation wall. By using GIS mapping and interviews she examines, on the one hand, the role of developers in shaping the urban space, and on the other hand, the perception of the space as a slum area of hope or despair by the residents.



kufar aqab


When I grew up in Kufar Aqab, it was a green quiet formal village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, with no homes taller than four stories. My family moved away when I was a child, to live closer to the center of Jerusalem. Nearly a decade later, in 2014, I returned to Kufar Aqab. The suburb had completely changed, with dozens of closely-planted fifteen story apartment buildings and a population that had grown tenfold, from perhaps 8000 to 80000. As an architect and a mother, I was deeply concerned about living in high-rise apartment buildings built without construction inspections or building permits, purchasing when there are no bank mortgages or guarantees, and raising  my daughter in an area with  running sewage,  no parks and no police. As a research student, I wanted to investigate the situation, to understand the implications of the changes.

The research proposes a definition for 'Vertical Informality': developer-built mid or high-rise housing for sale or for rent, that (ii) lacks formal registration and bank-financing, and (iii) may not comply with formal planning and building codes. It then explores the involvement of developers in high- rise informal housing and asks:

  • What kinds of apartment buildings do developers construct, when they are not bound by planning permissions, building codes or mortgage regulations? Do the developers merely build to the lowest possible quality, or do they self-regulate and introduce elements of quality control?
  • What are the conditions for formation of vertical informality?
  • Can vertical informality be part of the solution for affordable housing in rapidly urbanizing areas that lack capacity for formal planning and housing?

I found that the quality of apartment buildings, and the level of risk in purchasing an apartment, varied considerably. Developers who built at higher standards with low risk to purchasers share three important characteristics: Higher level of education and construction experience; strong sense of social responsibility and religious commitment; in addition to strong financial backing.

I also found five conditions that lead to the formation of vertical informality : High demand for low cost housing, limited enforcement of regulations, land use/ topographical/geopolitical restrictions, available technology for high-rise construction, and finally the availability of construction workers experienced in high-rise housing.

At last, I found that vertical informality holds considerable risks at all sites, with substandard or even potentially hazardous quality. However, this method also succeeds in constructing a large quantity of lower-cost units, in areas of high demand.


Maliha Zugayar, Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Tamara Kerzhner

Tamara KerzhnerTamara has a BA and MA degree in Geography from the Hebrew University, and wrote her thesis on Palestinian women’s mobility needs in Jerusalem. She has worked in international development and urban and transport planning projects in Africa and India, as well as in community development and political activism in Israel. Tamara is particularly passionate about labour rights and unions, and is interested in understanding the role of informal labour and the informal economy in the production of urban services and urban space in both low- and high-income cities. She is currently pursuing an examination of the cultural and economic politics of the formalization of East Jerusalem’s traditional transport system and it benefits and shortfalls for all the city’s residents.

Avigail Ferdman

Click to read in Hebrew

To view Avigail's webstite click here

Azri Amram

Hila Levit

Hila Zaban

Michael Ziv-Kenet - City Rises

Michael Ziv-Kenet

Michael is a PhD student in the department of political science in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an urban social activist and entrepreneur. Michael believes that the ‘city’ has the power to lead by example in making a more just and egalitarian society, and is actively involved in promoting a democratic vision for the city. In his research, he is interested in contemporary patterns of local polity-building and the normative challenge of cities to the nation-state’s democratic legitimacy. Other interests include: democratic theory, local governance, and political ideologies.

Beyond his work in academia, Michael is active in local politics on issues of urban renewal and economy-based segregation. He is part of a network of activists in his local neighborhood, which is undergoing an intensive process of market-led urban renewal, in promoting a more equitable, just and sustainable process of urban regeneration. In his activism, he promotes debates and discourses on a shared urban vision for all the neighborhood's residents and actively lobbies members of the Knesset, city councilmembers, and the municipal bureaucracy on the community’s behalf. Furthermore, recently he has taken part in a social-venture accelerator, creating a social venture that addresses the financial and social challenges of urban renewal in Israel.

When not immersed in the challenges of urban life, he co-ordinates the research program on ‘Democracy and Governance’, in ‘The Shasha Center for Strategic Studies’, which brings together academia, public service and civic society to discuss and advise the State of Israel on the future of democracy and governance, looking towards the year 2048.




Photo by: Mirko Rastic of ROAR Magazine


Can the city revolutionize the way we work, trade, share, live and do politics? Seen as the great human project of the 21st century, a growing number of activists, politicians and scholars think it will, but the real question should be “how?”.

On the 10th of June 2018, a new Italian government, headed by the far-right party La Lega, refused docking to the NGO owned rescue boat ‘Aquarius’ in Italy’s naval ports. The boat was carrying 629 migrants from Africa, who were stranded at sea, while trying to make the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe. This spurred an open challenge from several southern cities’ mayors, including the mayors of Naples and Palermo, that called their local port authorities to disobey the government’s directives and allow the vessel to dock.

These two interconnected, democratically elected, political entities – the Italian Republic and the Metropolitan City of Naples (for example) - were caught in a political debate that exceeded rhetorical disagreements on policy into normative questions on sovereignty and political representation. The mayors of Naples and Palermo, amongst others, exhibit the growing idea that cities can impose legitimate sovereignty on their municipal boundaries and have normative obligations to their residents, and could become an ideological and political alternative to the state, specifically, a progressive alternative to the state, but also to capitalist markets and growing right-wing populism, as epitomised by the progressive DIEM25’s public statement on the affair: “Where national governments fail the test of humanity, cities must take the lead in showing us how to remain human”.

This is not a single incident, nor an outlier in an ordered and stable relationship. The mayors of Naples and Palermo are part of the urban grassroots movement network of ‘Fearless Cities’ that includes mayors and political leaders from cities such as Barcelona, Bologna, Warsaw, Rojava and more, who challenge the state’s authority on contested political policies, like closed borders or austerity.

Progressive agendas have become comfortable in the urban setting. Whether in the ‘Fearless Cities’ or even in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago who are setting their own immigration and welfare policies; or Seattle, Boston, Oslo, Cape Town, Tel Aviv and others laying their own goals of sustainable growth; cities are embracing progressive causes, pushing back on the state sovereignty on those issues, in their jurisdiction.

This is not exclusive to the left. Cities have become the subject of many political ideas, radical, progressive or conservative; putting the focus on urban politics and “the city”. These ideas go beyond conventional urban management policies and local governance, reimagining the city as an organized political agent – a polity. Moreover, a democratic polity – a ‘demos’.

But, the modern city was never designed to be the democratic manifestation of a territorial polity. A great liberal project, the modern city has limited political imagination, constricting its institutional design, scope and breadth to a hand-full of liberal interpretations of political authority, mainly to governance theory inspired or market-based approaches. Thus, creating a major tension between liberal and undemocratic institutional design and democratic and popular aspirations, prompting the question: Can ‘the city’ consolidate its new political power and reimagine itself and its institutions to create a truly democratic city?


Michael Ziv Kenet, Department of Political Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Further Reading:

An article written by Michael and Noga Keidar: Jerusalem: The City Not Allowed To Be a City

Nir Barak

Nufar Avni

Ronen Eidelman

Eran Oz 2011
Eran Oz 2011


The powerful actors involved in surveillance are still governments and corporations, but the possibilities of people performing surveillance on others, as well as being observed themselves (by others), has deeply extended.

In this picture, taken at the mass social protest in Israel in 2011, we can see how the different actors can be perceived as equal. The police and citizens are all surveilling each other. Yet looking closer we can ask. Who has the power here? Is it clear who can control who? Who will upload the video and pictures to the internet first? On who is their more limitations? By the way, the man in the middle of the picture without a cameras was later arrested.

We can call this ‘lateral surveillance’ (Andrejevic 2005), where surveillance can be mutual. Like in social networks where participants involve themselves with their surveillance systems because they meet their desires and needs. People surveilling each other - “participatory surveillance” (Albrechtslund 2008), has the potential to be empowering, subjectivity building and even playful.  Yet, this comes with a price, a society where “we are invited to become spies”.  paradoxically contributing to instilling fear instead of reducing the sense of insecurity felt by citizens”

In my research, I explore how the control over the surveillance systems can be allocated to communities. I do not only How can surveillance technology be used not to control and/or discipline people; but how communities can use surveillance for their own needs and benefit.  

This study is carried out in Jerusalem, a contested city, with its complex combination of historical, religious, national, political and urban realities. Previous research on surveillance in Jerusalem demonstrates how the Israeli authorities followed a pattern of transplanting military strategies and technologies from the ‘periphery’ into civilian metropolitan areas, in this case from the occupied West Bank into the heart of the Jerusalem (Volinz 2017).

We can see this in the project “Mabat Yerushalayim” (Jerusalem Gaze) which is currently being set up in Jerusalem, as an example of this pattern. A tremendous video surveillance project, which also system Includes a loudspeaker system and temperature and noise sensors, connecting over video 1400 cameras from all around the city. Soon, “There will be no civilian in Jerusalem that will not be documented” said a Top Israeli police official.

However, studying surveillance in West Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood public spaces, we come upon a paradoxical picture. Both from the authorities controlling the systems and the residents living under them we observed mixed and ambiguous reactions and behaviors. From acceptance, and a desire to expand the system, to uneasiness and not trusting the system, to resident-led participatory surveillance activities on themselves, park visitors, and surveillance of park-related authorities and municipal workers.

These findings are leading to a participatory action research, working with the community to design tools and systems that make the public space not only safer and welcoming, but also more opened and democratic.


Ronen Eidelman, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology


Ruth Abraham

Sharone April

Yael Shmaryahu-Yeshurun

Yinnon Geva