‘Once there were Moroccans here—today Americans’1: Gentrification and the housing market in the Baka neighbourhood of Jerusalem

Hila Zaban

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Gentrification, and its expressions in the housing market, is a burning issue, bearing many social implications. This paper examines this issue through the case study of the Baka neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Baka has a unique history as a Palestinian neighbourhood, turned into a poor immigrants’ neighbourhood in the 1950s and today a highly gentrified and desired place of residence. Baka’s gentrification resulted from both the geopolitical changes in Jerusalem’s borders after the 1967 war, which turned it from borderline into an inner-city neighbourhood, as well as the re-enchantment of Palestinian homes caused by new architectural trends. While the gentrification process of Baka was initially dominated by the secular and educated Israeli middle class, over time Jewish immigrants from Western countries—mainly the USA, France and England—have become dominant. The paper is based on lengthy ethnographic fieldwork, and analyses the developments in Baka’s housing market through a reading of the stages of gentrification as they appear in the contemporary literature. The argument advanced is that gentrification is a neo-liberal process driven by market forces and encouraged by the state. It is therefore not a free market process open to everyone, but rather one which benefits strong social groups that are considered hegemonic in the Israeli context and excludes other populations, with lesser financial abilities. The case study also reveals how in modern Israel ‘real estate language’ replaced ‘national language’, and that the usage of such a language disguises ethnic and ethno-national stratification as well as class inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-427
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Israel
  • Jerusalem
  • gentrification
  • housing
  • inequality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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