Most research on ethnically and nationally contested cities posits that urban spatial segregation trends will remain decisive so long as the macro level national conflict persists, and assumes that the neoliberalization of urban space would only strengthen such trends. Over the last decade however, and despite the ever deepening national conflict, Jerusalem has seen the emergence of neoliberal spaces of consumption that serve as resilient spaces of intergroup encounter between Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian-Arab populations. In this article I will examine and compare two such neoliberal spaces in Jerusalem, and show how under certain conditions, privatized urban spaces can undermine processes of ethno-national segregation. I argue that interactions between members of the two rival groups are challenged and reshaped by neoliberal spaces and that the relocation of the ethno-national intergroup encounters to privatized spaces of consumption could represent a temporal shift to a class based encounters.
The association between spatial patterns of retail activity and the spatial configuration of street networks was examined by means of the space syntax methodology in eight Israeli cities that represent two city types, characterized by different planning approaches and urban growth: (i) new towns, which were established according to a comprehensive city plan and modern planning concepts of “tree-like” hierarchical street networks and “neighborhood units”; (ii) older cities, where street networks and the spatial patterns of retail activity were formed incrementally during their growth. Unlike in older cities, retail activity in new towns concentrates in relatively less-accessible and intermediate locations. This is indicated by a weak correlation between retail activity and the street network’s Integration and Choice centrality measures. The comparison between Israeli cities illustrates the influence of urban growth and planning approaches on the formation of retail activity and its interaction with the structure of the street network.