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Emmett, a geographer, focuses in on one of the key features of Middle Eastern life: the fact that cities throughout the region (and indeed, in nearly all of the Muslim world) are ordered into quarters that follow ethnic and religious lines. Beyond the Basilica first establishes the historical pattern in Nazareth, "focuses on the degree to which these quarters have maintained earlier patterns of residential segregation," then concludes with some speculations about the future.

Emmett characterizes Christian-Muslim relations in Nazareth as amicable but distant. This positive state of affairs, he notes, results in large part from a common hostility to Israeli Jews. Had Palestine become an Arab state, "then perhaps the Christians and Muslims of Nazareth would be experiencing conflicts similar to those of Lebanon's religious communities" -- a prospect he does not exclude for the future, especially if fundamentalist Muslims surge.

Two central features of Nazareth life receive only passing notice: First, the sizeable and almost exclusively Jewish town of Upper Nazareth closely fits the pattern of residential segregation; why then does it receive a scant two pages' notice? Second, Nazareth -- like that other bastion of Christian Arabism, Bethlehem -- has in recent years become a majority Muslim town. Muslims went from 40 percent of the population in 1946 to 60 percent in 1983. The key question is not, as Emmett suggest, the future relations of Christians and Muslims, but whether the Christians will much longer maintain a significant presence in Nazareth.