Islamic endowments (waqfs) have an important history in Muslim countries, serving both as a means for individuals to do good works and as a way to avoid Islamic regulations concerning inheritance. In most places, due to a combination of colonial rule and the perception that waqfs stood in the way of economic progress, this institution declined precipitously in the 19th century. But among the Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem during the period of British rule (1917-48), it uniquely flourished.
In a densely written and meticulous study, Reiter shows why: in part because Palestinians saw in the waqf a means of keeping land from being sold to the Zionists, in part because of its economic utility for managing property. Interestingly, Reiter notes that the establishment of waqfs declined during the period of Jordanian control over Muslim Jerusalem (1948-67), only to revive when Israel won control over the whole city. His study casts new light on a central Islamic institution and on the detailed complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict.