The book sets out to explain the diffusion of Catholicism and Islam in the 17th-century district of Jerusalem through a detailed analysis of the changes of faith undergone by the inhabitants of some villages in the area (Dayr Abān, Ṣūbā, Bethlehem, Bayt Jālā, Bayt Shaḥūr and Ayn Karim).
The way a new faith spread within and between the local Christian communities was the result of a complex interaction between religious landscape, communal dynamics and individual agency, which the book unravels. Through the stories of the conversions of the Christian villagers, as recorded in contemporary Christian and Muslim sources alike, the book analyzes the factors that shaped conversion in Palestinian villages. At the same time it addresses general issues such as the relationship between individual and mass conversion, and the relationship between these geographical factors and social processes. In addition, the analysis of religious conversions illuminates numerous aspects of the functioning of religious communities, shedding light on their internal dynamics, on how they dealt with questions of identity and on the interactions between religious communities that lived side by side.