This year marks the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish rule. Jerusalem in Hebrew (ir hashalem) means City of Peace. Unfortunately, that is not a descriptive phrase but a prophetic one: When Jerusalem is at peace, then we know the world is at peace.
Unfortunately, Jerusalem has seldom been a city of peace.
Putting aside ancient or medieval history, let us not forget that when Jordon conquered the Jewish Quarter in 1948, Jewish sites were desecrated and Jews barred. Compare that to Israeli rule, in which each religion is granted authority over its own holy sites, even to the extent that Israel allowed Muslim authorities to destroy priceless archaeological sites in their renovations on the Temple Mount. Tensions are high, but not just between Muslims and Jews. Whenever the West Bank has come under the Palestinian Authority, Christian Arabs on the West Bank have been killed and churches attacked leading to a mass exodus of Christian Arabs from PA areas. It seems to me that only Israel can be trusted to protect the rights of all religious traditions in Israel. The Muslims certainly cannot. Rising anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Europe makes calls for internationalizing Jerusalem suspect as well.
All Israel needs to fulfill its goal of seeing a Jerusalem unified and at peace, is a commitment to peaceful cooperation from its neighbors.
There is also the issue of Jewish unity. Former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek understood the prophetic vision of a Jerusalem as a Jewish capital that could still be united in the appreciation of its religiously diverse cultural heritage. Current Mayor Uri Lupolianskidoes not, as was evidenced by his refusal to meet with Conservative Rabbis during the Rabbinical Assembly Convention in Jerusalem several years ago. His policies have contributed to the flight of the non-Orthodox from the city, which is another challenge facing today’s Jerusalem.
Jerusalem could be at peace, if the will were there. After all the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Holy Sepulcher are all located in such a way that adherents could worship freely sided by side in peace. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak even offered former Palestinian Authority President Yassir Arafat control over the Temple Mount, called the Haram-esh-Sharif in Arabic, as well as sovereignty over much of the Arab parts of East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank. Arafat not only refused, but started the Second Intafada. If Arafat were not bad enough, now we have Hamas to contend with.
So why do we continue to yearn for the peace and unity of Jerusalem? Because for 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been our eternal capital and the locus of our prayers for acceptance of our national identity as a Jewish People. Because we Jews always hold onto hope–hope that things can get better, hope that the day will come when Jerusalem will be unified and at peace. And when we hold onto hope, we are inspired to work to help heal the world rather than destroy it.
–Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman
Read the Full Debate: Myth vs. Reality in Today’s Jerusalem