'Unlike war, peace is always a tormenting victory of one's own self' (Eli Sanbar).

Jerusalem is the city of so many mirrors, often not harmonizing the light, shadows and darkness, even causing blindness. The observation of the Carthaginian Tertullianus to provincial governors (197ce) gnaws: "Two species of blindness easily combine: of those who see not what is, and of those who see what is not."
It's so hard to think rationally about Jerusalem, because feelings also count, and they often dominate. Political perceptions are shaped by flawed reason and passion. They clothe naked facts. Jerusalem symbolizes more than the geographical fact, for "the political imagination often invents its own geography" (Amos Elon). In the diffusion of historical data, images and myths about Jerusalem, all forms of print and the electronic media, of literature, theater and cinema, of textbooks and other education materials are so powerful. Whoever controls the data and images of Jerusalem, their analyses and interpretations, wields power equal to military might. In these quasi-wars, truth is usually the first casualty, and exaggerated statistics, fragmented narratives and selective indignations become false intimidations which are, in W. A. Auden's words, "like a frost that halts the flood of thinking."
The Israeli-Palestinian and Jewish-Arab conflict, in all its dimensions, is realized, condensed and symbolized in Jerusalem. The city is blessed and cursed by its religious, political and military history, and by present divergent, indeed, conflicting claims to its future from cousins who vie for their heritage.
Jerusalem, on the one hand, has become a magnet which draws compulsive seekers for slick solutions, producing a cottage industry which too often grinds out perfect answers before even asking the questions, right or wrong. On the other hand, the majority of Israelis and Palestinians gloomily claim that there is no workable solution to Jerusalem's future status. They even fear for the inevitable item in the negotiations. It's a bit like death, observes international lawyer John V. Whitbeck: "Everyone knows that it is at the end of the road, but virtually no one wants to talk about it because virtually no one can see any solution or happy ending."

The Human Face

Is Jerusalem, in Meron Benvenisti's somewhat cynical phrase, "an enigma without a solution"? The reality of Jerusalem is not neat, nor will the political solution be neat. Perhaps the initial solution should not be too detailed in finalities, but allow an evolving process itself to be the solution. The Latin solutio, derived from chemistry, is not the end of a breach, but the process of dissolving disparate, even conflicting elements. And the elements in the Jerusalem pot are not simple minerals or chemicals but interrelated human beings - primarily Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Can Jews, Palestinians and other residents, together for the common good of Jerusalem, allow the city to become human? Can we all breathe in an atmosphere throughout the entire city that helps people, despite the odds, to discover in each other the human face and the human heart, and to respect and rejoice in our human diversities? Such a friendly environment presupposes at least the political institutionalization of equity.
''Jerusalem will never be divided." The city is already de facto divided.
The question is, can it ever be united?
West Jerusalem, bereft of Arabs, remains in advantageous isolation; it never had been the object of urban planning for new Arab or mixed (Jewish/Arab) neighborhoods. But East Jerusalem is intentionally divided by Bantustan-¬style physical enclaves of Jews and of Arabs. The municipality openly plans linkage between the Jewish ones, as well as new neighborhoods "for Jews only," for example, at Ras Al-Amud and on south Jerusalem's quiet, undefiled sugarloaf of Har Homa (Jabal Abu Ghneim), which I name Jerusalem's "Mount Tabor." In the jargon of the times, these projects would become stubborn "new facts on the ground" before the final negotiations.
Is Israel's self-proclaimed democracy in fact "working"? The measure of democracy, anywhere, is the equitable ways in which the majority relates to the minorities, beyond patriotic rhetoric. Does the public good of Jerusalem include its Arabs?

Promises and Facts

Christian Jerusalemites seldom talk about their holy sites, but lament over their experienced discriminations, not because they are Christians, but because they are non-Jews. Does the Jewish majority accept the working principle that Jerusalem's Arab tax-paying citizens have a right to equal treatment, an equitable share in the common resources? For example, despite occasional governmental and municipal promises, unlike Jewish sections of Jerusalem, most Arab sectors face unpaved streets, infrequent garbage pickups, inadequate water lines, smaller school subsidies and withheld building permits. One compares Gilo with Beit Safafa in south Jerusalem and, in the north, French Hill with Beit Hanina. At last October's [1996] opening of Arab Culture and Book Week, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert promised a multimillion-shekel plan "to make sure that Arab residents feel like they are being treated fairly." Another promise. One awaits "new facts on the ground."
The city is already divided also by psychological walls, a web of mutual antagonisms and fears. These walls are far more threatening and divisive than a Berlin Wall, a Gaza fence, or a checkpoint. Whether fears are imaginary (what could always happen), or real (what did happen - crude stabbings of the innocent, obscene Jerusalem bus bombs, arrogant military / police brutalities on Salah Eddin), they create much less porous walls than designated boundaries.
I pay no compliment to the city that, as a Czech-American, I feel less threatened than Jew or Arab when I freely move about Jerusalem to receive its urban gifts - concerts in the Jerusalem Theater on Chopin Street and in the Palestine National Theater (Al-Hakawati), stores on Ben-Yehuda or Azzahra, strolls through Gilo or Sur Baher, and raptured silence before Islamic art and calligraphy in the museums of the Mayer Institute (on Emek Refa'im) and on the Al-Haram Al-Sharif.
The biblical inscription on the bell in the Liberty Bell Garden "proclaims liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." Israelis seek security above all and before anything else, especially in Jerusalem. Its Arabs seek security and equity. Liberty or secured freedom of movement "throughout all Jerusalem unto all the inhabitants thereof."

Transition to Coexistence

How to safeguard and foster the identity of the Arab minority in Jerusalem and their brothers and sisters who are living in West Bank areas which I presume will form the Palestinian State? I presume, because the transition towards dignified coexistence between neighbors no longer enemies begins with a separation into two states, with some measure of equality. Each enjoys one's own space, each would lose something by abusing the space and its inhabitants. But the fence, so to speak, between Israel and Palestine requires a bridge in Jerusalem, the hub of both Israeli and Palestinian identities.
The historic "feeling" of the Jews about their Jerusalem was heightened by its unnatural partition between 1948 and 1967, in particular by the exclusive Jordanian governing of the Old City, to the exclusion of all Jews within the walls. But Palestinians also have "feelings" about their Jerusalem, and reason supports them by a glance at a map. The city is the Palestinian geographical heart, whose arteries connect the southern and northern West Bank. It is the center of their intellectual, commercial and political lives, and the meeting place of extended families and friends. Without a self-governing home or administrative center in Jerusalem, Palestine would be an unnatural collection of towns and villages. The pervasive localism in Palestinian society would rule, increasing the rivalry between Gaza, Jericho and the West Bank, and within the latter, between Hebron and Nablus.

Only through Compromise

Who defines Jerusalem and determines its borders? Who decides who goes "up to Jerusalem"? Who judges how opened or closed should be its gates? Historically, successive exclusive governing claims over Jerusalem by those in political power never "worked," even when (alas, not always) governors had granted limited guarantees and protected status to the minorities, including free access to their holy sites. Can an exception realistically "work" by the dominant Israeli claim: "Jerusalem should remain the unified and eternal capital of the State of Israel, under the absolute sovereignty of Israel alone"? This is a slogan. Is it a solution? Equally a slogan: "East Jerusalem (including the Old City) should be solely Palestinian-ruled." Is it a solution? Political slogans may draw votes in election campaigns, but they never "work" at bargaining tables.
Israeli/Palestinian shared authority in Jerusalem and limited sovereignties over it - whether territorial, functional or both - would be by pragmatic political compromise. Only a compromise, inevitably resented as "unjust" by some Israelis and some Palestinians, can be a correct or "just" solution, as it will take into account, not impossible dreams, but at least the minimum legitimate, sometimes competing vital national (and religious) interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.
For ten years (1960-1970) I lived in Italy's Rome and worked outside Italy, in a Vatican office, also in Rome. The 1929 Lateran Pacts between the Vatican and Italy were a political compromise. They structured a relationship between initially hostile parties of fascist Italy and the earthly Catholic Church, whose headquarters, called the Holy See, have been recognized since 1815 (Congress of Vienna) as a sovereign subject of international law. Nobody judged the treaty to be the permanent solution. It was only a necessary first structured step to begin the long process of harmonious relations. In the one unified Rome, the two parties mutually recognize and abide by several carefully detailed areas of shared authority, as well as functional and territorial sovereignties. Not only do the 109 acres of Vatican City enjoy autonomy, but, throughout Rome, so do several buildings of Vatican offices and major basilicas (holy sites). I worked in one of these "Orient Houses" outside of Vatican City. Two identities within the one identity of being truly Roman.
For the Jerusalem question, I suspect an analogous solution would "work," wherever the terrain of Palestinian Al-Quds would be and wherever its "extra-territorial" administration offices may be located throughout the city, West or East. Two identities preserved by the one identity of being Jerusalemite.
A pragmatic compromise would result in initial coexistence between Israel and the new Palestinian State. If Israel and Palestine will not compromise over Jerusalem, I fear the Holy City could become the only place in the land which would be cursed by increased divisions, unholy tensions, indeed, recurring violence.

A Universal City

But earthly Jerusalem is more than a provincial city. It bears a universal character and evokes a unique religious dimension of the human, as does Florence evoke in art, Zurich in business, Oxford in intellectual culture, and Salzburg in music. Earthly Jerusalem mirrors the meeting place between God and the human, the eternal and history, in particular for the children of Abraham - Jews, Christians and Muslims who, together, are called in their own ways "to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just" (Gen. 18:19). This historical religious vocation of Jerusalem is to be a peaceful meeting place or shared living room, not a battlefield, not a house of locked rooms.
The city, especially the Old City, often mirrors too much of politicized religion, too little of authentic faith. Aberrations of piety move quickly into the political arena, and politics corrupts the pieties. The religious dreams of one become the nightmares of the other. As the philosopher-theologian Rabbi David Hartman remarks, "The claustrophobic geography of the Old City is an apt metaphor for the cramped ideological space in which Judaism, Christianity and Islam interact...The basic problem is not space, but control."
Jerusalem (West and East) is the only city in the world where a very small Christian minority lives with those of the two other monotheistic faiths, both in a majority. Within a total population of 600,000, 11,000 are Christians. They have few votes to deliver. Christians seek political influence, not to dominate, but only to survive, through civil recognition of their inherent and historical rights as religious communities and as individuals, and through representation, lest those recognized rights be ignored or violated.(1)
The Old City bears a far more heightened religious dimension than other sections, for example, Ben-Yehuda Street or Nablus Road. With realism, the Jerusalem Christian leaders join the Vatican (and others) in proposing for the walled City a special juridical and political statute, stable and permanent, which the international community guarantees: "Jerusalem is too precious to be dependent solely on municipal or national political authorities, whoever they may be."

The Paradox of Politics

This plea is based on distrust of future decisions of those who have the power and the coffers. The demographic trends of Jerusalem will continue without surprising shifts. The religious Jews will predominate. Most of them will obediently vote in municipal elections. The city's government will continue to be a fragile coalition which includes religious political parties with clout. One can realistically suspect they will not be overly sensitive to the needs of Muslims and Christians. Likewise on the Palestinian side.1t will always be an Islamic majority. It could happen that Muslim extremists would be in positions of coalition-power which threaten the Christian minority with de facto discriminations.
In the paradox of politics as the art of the possible, the first step of institutionalized political equity allows for the further, far more critical, steps in creating an environment where it becomes easier to depoliticize human existence; that is, not to reduce persons and human communities to their political and ethnic dimensions. Human beings and human communities are wonderfully complex and mysterious, not mere digits on any computer, especially the political counter and the passport surveyor. The human is not limited to what makes immediate political sense.
Thus, whatever the "final" political solution may be, the immediate dividend is not loving relations between Israelis and Palestinians, but the structured normalization of their collective urban existence, a network of those routine relations which characterize most cities, most of the time, in most of the world. The political can condition but not dictate the non-political, especially the social-psychological dimensions of an already divided conflictual Jerusalem. The dissolving of hostility, and the solving of the "winning of hearts" can come about only by a slow, relentless process, not by a stop-watch. It may never be "final," but it can move beyond initial coexistence. Coexistence means that one only tolerates the other as the lesser of two evils. If not enemies, they still remain nervous strangers to each other. Not quite truly human, is it?


1. Cf T. Stransky, "Civil Rights to Religious Freedom: Christian Claims," in Religion and State in Israeli and Palestinian Society, ed. Natasha Dudinski (Jerusalem: IPCRl, 1996), pp. 67-f,9. Silvio Ferrari, "The Religious Significance of Jerusalem in the Middle East Peace Process: Some Legal Implications," in The Future of Jerusalem Symposium, a special issue of the Catholic University of America Law Review 45 (3),1996, pp. 733-743.