The recent government crisis in Israel and the international uproar trig¬gered by the confiscation of 134 acres (536 dunums) of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem have put the question of Jerusalem in the limelight and strengthened the convictions of those who believe that the discussion of Jerusalem's future should not be postponed any longer.
In this issue, devoted to the Jerusalem imbroglio, each of the Israeli and Palestinian contributors speaks convincingly and often passionately of "my Jerusalem," and what it symbolizes for their faith and people. The national and religious feelings of those on the other side, the deep attach¬ment of other claimants to Jerusalem, are rarely referred to, and even less often taken into consideration.
Over the centuries, 26 major wars have been fought over Jerusalem, all in the name of the "true faith," be it Jewish, Christian or Islamic. Each "solution" was imposed by force and gave preferential treatment to the victors' faith, as exemplified by the erection of Jewish temples, Christian churches and Islamic mosques. Moreover, in the twentieth century, con¬tradictory national demands have added fuel to the battle for Jerusalem.
Today, two peoples, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, claim Jerusalem as their national capital. Each of the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, seems convinced that Jerusalem is conse¬crated, first and foremost, to its own faith.
Israeli politicians and rabbis state that Israel's right to Jerusalem as its "united, eternal capital" is unquestionable: only one people, the ancient Hebrews, whose spiritual descendants are the Jews of today, have made Jerusalem their capital under King David, some 3,000 years ago. Moreover, Jews repeat every day in their prayers: "If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." Aren't all these fine credentials in Israel's favor? Only as far as the feelings and the collective memory of Israeli Jews are concerned.
What about the feelings and historic memories of the Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike? Ancient Coptic and Armenian churches have existed in Jerusalem since the fourth and fifth centuries. Jerusalem was the first direction (Qibla) to which Muslims turned their faces while praying. According to Islamic faith, Muhammad ascended to heaven from the place whereon the Dome of the Rock Mosque was built in the seventh century. Muslim and Christian prayers have been offered up from Jerusalem for centuries. Who can measure the comparative strength of reli¬gious attachment?
Do 3,000 years (King David's proclamation of Jerusalem as his capital) carry more weight than 2,000 years (the birth of Christianity) or 1,400 years (of Islam)?
The average Israeli may not be convinced. Was, and is not, Jerusalem the Jew's only Holy City and national capital? The Catholics look to Rome, and the Muslims have three holy cities: first Mecca, then Medina, and only third, Jerusalem. For the Christians, though, Jesus' preaching, death and resurrection in Jerusalem are inseparable from their faith. Once a Palestinian Muslim told a group of Israelis: "Alright, you Jews have only Jerusalem and we Muslims have three holy cities. But does the mother of three love each of her children less than the mother of only one child?"
The arguments and counter-arguments are endless. One thing is sure: to claim Jerusalem is "only mine" is a certain recipe for failure in any future negotiations, just as the claim to all of Eretz Yisrael/Falastin by one party to the dispute can only lead to more bloodshed, pain and tears for all.
The repetitive chanting of phrases like "Jerusalem is the united, eternal capital of sovereign Israel" makes the city neither united nor eternal. Everybody knows that Jerusalem was "united" by force, for the unification of Jerusalem was not the result of the free will of all the city's inhabitants, Palestinians and Israelis, but was imposed unilaterally by the Israeli gov¬ernment following Israel's military victory in June, 1967.
For the last 28 years, Israel's governments and Jerusalem's mayors have done their utmost to "unify" the city by strengthening the Jewish majority, by Judaizing Jerusalem at the expense of the Palestinian population.
But Jerusalem remained divided, as was demonstrated during the Intifada that tore East and West Jerusalem apart and made a mockery of Israel's claim to a united capital. True enough, the stone wall which divid¬ed the city until 1967 was knocked down by Israeli bulldozers, but Jerusalem remained divided in the hearts and minds of Palestinians and Israelis alike, by an invisible, very real, wall.
Is there a way out of this quandary? Yes. We, the editors of this Journal, believe that in the search for a possible compromise solution to the Jerusalem question, we must integrate the demands and claims the various parties make on Jerusalem.
Israelis and Palestinians must agree to share Jerusalem, in all its dimen¬sions, national and religious. The key word is sharing, the opposite of exclusive possession, of forced unification.
How can this sharing principle be translated into reality? This is a job for practical politicians. What is needed now is the readiness to share Jerusalem; the ways and means will follow.
Only by sharing can the city be made whole again, genuinely united in the hearts of all its inhabitants, for only through sharing can "my Jerusalem" become "our Jerusalem," a city of peace, a source of pride for both nations and all its inhabitants, a center for mutual understanding and international enlightenment.