Monday, May 14, 2007

Thoughts on 40 Years of United Jerusalem


May 14 is being celebrated in Israel's capital as the 40th anniversary of a united Jerusalem. A united Jerusalem – what does that really mean? For some, especially Israel's Arab enemies, it still means Al Nakba or 'The Catastrophe', as they consider this fact to be detrimental to Arab pride as they claim part of the city to be occupied Arab land.

For Jews, especially religious Jews, a unified Jerusalem is the fulfillment of a dream that was only that, a dream, for 18 years, from 1948 until June 7, 1967. It means being able to travel in virtually all parts of the city including the Old City; and the ability to pray once again at the Kotel or Western Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple. Going to 'The Wall' on the Jewish Sabbath is an experience in itself; and many Jewish families come from abroad to celebrate Bar Mitzvah ceremonies in front of this ancient landmark.

For Christians, to be able to pray in their holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulture in complete freedom is a great asset, and many Christians are grateful for this fact. For a united Jerusalem is to their advantage as well.

For Muslims, Israeli governments from the outset have given them formal control over the Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Karim al Shariff . For Jerusalem, or Al Quds (The Holy), is Islam's third holiest city. Muslims living in the city enjoy full residency status, and many are also Israeli citizens. Despite everything said by Muslims living outside of Jerusalem, they have more freedoms in a united Jerusalem than any minority groups have in nearly all Muslim and Arab capitals, including Cairo Egypt and Amman Jordan.

So why all the controversy regarding the status of this city; and why do so many Arabs want to see the city divided once again, as well as the eviction of all non-Muslims? It is simply because they want to possess the entire Land of Israel including the Holy City of Jerusalem. This will never happen as long as Israel is strong and the Jewish people are strong.

Meanwhile, all that can be hoped for is the realization of the prophecy written in the Book of Isaiah: "For out of Zion shall come forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem".

And that simply says it all.

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