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Religiosity A Critical Problem For Jerusalem

By James Donahue

A recent poll of Israelis shows that 68 percent are opposed to a proposal by Deputy Premier Haim Ramon to share the City of Jerusalem with the Palestinians as a major step toward a peace agreement in that region.

The concept of sharing or controlling Jerusalem appears to lie at the very heart of the bloody clashes between the Israelis and Palestinians since both groups regard sites there as holy places. Ironically Jerusalem is regarded as a sacred place for not only the Moslems and the Jews, but Christians as well.

At the center of the controversy is the Islamic Dome of the Rock, which is said to house the rock from which the Prophet Mohammed ascended to Heaven with the Angel Gabriel.

This beautiful structure, however, is believed to be located on the very site where mythology has it that King Solomon erected the original Hebrew Temple in 957 BC. According to Jewish legend, the temple replaced the Tabernacle of Moses in which was once kept the Ark of the Covenant.

As the story goes, the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, but renovated by King Herod in about 20 BC. Thus it allegedly stood when Jesus supposedly walked the streets of Jerusalem, but was destroyed by the Romans about 50 years later. The Jews believe parts of that original temple remain today in what is known to them as the Wailing Wall, located near the Dome of the Rock.

Much of this story has since been questioned by a team of Jewish archaeologists, who fail to find much evidence that a great nation of Israel ever existed in that area, or that kings David and Solomon were more than nomadic tribal leaders, if they even existed. Steadfast leaders of Judaism, however, will not sway from the Old Testament stories, just as orthodox Christians cling to the New Testament record as "God's Written Word." Thus the needless conflict rages.

A critical issue at this site is a belief by both Jews and Christians that a third and final temple must be erected on this site before The Messiah appears. For the Jews it must be done to bring on the first coming of the Messiah. For Christians, it part of the myth that signifies the Second Coming of Jesus and Rapture of the Church.

Thus the followers of these three major religions find themselves locked in religious bigotry as they stare down gun barrels at one another while surrounding this sacred piece of real estate. The Jews and Moslems both claim this site as their own, believing that they are worshiping the one true god and that all others are wrong and consequently doomed to judgment.

Christians, who have been brainwashed to believe the racist Hebrew myth that the Jews are a chosen people, find themselves rooting for the Jews on this issue.

This is obviously a complex issue, one that has kept the Jews and Palestians at war with one another for a very long time. Current history suggests that the Middle East conflict began when the Jews moved into the territory and established themselves as a nation in the midst of the 20th Century. But if the Old Testament historical record bears any truth to it at all, the Jews and Arabs have been killing one another for a few thousand years. They refuse to accept contemporary evidence that they all share the same DNA and are direct descendants of the same tribe.

The Israelis gained Jerusalem as part of their territory during the Six-Day War in 1967. The issue became even more heated when the Israeli Knesset passed a law in 1980 that proclaimed Jerusalem the "reunified and eternal capital of Israel, although this claim has remained in international dispute.

Thus for a high ranking Israeli official, a close ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, suggested sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians, it suggests a major concession as delegates from both sides prepare to attend a US-sponsored peace conference tentatively set for some time in November.

Said Ramon: "It is in Israel's interest to tackle the issue of Jerusalem in the negotiations. If we reach a deal with the Palestinians, the Arab world and the international community according to which the Jewish Neighborhoods of Jewusalem will be recognized as the capital of Israel and the Arab neighborhoods as part of the Arab capital, will that be a bad deal?"

We salute Ramon for having the courage to offer a probable solution to this entanglement that makes sense.