Wednesday, March 9, 2011

City Of Peace

You are not likely to hear a more intelligent or touching appreciation of the imagined Jerusalem than this interview with my friend James Carroll, discussing his new book, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, with NPR's "On Point." This city is not only the place where religious violence has been concentrated over three millennia, but also the place where religious imagination has sought to transcend violence. What a powerful statement to the world, and about our capacity to psyche-out our psyches, Jim implies, if Israelis and Palestinians could finally make peace.

BUT PEACE CANNOT come from high-minded dread alone. It is something to be built, rule by rule, oath by oath, fence by fence. So I also want to commend this website to you, developed by a young and visionary architectural firm named Saya, founded by Karen Lee Bar-Sinai and Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat.

Karen got in touch with me just after I published my Times article about the Abbas-Olmert negotiations. I mentioned in the piece that Olmert showed me, en passant, an architectural plan for a symbolic crossing from West Jerusalem to East Jerusalem at the American Colony Hotel; how vivid peace looked when you could actually see the constructions that would provide it a foundation. Karen immediately wrote me and identified herself as the co-designer of this plan. Click yourself around their site and dream dreams of transcendence.


Y. Ben-David said...

If Israel were to give up control of UNITED Jerusalem, it would mean the DESTRUCTION of the city and both Jews and Arabs would suffer. Division of the city and putting east Jerusalem under Palestinian rule would lead to a massive flight of Arabs from east Jerusalem to Israeli west Jerusalem and a flight of Jews from the city entirely. Polls show a majority of Arabs in Jerusalem don't want the city divided, knowing that the city would become a shooting gallery if this were to happen. It is INEVITABLE that division of the city would bring about a renewal of the situation that existed from 1948-1967 when the city was divided hermetically, anti-sniper walls marked the border, large areas of both parts of the city were totally neglected, and Jews were prevented from visiting their holy sites.
The Leftists who support the redivision of the city know this will be the inevitable results and the only conclusion I can reach is that they WANT it to happen. Maybe they figure that it will knock out politically the cursed "Judeans" who stubbornly hold on to Jewish traditions and whose holy sites gives them strength. This is abhorrent to the Left/Progressives.

A large majority of Israelis oppose the division of the city and it will not come to pass.

Potter said...

"The Hebrew Canaanite name of the holy city means “city of peace”. Names are symbols, expressions of hope, wishes for brilliant future and good omen. Alas, the hope for a city where peace prevails has not been fulfilled. Indeed it turned out that the city has known only brief periods of peace during it’s four millennia of recorded history. Thirty-seven times it has been besieged, stormed and conquered, destroyed and rebuilt by a multitude of nations. All of them sought not material prizes, for they are not to be found in that remote arid hilltop, but symbolic edification: their savior, eternity.

Symbolic assets are by their very nature unique indivisible and cannot be shared. The quest for exclusive possession of the holy city has turned Jerusalem into a battleground of all seekers of absolute truths: sons of light determined to massacre the sons of darkness in the name of universal love, fanatics set to realize the right come what may.

In the last half century a more bitter strife has begun. It is not anymore waged by foreign conquerors who have fought over the City of Peace for the sake of distant empires or bands of believers seeking redemption, but rather between two communities for whom Jerusalem is home: Israelis and Palestinians. This conflict has caused much bloodshed and endless suffering. Yet is not necessarily a violent encounter. It finds expression in all spheres of life and activity, even those of a civilian nature.

Inter-communal conflicts are chronic because they are caused by daily friction of competing collectives. They are twilight wars in which every person must constantly swing between the perception of the other as an enemy who must be destroyed and the perception that he is a neighbor, a living breathing human being.

I was born in Jerusalem and have conflicts and contradictions on my own internal landscape. I share my people’s aspirations and I participate in the struggle for our eternal city. Yet my intimate contact with my neighbor as enemies has taught me to understand their own aspirations and listen to their grievances. I am tired of the conflict and seek reconciliation.

I think that we are all exhausted. Both sides begin to realize that in the struggle for Jerusalem there will be no victors and no vanquished. The impasse led what is called the peace process which is actually a long maybe an indefinite process of communal reconciliation. The Oslo accords have created the precondition for the beginning of the process, mutual recognition of the legitimacy of the other and maybe an understanding of his claim and sensitivities. One should not lose hope that indeed Jerusalem will finally become a city of peace."

-Meron Benvenisti, writer, former deputy Mayor of Jerusalem
June 28, 2000 National Public Radio (as transcribed by me, Potter)

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