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14 June 2011

Living in a Holy (Wholly Sinful) City

I said I wanted to experience what it was like to live in Jerusalem, to be more than a tourist or pilgrim passing through. I don't know that I'll accomplish that even in two months but I am having more contacts with regular folk in neighborhoods away from shrines and monuments. I am heartened that so many of the Christians who are here for more than a pilgrimage are peace workers or actively engaged in interfaith and ecumenical work. I'm also struck by how loud (and rude) is the conservative minority that wields nearly majority power. There are some truly awful people here crafting heinous dehumanizing policies in the name of God, scripture and religion. There is also a huge mass of people who are embarrassed by them but are not politically involved enough to reign them in. I see them as complicit. Israel's treatment of its own citizens differs depending on whether they are Arab or (ostensibly) Jewish. Where they can live, move, build, get permits, travel.
And the truth is the Arab Israelis live far better than the Palestinians who are largely kept in squalor. Israel collects tax money "for them" and then does not release it to pay teachers or police or even to pick up trash. Israel refuses to let the Palestinian police enter Palestine to investigate crimes or protect the people but won't go in themselves because it's "foreign soil."
There ought not be any role for systematic governmental discrimination in the modern world. And our tax dollars ought not support it. Right now the US is building roads for Palestinians which the Israelis are designating as reservation roads, to keep the Palestinians off their Israeli roads.
I've never understood how a traumatize people could traumatize others: Whether it was the newly liberated Israelites enslaving each other and the Canaanites, or the AMerican revolutionaries throwing off the yoke of England but keeping the yoke on their African slaves, or black folk denying the civil rights of gay folk or any oppressed community making sure the women and girls are more oppressed than the boys and men.
Jerusalem is a holy city and a wholly sinful city. It is filled with people after all. But as long as it is an Israeli city - including the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and 1/4 to 1/3 of all Israelis live within it, its suburbs and illegal occupying settlements on seized Palestinian land, Jerusalem will remain the crucible of jihad - righteous struggle against evil.
The struggle for the soul of Jerusalem is the struggle for sole control of Jerusalem. Israel deems itself as custodian of the holy places of all faiths - even as it shuts them down, digs under them and declares them state treasures.
Without justice there can be no peace. Without basic respect for human dignity, religious and cultural diversity, there can be no justice.
I still can't believe that we live in the world where those who so narrowly escaped the fires of hatred seek to destroy someone else's children. How did the children of Israel come to this? And who willed them through the wilderness of sin to the promised land where each shall sit under their own olive trees and none shall make them afraid.
Micah puts it this way:

Micah 4:1 In days to come the mountain of the house of the Holy One of Old
shall be established as the highest of the mountains, 
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it, 2 and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Holy One of Old,
to the house of the God of Jacob; that God may teach us God's ways
and that we may walk in God's paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Holy One from Jerusalem. 
3 God shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; 
4 but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Holy One of Heaven's Armies has spoken.

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