Monday, February 14, 2005

I too have a dream

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.”
Psalm 122:6.

I share the psalmist’s dream. Even today Old Jerusalem is a cosmopolitan neighbourhood. Black-coated Hasidim rub shoulders with kaffiya’d Muslims and robed Christian priests. But guns are here, there and everywhere. Over the shoulders of worshippers at the Wailing Wall. In the hands of watchful Israeli conscripts. Our dream will not be realized until these weapons are removed from the Holy City.

Why does a weapon-free Jerusalem have to remain just a dream? The Old City is bounded by an ancient wall and penetrated by a mere handful of “gates”. I can envisage a couple of airport security systems outside each gate, staffed independently by Israelis and Palestinians. If an aircraft can be weapon-free, why not Old Jerusalem?

Think of the benefits. Pilgrims of every faith would come and go without fear of guns or bombs. Tourists would return to the old markets. Mosques, churches and synagogues would become havens of peace once more. Why not?

Blame the military. Blame the politicians on both sides who maintain that only arms can protect their people effectively. But wait – Jerusalem is a Holy City for Muslims, Christians and Jews. Their combined prayers, their longing for peace, the dedicated conscience of the three Abrahamic faiths could launch such a compelling bandwagon that politicians(and even cautious church dignitaries) would hasten to climb on board. Jubilee 2000 is a lesson we should take to heart: the pressure must come from below.

Here’s the programme I’m proposing. First a world-wide inter-faith Week of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. Ideally this would be endorsed by the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the various Chief Rabbis and Imams. Christians might be invited to pray in mosques and synagogues; Jews and Muslims also in alternate places of worship. Subsequent religious holidays involving Jerusalem, e.g. Isra’-Mi’raj, Easter, Tisha B’Av, might be encouraged to incorporate some support for the campaign. This would develop into an international campaign to persuade and press world statesmen to declare the Old City of Jerusalem a weapon-free area for a trial period of twelve months.

The first step would be to remove private weapons. These need not be monitored or surrendered, just taken out of the Old City. Then the monitoring equipment would be wheeled in and the twelve-month experiment would be under way. Once this is seen to work then we might hope it would spread out in two directions:
(a) New Israeli settlements in Greater Jerusalem could be internationally accepted as part of Jerusalem on the same terms as the Old City: no weapons, and free indiscriminate access and movement.
(b) Other divided cities (Belfast?) could also take note.

Just a dream; but look what’s just dropped out of Friends Quarterly. The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is seeking six “Visionaries” with ideas for changing the world (see Could I be one of the chosen six? Statistically, not a hope. Hundreds of applicants are expected, and Hebron doesn’t even have a letter-box to post my application. Still, I’m filling out that application form ....

So pray that the Joseph Rowntree Trust will be rightly guided, even if my dream doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. And do let me know what you think of it. Maybe a better dream will blossom later. And maybe somebody else will pick it up and run with it.

“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.... and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”. Isaiah 2:3-4.


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