Do We Divide The Holiest Holy City?
Jerusalem is one of the hardest issues of the final-status agreement. Through this city, one can see the emergence of a long-waited-for peace agreement. Or, through this city, one can see the continued scenario of mutual destruction between Arabs and Israelis if they fail to reach an agreement.
There should be a way for people living here to co-exist in full dignity, respect and equality. The best option I can see is a united open city encompassing the whole of Jerusalem. The Palestinian state will have its capital on the eastern side that was conquered by Israel in the June 1967 war, while Israel will have its recognized capital on the western side that remained under Israeli control between 1948 and 1967. An open city means free access to all religious sites without any party’s having a monopoly and a free city where all live equally.
If such an arrangement turned out to be too difficult for the two parties to agree on, then the Holy Basin on its own could be the only open area, with free access to all without any discrimination. But I would hate to see borders or walls erected again in Jerusalem. My view of Jerusalem would satisfy demands of both parties and yet resemble the international status that Jerusalem was accorded under the 1947 partition scheme. The only difference would be that in today’s—or rather, tomorrow’s—Jerusalem, overall control would be shared by the Palestinian and the Israeli states and not an international body.
was born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem in 1939, and has written 34 novels and nonfiction works as well as a memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, issued in English translation in 2004. Oz’s most recent book is the 2006 How to Cure a Fanatic, a collection of essays. He lives in Arad, in the Negev Desert.
I don’t see much point in arguing that Jerusalem should be divided because Jerusalem is divided. There is Arab East Jerusalem, where very few Jews go unless they have special business, and there is Jewish West Jerusalem, where very few Arabs go unless they have some business, usually jobs. It is a divided city in more than one way—it is also divided among the Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox and the secular. Being an old-time Jerusalemite myself, almost part of Jerusalem archaeology, I can tell you there is nothing new about this. The Jerusalem of my childhood, late in the 1940s, was a loose federation of neighborhoods—communities both ethnic and religious. Sooner or later the political division will occur whether we like it or not. Or Jerusalem may eventually become a kind of autonomous Jewish Vatican City.
Jerusalem is not Israel. Jerusalem is Jerusalem.