“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

A Symposium Concluded, Jerusalem: The City of Peace for All— Challenges and Opportunities.

Jerusalem is unique among the cities of the world. To educate about its current challenges and enhance the knowledge of those advocating for sharing it, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Know Thy Heritage Leadership Organization, and Jerusalem Peace Institute held a virtual symposium on July 17, 2021. Titled “Jerusalem: The City of Peace for All, Challenges and Opportunities,” the symposium featured three experts on and from Jerusalem: Dr. Saliba Sarsar, President/CEO of the Jerusalem Peace Institute; Chair, HCEF Research & Publication Committee; and Professor of Political Science at Monmouth University; Dr. Imam Mustafa Abu Sway, Integral Chair for the Study of Imam Al-Ghazali’s Work at the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds University; and Dr. Rami M. Nasrallah, Founder and Chairman of the International Peace and Cooperation Center in Jerusalem.
Dr. Sarsar welcomed all the symposium participants. He spoke about the centrality of Jerusalem. “Its distinctiveness,” he said, “stems from its holiness and universal character. Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others imbue it with deep meaning.” But, often, the religious and political become intertwined, “leading to exclusive ideology and power to dominate instead of humanity and inclusion.” As Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah advised in What Jerusalem Means to Us: Christian Perspectives and Reflection https://tinyurl.com/y2jf59yh: “All parties concerned should go beyond all exclusivist visions or actions, and … they must consider the religious and national aspirations of others to give back to Jerusalem its true universal character and to make the city a holy place of reconciliation for humankind.” HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, in his Foreword to What Jerusalem Means to Us: Muslim Perspectives and Reflections https://tinyurl.com/y38kckzj, said “Jerusalem is a shared gift, not the sole property of one government or one people.” That is why we are called upon to think and act creatively and responsibly about the city’s future so that it continues to be a source of peace.”
Conditions on the ground in Jerusalem and beyond have been most difficult to say the least. In April and May, for example, major clashes erupted between Palestinian protestors and the Israeli police in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the third-holiest site in Islam. Among the reasons for these clashes are the frequent visits by nationalist and religious Jews to the holy site, which Palestinians consider provocative; threatened evictions in such neighborhoods as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan; and demolition of Palestinian houses and other structures.
Dr. Imam Mustafa Abu Sway, who preaches and works at the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, spoke about the Muslim presence in Palestine and how Muslims have accommodated Jews and Christians. The Qur’an and other sacred Muslim books have referred respectfully to revelations received prior to the advent of the Prophet Muhammed, referring especially to Prophet Moses. The Pact of Omar made provisions for Christians, and documents of the Cairo Geniza show that in the early Islamic period, Jews were permitted to return to Jerusalem. Dr. Abu Sway also addressed the daily challenges facing Palestinians. New archaeological layers are being created all the time, nowadays primarily by the Israeli hasbara. Israel is revoking the residency permits of Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinians have lost their Jerusalem residency because Israel is committed to limiting non-Jews to certain demographic percentages. There is no public space in Jerusalem for Muslim celebrations. For example, Israeli forces attacked innocent Palestinian Muslim youngsters celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan, at the Damascus Gate. Muslim cemeteries are being expropriated by developers in Jaffa and Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, for example, the construction of the Jewish Museum of Tolerance has displaced 400 Muslim gravesites, which have been moved out of the Mamilla (Muslim) Cemetery to undisclosed locations.
Dr. Rami M. Nasrallah, who has conducted many research projects on Jerusalem,  made a PowerPoint presentation, with several illustrative maps. In 1967, Israel annexed 70 square kilometers, including villages, to West Jerusalem. Palestinians within the new boundary were offered permanent residency status, but not citizenship. In post-1967 Jerusalem, Israel has limited Palestinian development by confiscating East Jerusalem land for Jewish settlements and for “green areas.” Palestinian construction and economic development are severely hampered. Only 14% of East Jerusalem’s land area consists of Palestinian neighborhoods. Palestinians are and have been eager to work on development; for example, Al Quds International Airport was once busy with tourists. Now, however, Israel constricts Palestinian commerce and growth. Israel is also determined to limit Palestinian space and development, to fragmenting Palestinian continuity, and to maintaining Jewish territorial hegemony. The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded entirely by national park areas. The Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan is in an area that is a national park managed by an extremist Jewish religious group. Private Palestinian land has been expropriated for the purpose of an archaeological park allegedly comprising Biblical sites. There is no integrity or transparency regarding Israeli archaeological findings. The population of Silwan is 20,000, and the people need public spaces. Palestinians are building the Silwan-Al Bustan Park, which provides activities for the youth. The European Union is supporting this intervention. Interventions are needed to work on other projects, promote Palestinian community resilience, and support the image of Jerusalem as a multi-cultural, global hub.
During the Q&A segment, several points were raised, including the following: East Jerusalem is still the largest Palestinian city, with 400,000 inhabitants. The Palestinian Authority has no evident plans for Jerusalem. However, Israel’s policy is clear. According to a 1994 law, there can be no public Palestinian functions in East Jerusalem. Israel allows no official Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, and therefore its civil society organizations face major hurdles or are leaving. While the American administration has changed, the most that can be expected from the Biden Administration is a re-opening of the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the issue of Jerusalem has been postponed until final status negotiations occur, which leaves Palestinians in limbo until such time arrives.
The symposium concluded with a few remarks. Dr. Imam Abu Sway mentioned that the representative of the European Union in Jerusalem recently spoke about prosperity and democracy. What he should speak about is justice for Palestinians. This would require courage. Dr. Nasrallah asked that we maintain the image of Jerusalem as the capital of two states. Jerusalem has been waiting for a just resolution for the past 25 years. Stop waiting. Protect the city from a religious war. If a religious war starts, no one will be able to halt it. Dr. Sarsar called for a new approach, one that enables the building of an inclusive city. Through empathy and generosity of spirit, through dignity and humanity, fair and realistic solutions for Jerusalem can be found. 
Watch the Video: The Jerusalem Symposium

2021-07-23T20:23:16+00:00 July 23rd, 2021|Categories: Press Releases|