18 June 2018

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

For my first 12 years, the map with which I was familiar showed a small Israel, some of whose territory was precariously thin, caught between its hostile neighbours and the sea. This all changed in June 1967, when Israel, attacked by those neighbours, pushed them back and occupied the territories west of the Jordan River. For the first time in nearly 20 years, Jerusalem was no longer a divided city bisected by a tense no-man’s-land. Israel had restored the unity of its capital city.

Yet to this day few countries recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, maintaining their embassies in the coastal city of Tel Aviv. But wait. Doesn’t a country have the right to name its own capital city? Shouldn’t other countries with which it enjoys diplomatic relations honour this right without question? Ordinarily this would be the case.

Yet few things are normal in the Middle East, especially where Israel and Palestine are concerned. My visit there in 1995 confirmed this for me. Tension hung constantly in the air, and military personnel armed with machine guns were ubiquitous. Moreover, that was at a time of optimism in the wake of the Oslo Accords.

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