O, Jerusalem! The Contested Future of the Jewish Covenant

O, Jerusalem! The Contested Future of the Jewish Covenant

O, Jerusalem! The Contested Future of the Jewish Covenant

O, Jerusalem! The Contested Future of the Jewish Covenant


This century has bequeathed to the Jewish people a series of events "with horrific and startling consequences," including the Holocaust, the birth of the state of Israel, and its development into a powerful military state. Ellis argues that the history and identity of the Jewish people are now being decisively transformed and reinterpreted. What is their destiny in the next century?

Ellis asks, "Are there religious ideals, intellectual concepts, and political movements... that will help Jews confront the history we are creating... ?" In this profound and provocative work, he finds the answers in the covenant, symbolized by Jerusalem. Ellis offers a renewed theology of the covenant and its justice dimensions, its present "exile," and its future in revolutionary forgiveness.


This book emerged in the wake of the May 1996 election in Israel, which saw the defeat of Shimon Peres and the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel. It reached conclusion after the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the state of Israel and the signing of the Wye Memorandum in 1998.

Though there was much commentary on the election and the fiftieth anniversary, most of the analysis focused on the immediate consequences for the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. While this analysis was important in and of itself, the focus on the immediate tended to polarize positions and to trivialize the options confronting the leaders of Israel and Palestine, rendering superficial the stakes involved as the final years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict approach. the politics of both sides are intriguing, yet still more is at stake than the negotiation strategies employed.

What is at stake is the future of Jews and Palestinians in their individual integrity and the future of both peoples together. For if their past has been shared, so, too, will their future. Moreover, the challenge of the future involves and transcends the political dimension, for the entirety of Jewish history is on the line.

The covenant that Jews accepted as a people at Sinai is tested in every generation, and, in our time, on the threshold of the twenty-first century, the impossible challenge of the Holocaust has been further complicated by the difficult history of Jews and Palestinians.

Rather than seeing the struggle of Jews and Palestinians simply as a current and contentious issue of domestic and global importance, the task of Jewish thought and theology is to recognize the stakes as significantly higher. the covenant itself, a covenant that brings together ethics and justice, repentance and forgiveness, is at stake, and the issue of justice in the Middle East affects all Jews in the deepest corners of Jewish faith and affirmation.

The demographics and geography of the Middle East reinforce the shared future of Jews and Palestinians. There are approximately four million Jews in Israel. the Palestinian population is almost a million within Israel, with over two million Palestinians in Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank, and several million in the surrounding countries of . . .

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