IF you stand with your back to Damascus Gate, the most imposing
entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, looking left and right, the
walls built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1540 stretch away in an
equally impressive bulwark against attack in both directions.
But little else is equal.
To the left, outside the walls in Jewish West Jerusalem, the
excavations for a new road sweep by, and the skyline is dominated
by cranes perching over bright new office blocks.
To the right, in traditionally Arab East Jerusalem, a few
hundred yards and a world away, poorly maintained roads lead
through neglected neighborhoods of inelegantly aging buildings.
On Sunday, Israelis will celebrate Jerusalem Day, the 25th
anniversary of the unification of the city by their soldiers in the
1967 Six-Day War.
But for Jerusalemites such as Faisal Husseini, the Palestinian
leader whose family has lived here for more than 700 years, the
festivities recall only "the day my rights were violated." (Feud
over Jersalem mosque, Page 6.)
And even some Jews have their reservations. Moshe Amirav, a
Jerusalem city councilman, says he went to the Wailing Wall 25
years ago, a day after Israeli troops had captured it from the
Jordanians, and in the Jewish tradition tucked a written prayer
between its stones.
"I prayed for peace and for an ever-united Jerusalem," he
recalls. "I look back today, and my prayer has not been fulfilled."
Jerusalem, once considered the center of the universe, fought
over, besieged, and ransacked countless times in its 4,000-year
history, holy to three religions, is a unique Gordian knot in the
already almost-impossible tangle of relations between Arabs and
For almost all Israelis, exclusive and perpetual Israeli
sovereignty over the whole city as the historic Jewish capital is
the only conceivable future. But that status is diametrically
opposed to the Palestinians' vision of the city as the capital of
the state they hope to found one day, maintaining its tradition as
the cultural, commercial, and political heart of their homeland.
The Israelis' old nightmare, that minefields and barbed wire
might again divide Jerusalem as they did between 1948 and 1967, "is
an idea that belongs to the past," says Gershon Baskin, co-director
of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
(IPCRI), which has been studying possible futures for the holy city.
Israeli building policy over the past quarter-century has seen
to that, as Jewish housing settlements have mushroomed all over
East Jerusalem to ensure "that the town could never be redivided,"
in the words of Jerusalem's city engineer, Elinoar Barzaki.
In a ring around the outer edge of the city, modern apartment
blocks that now house 140,000 Jewish residents stand in stark
contrast to traditional Arab family homes where 160,000
Built mainly on land confiscated by the Israeli government, the
new high-rises have spread to encircle Palestinian districts in a
frenzy of construction that is still going on, while Palestinians
complain that they find it almost impossible to obtain a building
The official figures speak for themselves. Since 1967, according
to municipal official Nira Sidi, permits have been issued for
65,000 Jewish homes, and for only 8,000 Palestinian homes. …