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June 21, 2011 / Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Project

The Promised Land

Visiting Jerusalem for the first time was a mind-boggling experience. It is likely the most sought-after piece of real estate on the planet. It was difficult to fathom how close the holy sites of the three Abrahamic faiths are to each other, and how Jerusalem is so steeped in history. Sometimes I wonder if Jerusalem is too important for its own good, as the Israelis and Palestinians continue to insist that it is their capital city. Yet despite the constant tension, it was terrific to see Jews, Muslims, and Christians worshipping in such a peaceful manner. I learned that Israeli security is insistent on Jews not bringing their religious materials near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as to avoid inciting violence, which demonstrates a certain level of respect and understanding.

Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish gave a talk on the Peace Process and then introduced us to Palestinian and Israeli university students. It was comforting to see people with vastly different views speaking openly and courteously. During dinner at the Kronish household we debated about the Knesset, the role of violence in the Palestinian resistance, and many other topics. Everyone spoke freely and my heart rate spiked a couple of times but I left with a better understanding of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At a time of political stalemate, where Netanyahu is defying President Obama and the Palestinians are turning in frustration to the United Nations, diplomacy is happening on the streets of Jerusalem between regular citizens. No matter what biases one may have, it is clear that both Israeli and Palestinian presences in Jerusalem are necessary in a two-state solution.

Touring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre confused me further, because within the Christian community in Jerusalem there are so many sects. With Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox Christians, and Copts competing amongst others for space, this place of worship epitomizes both the beauty of Jerusalem and the struggle that takes place daily insides its walls. The rings of settlements that surround Jerusalem make me skeptical about the future of this wondrous city. I hope that Jews, Christians, and Muslims can realize that Jerusalem is too sacred to be cut up over ideological feuds, and the historical center can be preserved for generations to come.

-Bayly Winder


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