The Holy Land, Christmas 2000
First of all I want to thank Andrew for giving me this opportunity to write a short article about the state of affairs as I see them in Jerusalem. This horrific crisis, which was sparked off by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Harem esh-Sharif (Temple Mount as the Israelis call it), has re-ignited the Intifada and basically sparked the collapse of the Peace Process. Many people today, on both sides of the issue, claim that the Oslo Peace Process was flawed. I am not so sure about the Peace Process being flawed, but certainly the will to negotiate a just peace in Israel/Palestine lacked commitment from the beginning.
Having lived for twelve years in Jerusalem as Dean of St George’s College, I see the situation in the Holy Land from the perspective of a Palestinian. The Church in the Holy Land is Palestinian. The Anglicans, as well as all the Christians there, understand their roots go back to the first Pentecost in Acts 2:11. Their presence in the land is diminishing and the Christian presence is at a dangerous low. Both President Clinton and Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, ridiculed Yasser Arafat after this summer’s Camp David meetings for not being willing to negotiate. Such a perspective shows little understanding of the situation. What “little understanding” they had was eclipsed by their acceptance of the agenda of Israel. President Arafat has nothing to negotiate. He has given absolutely everything away already. The only way in which Arafat will be able to give to the Israelis what they want the most - their security - is if he is able to bring home what he needs, and that is the Palestinian section of Jerusalem, as well as the autonomy for a Palestinian State. If Arafat were able to get that promise and if it became reality, there would be no more Intifada. There would be no more demonstrations, and there would be no more terrorism. Instead there would be justice and peace for all the peoples living in the Land of the Holy One. But until Arafat is able to deliver that, there will not be peace. The boys and girls on the street will not allow it. The vast majority of Palestinians have lived their entire life under Israeli Occupation. It has been a harsh and cruel Occupation, and like the people of the Ivory Coast, the people of Serbia, like the Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, people are no longer willing to live under Occupation.
During this Advent we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. I pray for the peace in Jerusalem, peace for the Israelis, peace for the Palestinians, peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims. But that will only come when each person has self-determination and the right to live in freedom. Arafat has nothing left to give except the security for which Israel yearns so much. The price for that is not great. The question is whether or not Israel is willing to make the sacrifice for that security.
Another sacrifice was once made in Jerusalem. The Lamb of God for the world was slain so that life could be full for all. May we all look to Jerusalem like Jesus and weep, but then pray and work for its future.