Christians and the Jerusalem Giveaway
When, during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli Colonel Mordechai “Motta” Gur uttered the electrifying words, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” Jewish people danced in the streets; and Bible-believing Christians shared their unbridled joy.
After 2,000 years of exile and two decades of having the doors to the Old City slammed in their faces, the Jewish people were home—in Jerusalem. And when we heard Israel’s then-Minister of Defense, General Moshe Dayan, speak at the wall that day, we believed he spoke for us all.
“We have returned,” Dayan said, “to our most holy place, never again to leave it.” He added, “We earnestly extend our hands to our Arab brethren in peace, but we have returned to Jerusalem, never to part from her again.”
Those were the best of days. Three decades later, the heroism and sacrifice of those young Israeli paratroopers and the aura of optimism they brought have faded with the inscriptions on their headstones. Dayan’s words, “never to part from her again,” are barely remembered, much less echoed, in Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., or the halls of the United Nations.
In the American-forged bridging proposals accepted by the cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Old City is to be dismantled. A bizarre arrangement cedes sovereignty over the surface of the Temple Mount to the Muslims. Thus it henceforth would be called Haram al-Sharif. Only what lies beneath the flagstone pavement would belong to Israel. Jewish archaeologists forever would be denied access to the remains of their first and second Temples.
However, compounding this blatant trampling of Jewish rights is the proposal to cede control of all holy sites—Muslim, Jewish, and Christian—to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
The first question is obvious: Who gave politicians the right to make this decision? Only people with exceedingly short memories could forget how poorly the Jews and their synagogues fared in the Old City during the nineteen years of militarily imposed Islamic “sovereignty” following the 1948 War of Independence.
And who, pray tell, decided that Christians are itching to live and worship under the sovereign dictates of the Muslim Mufti of Jerusalem? Arab Christians have fled Bethlehem since Arafat took over. Shortly before Christmas, members of a Christian video crew filming inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem were arrested by Palestinian police who accused them of being Zionists, burned their film, and incarcerated them for hours before allowing them to leave.
In Lebanon, many of our Christian brethren are languishing in Lebanese prisons, some for up to twenty years. In the Old City of Jerusalem, many Arab Christians are already leaving areas tagged for Muslim takeover. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert’s advisor on Christian affairs noted, “The Christian population [in the Middle East] is continually shrinking. They are voting with their feet because they are living under the constant threat of our Moslem neighbors.”
Unfortunately, most Christians have no idea what is at stake for them and their future visits to the Holy Land. In the American plan for the Old City, “what is Arab should go to the Arabs, and what is Jewish, to the Jews.” No distinction is made regarding Arab-Christian and Muslim-Arab communities. All Christian holy places within Arab sectors would fall to the Muslim dominated Palestinian Authority. Such places as the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb may well become Palestinian. Olmert fears that even the Mount of Olives may pass to Arafat. And if it doesn’t, a corridor through Arab territory still would be needed to provide access for Jews and Christians.
One of the many aspects of Israeli control that Christians have appreciated but taken for granted is their free access to all Christian holy sites. That the same will be true under Islamic sovereignty is not a prospect we can count on.
Furthermore, beyond the threshold of Israeli concessions looms the creation of the State of Palestine. Whatever is taken from Israel today will reemerge as part of the sovereign State of Palestine tomorrow, never to be retrieved. When Christians or Jews want to visit their holy places in Palestine, they will have to enter another country. And not one shred of assurance exists that Islamic Palestine will keep its promises. Visitors may well find “closed” signs posted at the borders.
Giveaway enthusiasts claim that a Palestinian state will need the tourist business. They forget, however, that providing bread for Palestinian families has never been a priority of Palestinian leadership. During the most recent intifada, a reporter asked Yasser Arafat if he was not concerned about the deprivation suffered by his people due to the uprising and consequent lack of work. His reply was that his people are more concerned about their cause than their bread.
All of which brings us to the underlying issue negotiators consistently neglect. In the eyes of radical Islamic elements, this is a jihad—a holy war. For them, treaties are conveniences designed to be broken in the name of Allah, and all concessions made by Israel and her Western allies are but steps on the road to what they call a “unified Palestine.” They are fighting for total victory and will not stop until the remnants of a demolished State of Israel drift helplessly in the Mediterranean Sea.
If any outrage or “righteous indignation” still smolders within those of us who are truly Christians, now is the time to fan it into flames. Our brethren in distress need us. And if we are serious about the biblical mandate to comfort the Chosen People and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we must speak now or live to regret it.