CELEBRATING THE UNIFIED JERUSALEM
by C. Hart, CBN Middle East Correspondent, May 30, 2003
Today, Jews still have the freedom to pray at the Western Wall, but  for the last 32 months, Jews and Christians have not been
able to pray at the Temple Mount.


CBN.com -- JERUSALEM -- The Israeli government is moving ahead with the implementation of the U.S.-backed road map,
which focuses on the establishment of a Palestinian state in three years and leaves the issue of Jerusalem to final status talks.

Meanwhile, Israeli Jews are celebrating Jerusalem Day, marking the recapturing of East Jerusalem and the Western Wall during
the 1967 Six-Day War.

The reunification of the old city, captured from Jordanian forces in 1967, was as much a surprise to Israel as to the rest of the world.  Israeli soldiers fought their way to the old city gates, then broke through Jordanian defenses until they reached the
Jews' holiest site:  the Western Wall of Solomon's Temple.

Natan Ziv was an Israeli officer in a paratrooper unit at the time.  He was wounded in the leg, but managed to lead his men
through the city to the Western Wall.

He told CBN News, "I ran with my force.  We were about 20 soldiers.  I was with some of the first guys that defended and protected Rabbi Goren.  When we first approached and the Rabbi saw the Wailing Wall, he ran toward it, and his eyes were illuminated.  He was very emotional. He fell on the ground and kissed the ground.  Then, he leaned on the Wall and was
sobbing."

Ziv, now a border police commander, oversees a unit of more than 100 men who guard the Judean hills, west of Jerusalem,
from terrorist attacks.  He said that the soldiers who recaptured the city found the wall without a detailed map.

"We dreamed to see the Wailing Wall.  We all anticipated that day and that moment for many years.  Even though we did not know where the Wall was, exactly, we went there as if an invisible force guided us toward it,"  Ziv said.

Ziv also said that Israeli soldiers spent two hours there rejoicing in the victory, and that some prayed and thanked G-d.

"When I saw the Wall for the first time, I realized it gave me the strength and the will to stay and live permanently in the land
of Israel," he said.

Today, Jews still have the freedom to pray at the Western Wall, but for the last 32 months, Jews and Christians have not been able to pray at the Temple Mount.

Israel has legal authority over the area, yet the government is reluctant to take control.  The Palestinians have threatened to
cause another violent uprising, similar to the one that broke out when Ariel Sharon visited the site in September 2000.  Since
then, throughout Israel, 800 people have lost their lives to Palestinian and Islamic terrorist attacks.

In 1967, then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan gave control of the Temple Mount area over to the Moslem authorities.  He felt Jews needed to demonstrate tolerance in sharing holy sites with Moslems and Christians.  But today, some believe it is the Moslems who are showing intolerance.

At the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Gerald Steinberg said it is inevitable that Israel will take back some of the lost
ground now held under the Islamic authorities.  He believes Jews and Christians will soon be allowed to pray on the Mount
once again.

"Now, we have to begin to restore our rights, the Jewish rights, the rights of all people to go to the Temple Mount area.  It's
not a Moslem place, exclusively,"  Steinberg said.  "The Israeli government under Sharon has been cautious.  Some people think he's been too cautious.  I think we're beginning to see now, slowly, the Jewish people, the state of Israel, taking back the right to be part of Jerusalem's religious mosaic, including access to the Temple Mount."

In the meantime, Jerusalem continues to suffer from more terrorist attacks than any other city in Israel.  Still, the Israeli government has bowed to U.S. pressure, and will follow the so-called "road map" peace plan, which could lead to shared
control of Jerusalem.

Former Israeli internal Security Minister, Uzi Landau, is a Knesset member and advisor to Sharon.  He voted against the plan.  "This road map is simply trying to undermine Israel's, I would say, status of position in Jerusalem, favoring the Palestinians,
and it is simply also contributing to terrorism,"  Landau said.

Ten years ago, when the world intervened with another Middle East peace plan, the Oslo Accoards, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat claimed that Jews have no right or historic connection to Jerusalem.  New Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, also called Mahmoud Abbas, has not publicly stated his views on the issue of Jerusalem.  And in the current road map, there is no formula for solving the status of the holy city.

But the Palestinians are determined to see Israel carry out the plan with no change to its contents.  A Palestinian Authorty spokesman said, "The accepting of the road map only is not enough.  There must be guarantees of the implementation of the
road map."

After days of celebrations, the atmosphere in Jerusalem is tinged with uncertainty about the future, and Israelis may soon have
to decide whether this most treasured Jewish city will be put on the international bargaining table to be shared with a Palestinian state.

"If we ever reach on agreement with the Palestinians, and when I say 'ever' I mean in the next three years or five years, if the
road map goes anywhere, Jerusalem will be the most difficult issue to deal with," Steinberg said.  "We're here because of
Jerusalem, because of this land, that's why there are now almost six million Jews that live in this land. 
The Palestinian-Arab objection to Israel is not occupation and settlements, it is the existence of a Jewish state that they cannot accept."

Despite mounting international pressure on Israel to divide the land, government ministers here are optimistic that Jerusalem will remain the undivided eternal captital of Israel.

Landau said, "Next year in Jerusalem, it will be greater, safer; a sun that will be shining, air that will be clean, and people with much more hope."
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