Divided Jerusalem

By Lloyd Geering | 1/29/18

Donald Trump’s projected proposal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been resoundingly rejected by the United Nations General Assembly in spite of Trump’s bullying tactics to cut off American aid to those countries which did not follow his lead.

Trump may have been prompted to make his move by his Jewish son-in-law and/or to curry favour with the powerful Jewish lobby in American politics for it certainly brought forth enthusiastic support from Netanyahu. But it showed little understanding on Trump’s part of the complexities of what he proposed.

The city of Jerusalem is quite unique in world history and has had a long and complex history as a result of which it is now a holy city for three world-wide religious communities –Jewish, Christian and Islamic. For this reason the United Nations declared some time ago that Jerusalem should be an open city, to which all three should have easy access and this would be compromised if it were an exclusively Jewish city as capital of Israel.

In some respects Jerusalem is divided into two cities – the Jewish West city and the Arab East city, containing the walled ‘old city’, which is of such great interest tourists of all kinds and especially Christian pilgrims. These two cities still show the marks of the armistice line which sharply divided them during the period from 1948 until 1967.  This was established by the United Nations after the initial hostilities, following the creation of Israel in 1948.

I came to have personal experience of how it felt in either side of this line. When going on study leave to UK in 1964, I found myself sitting beside an Israeli Jew. He persuaded me in mid-flight to break my journey at Tel Aviv and spend ten days visiting Israel. I toured Israel from top to bottom, spending three days in Jerusalem, where I walked right up to the wall of the ‘old city’, which clearly marked the armistice line and was less than fifty metres from the Arab soldier on the wall.

When I returned home in 1965 I broke my journey to disembark at Beirut and fly down to Amman in Jordan (which then occupied the West Bank), allowing me to have ten days with my wife and two daughters living in and exploring Arab Jerusalem, including the ‘old city’. We were in St George’s hostel, very close to the armistice line, but on the Arab side.

This armistice line seemed to work very well and from what I observed life was very peaceful on each side. This peace was broken by the six-day war in 1967 between Israel and the neighbouring Arab nations. A swift Israeli victory left Israel in possession, not only of Arab Jerusalem but also of the West Bank as far as the Jordan river.

Subsequently, Israel unilaterally declared the Jewish Jerusalem and Arab Jerusalem East to be united as one city, a move harshly criticised by the United Nations, which further ordered Israel        to return to the 1948 armistice line. Israel has continued to this day to ignore this direction. Thus Israeli and Arab live in uneasy tension in Jerusalem to this day. Further, the Arabs occupying East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and now referred to as the Palestinians, still hope someday to have their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Trump’s plan would ride roughshod over all these sensitivities and be no solution at all to what remains a tense and delicately poised situation. Indeed, sadly, it is more likely to spark off further violent activity.

2 replies
  1. Gene Stecher says:

    Many thanks to Dr. Geering for these insights and experiences regarding the national and international circumstances of East and West Jerusalem. Some years back I poetically re-presented “The Samaritan,” addressing similar issues (4thR, July-Aug 2008, 21:4, p. 21): The Palestinian Sign.
    A Jewish peasant leaves Jerusalem for Jericho, robbers stripping, a beating half-way to death.
    One appears with the goodness of pity, pouring oil and wine, the bandaging of wounds.
    Travel to an inn for further medical aid, a well-paid innkeeper to attend to the care.
    Immobilized by his injuries, and seeing two figures dimly through his bloodied face, Jesus faintly could hear the innkeeper say, “I’ll bet that you’re a Palestinian, aren’t you!”
    A giving of assurances to return and pay, a cursing of purity rituals under his breath.
    Some years later, voices in the crowds, loud, demanding, accusing, “Give us a sign!”
    They heard, “Why do you seek some sign? You’re kind will get a sign when Hell freezes.”
    One exception: the sign of the Palestinian. Yes, there will be another stripping and beating,
    all the way to death, and no one with the goodness of pity around.

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Lloyd Geering was made Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, topping New Zealand's new year's honors list for 2001. This is the first time the strictly New Zealand honors have been given. Previously New Zealand granted Imperial Honors, under which Lloyd Geering would have been made a knight commander.

Previously honored in 1988 as a Companion of the British Empire, Lloyd Geering is a public figure of considerable renown in New Zealand, where he is in constant demand as a lecturer and as a commentator on religion and related matters on both television and radio. In 1966, he published an article on "The Resurrection of Jesus" and, in 1967, another on "The Immortality of the Soul," which together sparked a two-year public, theological controversy that culminated in charges by the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand—of which he is an ordained minister—of doctrinal error and disturbing the peace of the church. After a dramatic, two-day televised trial, the Assembly judged that no doctrinal error had been proved, dismissed the charges and declared the case closed.

Live footage from the heresy trial can be viewed in the 2007 Top Shelf documentary The Last Western Heretic, available in North American format from Westar Institute.

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2 replies
  1. Gene Stecher says:

    Many thanks to Dr. Geering for these insights and experiences regarding the national and international circumstances of East and West Jerusalem. Some years back I poetically re-presented “The Samaritan,” addressing similar issues (4thR, July-Aug 2008, 21:4, p. 21): The Palestinian Sign.
    A Jewish peasant leaves Jerusalem for Jericho, robbers stripping, a beating half-way to death.
    One appears with the goodness of pity, pouring oil and wine, the bandaging of wounds.
    Travel to an inn for further medical aid, a well-paid innkeeper to attend to the care.
    Immobilized by his injuries, and seeing two figures dimly through his bloodied face, Jesus faintly could hear the innkeeper say, “I’ll bet that you’re a Palestinian, aren’t you!”
    A giving of assurances to return and pay, a cursing of purity rituals under his breath.
    Some years later, voices in the crowds, loud, demanding, accusing, “Give us a sign!”
    They heard, “Why do you seek some sign? You’re kind will get a sign when Hell freezes.”
    One exception: the sign of the Palestinian. Yes, there will be another stripping and beating,
    all the way to death, and no one with the goodness of pity around.

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  1. URL says:

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