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Jerusalem: The Candle of Humanity

Rami Assali *

Jerusalem - Early every Friday morning I visit the Old City with my best friend Hanna. We enter through the Damascus Gate, where old ladies from the surrounding villages sell their freshly picked vegetables in small baskets that they carry on their heads all the way from home. Then we continue our tour of the Old City with a stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - a wonderful place with oil paintings on the walls. The architecture of the church always amazes me.

Hanna, who is Christian, lights candles for his family, so I decided to do the same. I gave the priest some money, and he gave me three candles. I lit the first one for my wife, the second for my daughters, but I had no clue for whom I should light the third. I thought maybe I would light it for my parents, but, no - I always pray for them in the mosque. Maybe I should light it for my friends, my family, world peace, health, wealth…

Finally, I decided to light it for humanity; this way I would include everyone. Since then, I started calling it the “candle of humanity.” It made me feel good about myself, and, maybe, I think, I will earn some points with God, because he is the same God from my mosque.

After lighting the candles, we walk through Souk Al Attarin all the way to the Jewish Quarter. There we see religious Jews wearing their black suits and coats, holding their Torahs, and hurrying on their way to the Western Wall. I remember when I used to visit my aunt in the Old City. She had a window overlooking the Western Wall. I used to spend hours by that window watching the Jews praying. They looked humble and modest when they prayed, and they were the same people in army uniforms that scared me so much. I was ten years old then and very naïve; I was amazed to learn that Jewish men and women pray separately at the Western Wall, just as Muslims do on the other side of the wall. I used to imagine myself flying above the Western Wall and watching people on both sides of it praying. People on both sides of the wall pray to the same God, and the conflict between them is in the name of God. As a ten-year-old boy, I didn’t understand the problem between the Muslims and Jews - was it really that each side believes that it is right and the other is wrong?

Finally, we turn back and start walking towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where we see Muslims starting to assemble for Friday prayer. On Fridays, the most important day of prayer, Muslims pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque because of its significance in Islam. Muslims come from all over the country to pray, but because of the check points and barriers, there are now less people who manage to enter Jerusalem than did before.

The three most holy places on Earth are a few meters away from each other, yet people still pray to God for peace and an end to the violent conflict. How absurd things are - people pray to God millions of light years away, even though the solution is in front of them. It’s too simple; if they would just lower their eyes and look forward, they would see better. By walking a few meters, they would meet their worst nightmare – and would be able to overcome it. They need to open their hearts and listen to the other side.

What makes a garden beautiful is the arrangement of various kinds of flowers in a way that harmonizes the colours combined together. What’s a garden with only roses, or daisies, or lilies, or trees? It’s a garden with no harmony, no life, no spirit. Even if the roses are very beautiful, they won’t make a beautiful garden. What makes my Jerusalem unique and special is its diversity, not its holiness. Why did God make Jerusalem holy for all religions in the first place? Because it is a message that Jerusalem is nobody’s and everybody’s city.

I think I have the right to call it my Jerusalem because it includes my Jews, my Christians and my Muslims. If the city loses any of its elements, then it’s not my Jerusalem anymore.

* Rami Assali, a Palestinian Jerusalemite, works for Search for Common Ground in the Middle East and the Academy for Educational Development.
Source: CGNews, June 10, 2005.
Visit CGNews Online: www.commongroundnews.org

Eine häufig gestellte Frage, beantwortet von Ariel Scharon:
Warum heißt haGalil - haGalil?
Der Galil, also Galiläa, ist der nördlichste Teil des Landes Israel und somit der Europa am nächsten liegende...

Meeting People’s Expectations
by George S. Hishmeh
Washington-based columnist George Hishmeh comments on President Abbas’ successful trip to Washington, during which President Bush, somewhat surprisingly, met many Palestinians’ high expectations. However, Hishmeh warns that “the key point that has yet to be spelled out by the administration is setting a timetable for all these expectations.” (Source: AMIN.org, June 2, 2005)

When Left and Right Are Right
by David Kimche
David Kimche, former Foreign Ministry director-general, writes, “We are all - Left and Right - entrenched in our views, convinced we know best what is good for Israel. But what if diehard right-wingers and diehard leftists started listening to each other's arguments? What if sane rightists - not the messianics - and sane leftists - not the Israel-bashers - opened themselves up to the other point of view?” (Source: The Jerusalem Post, June 2, 2005)

Advertising for a Lasting Peace
by Maurice Levy
Maurice Levy, of the advertising and communications company, Publicis Groupe, reveals how months of secret sessions has lead to a joint Israeli and Palestinian advertising campaign promoting peace. “We aren't deluding ourselves. Advertising will never be a substitute for the hard work needed to craft a peace agreement. That has to do with fundamental issues like land, justice, liberty and security. Yet we must remember that without an underlying popular will and desire to move forward, any Israeli-Palestinian agreement will be much more difficult to reach - and will be much less solid.” (Source: International Herald Tribune, June 9, 2005)

Shooting for Equality – On the Soccer Field and Off
by Daniel Ben-Tal
Writer Daniel Ben-Tal chronicles the rising success of soccer team Ichud Abu Ghosh-Mevasseret. Although Arab players on Israeli teams is nothing new, “Ichud (United) Abu Ghosh-Mevasseret has taken coexistence one step further by forming Israel's first combined Jewish-Arab club that is explicitly more than just about soccer.” (Source: This is an abbreviated version of an article that appeared in ISRAEL21c, May 15, 2005)

Common Ground News Service promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

hagalil.com 22-08-2004



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