It is 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 in what became known as the Six Day War.
East Jerusalem, then illegally annexed by Jordan was off limits to Israelis and the Jewish Quarter was desecrated by the Arab forces after the British left in 1947, with Hebrew graves used as paving stones and as latrines and Synagogues razed.
Under the British from 1922-1947, they accorded respect to the Holy City, for example General Allenby dismounting from his horse as he came through Jaffa Gate on foot into the Old City when he took the city in 1917, such was his reverence for the city, 100 years ago this year - a double ‘Jubilee’ (a ‘Jubilee’ being a period of 50 years in the Bible), however they did renege on many of the promises they made to the Jews concerning a national homeland.
Last week was a special Jubilee for the City of Peace, “Ir-salem” which for 50 years now is no longer divided, but as any visitor will witness there are four quarters in the city for Jews, Christians, Muslims and Armenians (who were also a people of refuge fleeing the Holocaust under the Turks).
The Turkish rule over Jerusalem lasted 400 years from 1417-1917 and although Islamic was not Arab.
Under the Ottomans no new Christian churches could be built in what was then termed Palestine.
The Church of England had to use the guise of requiring a private chapel for the British Consul, then an Irishman called Finn, in order to get permission to build a new church.
It still stands today just inside Jaffa Gate - Christ Church, the oldest Protestant Church in the Middle East, consecrated in 1849, and its first Bishop a Jew and former Rabbi named Solomon Alexander.
King David, Israel’s greatest king, exhorted in the Book of Psalms, or Book of Praises, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
The Hebrew word for ‘peace’ is ‘shalom,’ meaning also wholeness and completeness. In Arabic, also a Semitic language, it is ‘salaam,’ the two peoples stemming from one father, Abraham. Hebraic peace means wholeness - not the world’s idea of peace by re-dividing it again - ‘piece by piece.’
Keeping the city whole with its unique differences is the best track record of peace we have to date.
The territory of Judea where the city is situated is taken from the same word as ‘Jew’ meaning ‘praise in Hebrew.
We should be praising Israel today for the good job they have done in keeping the Holy City in relative peace for five decades. “Shalom!”,
Colin Nevin. Bangor (Chef, King Solomon Restaurant, Hilton Tel-Aviv, Israel 1991-2002)