ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

Ring Around a Rosy

The tenuous situation in Jerusalem echoes a morbid children’s rhyme.

I was born in New York City, but my family moved to the city of Yonkers when I was a boy. The two cities are adjacent. One blends into the other and only a marker on a lamppost calls attention to the boundary.

Would that Jerusalem were like that!

When Israel took possession of the old city of Jerusalem in 1967 – after 19 years during which no Jew was allowed even to enter the city – it fulfilled the deepest religious longings of the Jewish people.

No Israeli can conceive of relinquishing possession of the city of Jerusalem ever again. In fact, they have declared it their indivisible capital for ever. It is their heart – they cannot live without it.

I notice two things happening to Jerusalem. First, its boundaries keep growing at the expense of Arab lands. After 1967 the municipality was much extended, and continually small tracts of land here and there are taken by the city.

Second, Jerusalem is becoming increasingly severed from the land to its north, east and south – that is, from the Israeli-occupied Arab Palestinian areas, the West Bank.

The roads leading in and out of Jerusalem to the Occupied Territories for years had small military checkpoints – usually just a few armed soldiers to examine documents.

Now they’ve grown quite substantial. They increasingly resemble border control stations and the military presence is enormously increased.

You see, for almost two years, Jerusalem has been closed to the West Bank. Anyone living in the Occupied Territories may not enter the city without a permit from the military authorities. The permits are hard to come by, are issued after long waits and are usually for a relatively brief period of time.

Why? Why this ring around Jerusalem?

Israel is firmly committed to freedom of access to the Holy Places for all – but because of its overriding concern for security, Christians and Muslim Palestinians in the Occupied Territories can hardly pray at the shrines of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem not only contains their major shrines, but also their main hospital and other institutions. All roads lead to Jerusalem; travel from North to South is extremely difficult without access to Jerusalem.

The closure of the city to the West Bank threatens religious practices, health care, education and many people’s livelihoods.

For Christian and Muslim Palestinians Jerusalem is their heart – they cannot live without it.

Israel and Palestine are like Siamese twins. They are joined at the heart and they are inseparable. Cut them apart, one must die.

Both peoples must have security. Both peoples must have life.

The plight of Jerusalem reminds me of the children’s rhyme:

Ring around a rosy!
A pocket full of posy!
Ashes! Ashes!
All fall down!

Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA

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