Will Jerusalem Be Divided Again?

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Jerusalem. Its name means "City of Peace," yet it's been destroyed, rebuilt, conquered, and re-conquered more times than any other city in history.

"The city has a role to play," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told CBN News. "It's the center of the world."

For 19 years, Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan with the Old City on the Jordan side. In 1967, the Six-Day War led to the reuniting of the city under Israeli sovereignty.

Now, part of the U.S.-backed peace process seeks to split the city once again. Dividing Jerusalem is the most contentious issue in Middle East peace talks.

Israel maintains Jerusalem is its eternal, undivided capital. Palestinians want the eastern part for the capital of a future state.

CBN's Scott Ross recently asked Mayor Barkat and others about dividing the city. Barkat said dividing the city is impossible.

Following is their discussion.

Barkat: It cannot be divided, it will never function as a divided city. It has to be one physical city enabling all to worship their faith, their way, to respect each other. There's room for all.

Ross: Can you convince the Palestinians of that?

Barkat: The Palestinian residents that live in Jerusalem understand that, and you know I'm also a high tech entrepreneur, a venture capitalist. It will never work. There's not one good example of a city that was split that ever functioned. And, unfortunately, Jerusalem did not function for 2,000 years when it moved from conqueror to conqueror until it was reunited.

Jerusalem is mentioned by name more than 800 times in the Bible -- even more if you count synonyms like the "City of David" and "Zion." Six hundred sixty of those references are in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament.

Ross also asked author and businessman Moshe Kempinsky about the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Kempinsky: I remember this to this very day, [I] sat in the park, my kids were playing in the park, and I realized when Zechariah said there would yet be a time when old men and old women would rest on their canes and children would play in the streets of Jerusalem, maybe my kids were what he saw.

Ross: What does Jerusalem mean to the Jewish people? I mean, like, it's an inane question, but you know, why Jerusalem?

Kempinsky: Well, it's inane because it could be inane, because why Jerusalem? Why not a city next to road resources, on the shores, which is where most people put their capital cities -- but God chose it.

Ross: The city being divided at one point, reunited again in '67, will it be divided again?

Kempinsky: I don't think it can be. Psalm 122 says, 'Jerusalem is built as a city that compacted together.' But in Hebrew it doesn't say compacted. In Hebrew it actually says shackru bara meutad, that is 'reunited together.' God is saying this is a city that will be torn asunder, but then I'm going to bring it back together.

Ross spoke with Israelis in Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city. They told him they're willing to share the city but not divide it.

"In my heart, it's something I cannot agree with -- that my town gonna be separated again," Jerusalemite Oren Naim said.

"We believe Jerusalem is supposed to be Jewish forever, but I do believe that there's supposed to be a solution that's going to be good for the both of the people," Yigal said.

"Both side[s] will never agree with it. Palestinian[s] want Jerusalem as the capital and we will never do this," said Jonathan Nissim Malcha, who immigrated from France.

Kempinsky says God has a plan for the city whether the world believes in it or not.

Ross: What do other nations say when you or other groups say when you speak the way you're speaking now, with your argument, your point of view ... how does a Palestinian respond to that?

Kempinsky: I think the secret to understanding this country is that facts are completely irrelevant.

Ross: Facts are irrelevant?

Kempinsky: Facts are completely irrelevant. Reality is not what counts here. Perception of reality is what counts. And I believe that to understand what goes on here, especially with the Palestinians, is you need to understand what they perceive. They really believe what they believe because they've been told that's what they need to believe. So dialogue with the Palestinian[s] today has become almost impossible because Islam has moved into an area that has become impossible.

Jerusalem is never mentioned by name in the Koran [Islam's holy book], but Muslims interpret a reference to the furthest mosque as being al Aksa mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. 

At the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Ross asked Muslims and Arab Christians how they viewed their connection to the city.

"What took by force, we'll come back by force," one man said.

"Well there you go," Ross commented.

Ross asked a second man if he thought the city should be divided.

"I believe that they have the two sides sit together and speak together, leave the Arab countries aside and they can come to peace. Jerusalem is not a big problem," the second man said.

"It is not a big problem?" Ross asked.

"No. They make it a big problem. It's not a big problem. It's for all the religions," he said.

"This is all Arab town [city]. This is [an] Arab town. Can't be divided," a third man said angrily.

And then, two of them began to argue with each other right in front of Ross and the cameras.

"I didn't say to give. Never, ever I say to give [up the city]," the second man said.

"You can't divide the Old City. Jerusalem, I said, is only for Palestinians. Not Israelis. Israel [is] outside the occupied territories -- where is Zion gate," the third man argued.

"You have the Wailing [Western] Wall. What you are going to do with the Wailing Wall?" the second man asked.

"The Wailing Wall, they could have the Wailing Wall and the Armenian quarter," the third man shouted.

Ross noted that this was a perfect example of the explosive nature of the issue. 

As one of the most contested places on earth, the Bible says Jerusalem will be a stumbling block to the entire world. 

Ross: We pray for the peace of Jerusalem. What are we praying for?

Kempinsky: The word for…for peace is…

Ross: Shalom?

Kempinsky: Shalom, it comes out of the word shalem. Complete. We're praying for that completion -- when the heavenly and the earthly will be clearly seen as being united. It's not a future event. It's a future revelation.

Ross: Do you think it's going to happen in your lifetime?

Kempinsky: I believe it's imminent.

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CBN News
Scott Ross and Julie Stahl

Scott Ross and Julie Stahl

CBN News Middle East Bureau

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