Jerusalem: unified city, divided views
Forty years after the city was unified, it remains split into Arab and Jewish enclaves.
Judith Katz and Mahmoud Moussa Atoon live down the street from each other. Both teach, both have an affinity for history, and both have an almost romantic love of the land on which they live. Were they residents of almost any other city, they might cross paths buying groceries, dropping kids off at school, or taking a walk.Skip to next paragraph
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But the two are unlikely ever to have a word with each other, nor do they really want to.
On Tuesday, Israel will kick off celebra-tions marking the 40th anniversary of what it calls the reunification of Jerusalem; Mrs. Katz will be among the merrymakers. But Mr. Atoon will be among the mourners: Arab East Jerusalemites, who now make up just over a third of the city's population, say it is a solemn moment to take stock of lives under occupation.
The tale is one for which there is no entirely fair telling. But it encapsulates central tensions: Israelis fear a growing Arab population that could take away their demographic edge – and wear away the right to call its capital city a seat of democracy. Moreover, Palestinian and Israeli proponents of a two-state solution, long presumed to mean some kind of plan to award both peoples a capital seat in Jerusalem, worry that facts on the ground will preclude an equitable peace.
Wrapped in the Jerusalem 'envelope'
Atoon lives in Sur Baher, down the slight slope from Ramat Rachel, where Katz lives. The former was once a Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and the latter, an agricultural kibbutz that sat in view of the holy city. In the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967, whose actual anniversary is during the first week of June, both areas became part of Greater Jerusalem, eventually wrapped into the municipal lines Israeli officials designated as the "Jerusalem envelope."
But their views of Jerusalem, so enchanting from the vantage between the two communities that tour buses like to pull in for a photo opportunity, are a window into how such radically different narratives can coexist on the same hilltop.
In many corners of the city, it's possible to find people working or studying side by side, by choice or necessity. And amid official celebrations and commemorations, many Israeli and Palestinians are holding "alternative" events to get the public to reconsider the other side of the story.
Still, to most Israelis, this is a moment of pride, for putting East and West Jerusalem under one banner, for growing a backwater into a thriving city.
To most Palestinians, this is a moment for reflection on all they have lost and continue to lose as new Jewish neighborhoods are built and nourished while Arab ones go underfunded and undeveloped by a municipality whose chief concern, in the words of its mayor earlier this week, is that a Jewish majority prevail. The Arab population will make up 40 percent of city residents by 2020, according to projections released last week by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.
"Jerusalem could, God forbid, end up not under Jewish sovereignty, but that of Hamas," Mayor Uri Lupoliansky said Sunday at a special cabinet meeting marking the 40th anniversary. There, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – a former mayor of Jerusalem – unveiled a plan to pour 5.75 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) into countering demographic trends that has Israel worried. Hamas, Mr. Lupolianski said, "knows it can capture Jerusalem through demography within 12 years."