Last year, Pope John Paul II sat through an interfaith meeting in Jerusalem in which a Jewish leader and a Muslim leader both voiced their divergent assumptions that Jerusalem was already the capital of the Jewish and Palestinian states, respectively. It is no wonder that reaching agreement on the contentious issue of Jerusalem has been an uphill struggle.
Although the predominantly Jewish population of Israel presently governs the city, Palestinians - many Islamic, some Christian - dispute the justice of this. Geopolitical factors, sovereignty issues, security-loss fears, and political grandstanding all fuel this territorial dispute.
Never far from thought, though, is the knowledge that Jerusalem is central to the denominational identity of three major world faiths. Jews, Muslims, and Christians all view Jerusalem as a holy city. In Judaism, King David's revered reign over Judah and Israel was centered there. To Islamic worshipers, Jerusalem is where Muhammad ascended by a ladder of light into heaven. And Jesus Christ preached in the city.
Yet, it was also in Jerusalem that David murdered Uriah the Hittite, whose wife he had seduced and impregnated. It was in Jerusalem that Christ was crucified. It was in Jerusalem that Muslims were cruelly slain by Christian crusaders.
Clearly, Jerusalem has historically been a mixture of the great and the gory. Jesus intimated as much when he lamented, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37).
And so, it seems, the story remains the same. But perhaps that yearning to gather up Jerusalem's children can be realized. For beyond the historical record of the city is the record of what it symbolizes spiritually. This is a chronicle of what shone in the minds of prophets and of people such as Jesus' follower St. John the Revelator, who talked about being "carried away in the spirit" and seeing "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (Rev. 21:10).
That is not referring to a physical city built by human hands, but to a city that is perceived in the mind - a city created by the one Mind of the universe. This city could be thought of as "divine Science; the spiritual facts and harmony of the universe; the kingdom of heaven, or reign of harmony" (see "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 592).
Thoughts and ideas are something that people everywhere have equal claim to, the same access to. It's what this Jerusalem can represent to us - the reign of harmony - that peace talks seek to attain. There, the legitimate claim of one nation doesn't disenfranchise another. Quite the contrary. The more anyone lays claim to a place in - and a consciousness of - the "New" Jerusalem, the more everyone benefits. Understanding is power. To the degree that anyone comprehends that God has made His/Her creation good, he or she proves what's true for everyone.
If we were fighting to find this Jerusalem, the warfare would not be military or political. It would be thoughtful, prayerful - a confrontation in our own hearts and lives. A battle with whatever was preventing the recognition of God as the sole creator, and of existence as representing His/Her very good creation. Because the divine Spirit has made us, we are spiritual, and what is spiritual is not in a state of conflict but rather in a state of unity.
Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike can lay simultaneous claim to a Jerusalem that's infinitely more holy and satisfying than any city on earth, no matter how historically and denominationally important. This approach will help bring reasonable political solutions to light that are acceptable to all.
Pray for the peace
they shall prosper
that love thee.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society