I was the first to publish and lobby the vision of Jerusalem serving as two capitals for two peoples with each people governing and policing themselves where they dwell and without a physical barrier between them. Now I’m urgently trying to warn Israel and the world that this vision would be very dangerous for Israel to implement unless there’s an end to “honor” killings and jihad killings in Arab Muslim culture. Peace begins at home. And jihad needs to become the non-violent effort that we make to become kinder and more generous instead of ever being about violence. And there also needs to be an end to incitement against Israel and against Yehudim (Jews) before the two open capitals vision of Jerusalem could ever be safely put into effect.
The vision of Jerusalem came to me very strongly many years ago. I imagined a tower in Jerusalem with a beam of light circling around at the top of the tower and going out to the united city, and with peace between Yehudim and Arabs, and with part of the city serving as Israel’s capital and part of the city serving as Palestine’s capital and with no barrier between the two capitals.
I published the vision of Jerusalem as two open capitals without a barrier between them as part of my Letter to Yasser Arafat in Al Bayader Assiyasi (Jerusalem, 24/3/1984), and it was published later as part of my Declaration of Peace, the forerunner to my Covenant of Peace, in Al-Fajr (Jerusalem, 18/4/1984). In each publication the vision concerning Jerusalem was part of an essay that was an extensive vision of world peace that involved respect, non-violence, power-sharing, decision making by a consensus process, self-rule for all peoples who want it, an end to the weapons race, global disarmament, etc. Back then, the thought of two capitals in Jerusalem without a barrier between them was a very radical and unheard of idea, for that was the time of the “Iron Curtain” and the Berlin Wall. Hanna Siniora, the former editor of Al-Fajr told me a few years ago that he never heard of this Jerusalem vision until I shared it with him.
Back then, the Palestinian leadership were not asking for any part of Jerusalem to be their capital, they just didn’t want any part of Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, and instead they wanted Jerusalem to be an “international city” in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 181 passed in 1947. I would tell the Palestinians something like, “It’s our capital, and it can be your capital too, without a barrier between us.” Now I realize how much non-violence and an end to incitement is so necessary for ever being able to achieve this peaceful vision. And now I realize that peace begins at home. The so-called “honor” killing of a female relative for sexual rumors or for sexual facts that is still widely practiced and supported in many Arab Muslim societies must be brought to a stop, and only when the “honor” killings stop will a deep and lasting peace between Arab Muslims and their neighbors become possible.
In late 1983 and in 1984 I made a tremendous effort to lobby the Palestinian Arab leadership in Jerusalem and the West Bank with my ideas and visions concerning Jerusalem, power-sharing, peace, etc. I met with Palestinian leaders Faisal Husseini, Bassam Shaka’a, Anwar Nusseibeh, Karim Khalaf, Elias Freij, Hanna Siniora, Mahmoud Abu Zalaf and others. (I can’t remember now if I ever met Bethlehem mayor Elias Freij in person but I do remember the many long and wonderful phone calls we had). I shared the two open capitals vision of Jerusalem and the Declaration of Peace with the PLO when I visited its Cairo office in 1984 and its London office in 1987. I met with Faisal Husseini, the PLO’s leader in Jerusalem, several times a week for several months at his Arab Studies Center in Jerusalem. Faisal Husseini was so impressed with Declaration of Peace that he printed up 1,000 copies of it for visitors to his office, and he promised to put it in the school curriculum of a future Palestinian state. Karim Khalaf, the mayor of Jericho, was also so impressed with Declaration of Peace that he sent it to Yasser Arafat three times asking him to respond to it. We never received a reply from Arafat. Several evenings in 1984 I went to see Mahmoud Abu Zalaf, the editor of the Jerusalem newspaper Al-Quds, and he would always ask me to share my two open capitals vision of Jerusalem with the other people sitting in his office.
I left Israel around the end of 1984 and did not return until the summer of 1989. A while after returning to Israel I set up a meeting with Faisal Husseini in Jerusalem. At that meeting I asked him for his thoughts on Jerusalem. He said that Jerusalem should become “an international city.” This surprised me because I thought I had made some real headway with him in 1984 all the times I had tried to convince him to accept my Jerusalem vision of two open capitals in those days. I then again described my vision about Jerusalem to him in that 1989 meeting, and he said to me something like, “So what you’re suggesting is two capitals without a barrier between them, hmm, that sounds interesting.” That was probably the last time we ever saw each other. Within a short time I began hearing on Israeli media that the Palestinians were demanding that their capital be in eastern Jerusalem. And after the Palestinian Authority was formed it certainly must have held discussions with Israel about Jerusalem serving as two capitals without a barrier between them – this was on the agenda at Camp David in 2000.
Of course Jerusalem must never become two capitals with a barrier between them. The physical integrity and wholeness and completeness of Jerusalem must be respected.
The Jerusalem vision of two open capitals, no physical barrier between them, each people governing and policing themselves where they dwell, is a vision that I gave the Palestinian leadership which in turn gave it to the Left, and till now I have not been acknowledged as the source of this vision, and it is not known now that this vision was part of an essay on peace containing principles and understandings that are vital for the safety and success of this Jerusalem vision and for peace in general. This essay on peace has been considerably revised over many years and now and for most of its existence it has been called Covenant of Peace and it can be accessed at www.peacecircle.org along with 10 Points for Peace and other peace writings and music. The most important thing is to stop killing, stop blaming, stop hating. The time to implement this Jerusalem vision is when there’s more respect and almost everyone is working for non-violence, and when there is more power sharing and more decision making by a consensus process, and when there is much less hatred and incitement against Yehudim.
Several years ago Rabbi Meir Just, may his memory be for a blessing, who was the chief rabbi of Nederland and who was my rabbi, suggested that I not go much into specifics concerning Jerusalem in my Covenant of Peace, and I decided to no longer make mention in Covenant of Peace of the vision of Jerusalem as two open capitals without a barrier, though I believe it will eventually come to pass. It will come to pass because of the truth that each people will eventually govern and police themselves where they dwell. But before it comes to pass there must first be an end to “honor” killings and jihad killings and incitement. An Israeli Arab policeman once told me that even 1,000 years from now there will be “honor” killings, so we might even have to wait 1,000 years or more for the two open capitals vision of Jerusalem to come to pass. And we must also wait many years to build trust and to heal from all the Yehudim who were murdered by Arab Muslim terrorists while those Yehudim were eating in restaurants in Jerusalem or riding on busses in Jerusalem, etc.
The truth is that the Jewish claim to have Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is so much stronger than the Palestinian Arab claim to have Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Jerusalem was King David’s capital 3,000 years ago. Jerusalem is mentioned many hundreds of times in the Hebrew Bible and is not mentioned once in the Koran. For thousands of years Yehudim throughout the world have faced Jerusalem when they pray, while all Muslims pray facing Mecca. The blood of so many Yehudim has been spilled as they fought at different times in history to defend their right to live and worship in Jerusalem. And so many innocent Yehudim in Jerusalem have been murdered by Arab Muslim terrorists in three Intifadas now and long before that – it almost disqualifies the Palestinian Arabs from ever being given any part of Jerusalem as their capital. Israel needs to exercise great caution and wisdom concerning Jerusalem. When there is a deep and lasting peace that begins at home, then many wonderful things gradually become possible.
As for the separation barrier that has been constructed between Israeli and Palestinian areas, that is not at all about apartheid or racial prejudice and is instead about self-defense from suicide bombers and other violent jihadists. Israel and every country has a right to self-defense. The separation barrier was necessitated by the Second Intifada and it put an end to the Second Intifada. It needs to remain standing until there’s an end to “honor” killings and jihad killings and incitement.
Any Jerusalem vision must include a vision of the Temple Mount. Let Israel eventually rebuild the meeshkahn, the tabernacle, and place it on the Temple Mount alongside the mosques. There the incense altar and the menorah will provide great joy to those who behold them, and there will be further happiness on the festival of Succot when we pour water on the altar. I don’t believe there will be animal sacrifices again, but we will joyfully bring first fruits. The Palestinian Arabs will need to accept that other peoples and religions can also pray on the Temple Mount, and this must be a condition for forging a peace with them. In the messianic days, the Temple Mount, with a rebuilt tabernacle alongside the mosques, will be declared to belong to God Almighty, and security on the Temple Mount will be maintained by Israelis and Palestinians. May we all aim for non-violence and kindness.
I never had a bar mitzvah when I was 13 and I want to have my bar mitzvah on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I want to invite the leaders of Israel and the leaders of Israel’s friends and the leaders of Israel’s present enemies to this event. There I will read about a “brit shalom,” a “covenant of peace,” a methak salaam that is promised in Ezekiel 37:26, and that I believe is the Covenant of Peace I have written with God’s help.
Jerusalem will become the center of the world, and a place where a very reformed United Nations General Assembly will sometimes meet. We will try not to blame, and instead try to understand cause and effect relationships and try to steer things towards more justice and peace and love between all of us.
Looking beyond Jerusalem and to all this holy land between the river and the sea, each people will govern and police themselves where they dwell. Each Yehudi (Jewish) town or village or neighborhood will be under the Israeli government, and each Arab town or village or neighborhood will be under the Palestinian Arab government. We will peacefully find solutions and decide how to deal with mixed neighborhoods. Israel and Palestine will be two nations with basically one map. Let no houses or villages or “settlements” be torn down, let no families be uprooted from their homes. Let Yehuda v’Shomron (Judea and Samaria, the West Bank) never be made Judenrein (“Jew clean”) in order to create the state of Palestine. Yehudim and Arabs will continue to live all across this land. The two governments will set up committees to issue permits for further construction. We will also try to protect open spaces as much as we can. There will develop great communication and cooperation between the two governments. Let us approach each other peacefully and respectfully. All of this is a very high vision – it will come to pass if there is enough non-violence, which will create the trust that will let it happen. Let’s open our hearts and be kind. We are many we are one.