I remember guns. I remember barbed wire. I remember fear of “no man’s land.” All these kept me from East Jerusalem. It was 1965 and I was living in West Jerusalem.
How was it that Jews could no longer go to East Jerusalem with its most holy Western Wall? Jews have lived and prayed there ‑ the center of Judaism ‑ for over 3,000 years.
When Israel was established in 1947 the plan was for international control of Jerusalem in its entirety, since it encompasses sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Instead, Jordanian forces destroyed the Jewish quarter. Jewish residents were expelled and 58 synagogues were leveled. The 2,500-year-old Jewish cemetery was ransacked ‑ graves desecrated and thousands of tombstones smashed. Jordan took East Jerusalem.
Fast forward to June 1967. Egypt calls for Israel’s destruction. Jordanian forces bombard Jerusalem. Israel fought back and won. Jerusalem was reunited.
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I was able to return to Jerusalem a few years ago. I was glad to see not only Jewish holy sites, but Christian ones as well. Sadly, when I got to the path that leads to the Dome of the Rock, I was blocked. Only Muslims were allowed to enter that area, although it was holy to Jews before them.
How sad that these restrictions of holy places still exist. I applaud Israel for protecting freedom of religion for all. I look forward to the day when Muslim leaders will do the same.