I am almost certain it is not wise of me to attempt this but as I have never claimed wisdom at anytime. I am neither a Scholar nor an expert but as the vast majority of those fighting over the Holy Land are neither, perhaps it helpful to have a glimpse of the Holy from a mere mortal’s eye. What I am sharing is just my perspective, my own personal experience, through the eyes of an Arab woman who also happens to be a faithful Muslim.
For as long as I can remember I have known- or thought I knew- that Jerusalem is Arabic and Muslim land. This has always been the basis of many other “facts”, or rather what I perceived as indisputable knowledge. And that is really the crux of the matter, good old Miss Perception who, like Beauty, is mostly and sometimes only in the eye of the beholder. And my eyes beheld that Arabic land was invaded by non Arabic entities, non Muslims violating what has always been sacred to Muslims,making it the duty of everyone who is either or both, Arab and Muslim, to stand their ground and fight to the last breath to liberate what has been occupied, to sanctify what has always been sacred. That was it and that was all!
Well, you can’t really argue with that! It seemed clear enough, logical even. Until of course someone starts asking irritating questions like: How did it become Arabic and more importantly what constitutes Muslim identity? And is Muslim not an adjective that applies only to people? Why does it have to be labelled with one language and one religion? Can’t people speak both languages and be any religion they chose? And that is usually when the guilt is loaded on the shoulders of those asking the questions. The guilt that says: “Why are you questioning your own people?!”
It is a standard package Muslims and Arabs give to other Muslims and Arabs with its load of:” Arabs are right , everyone else is wrong , do not ask questions just join in!! “It also includes rhetorical questions like “What the hell is wrong with you? Have you no pride or loyalty to anything? Are you one of them now?” etc, etc! The remainder of this “take away” package is usually presented as alleged religious guidance listed on a portable short list of dos and don’ts! Oh, I had my share of these short compressed and selective lists that reduce what is divine to empty rituals void of faith and performed out of fear or worse still, out of pride, the worst kind of pride loaded with prejudice. And I watched it happen over years all around me. You could almost smell it brewing slowly as it was distilled into the poison it has become.
I don’t know how everyone else acquires their faith or lack of! But I do know how I found mine (I found it after 19 lost souls blew themselves up and took 3000 innocents souls with them ! This was not a religion I wanted to be a part of! So I picked up the scripture with no commentary and read it for myself. God was in there. They were not ! ). The short compressed version of what is religious never gave me faith. It gave me fear and nothing else. I am not suggesting that we should not fear God. Oh, we should fear him alright! We should tremble in awe of the day we shall all answer to why was a single drop of blood spilt in His name. And if the only answer we have is : “er, em, well, Sheikh Know-It-All said Jerusalem must have an Arabic and Muslim governor at all time even at the risk of fast tracking the apocalypse. We listened to him because he looked quite pious, sounded well versed you know. Oh, and he had a zillion followers on Facebook, Twitter and everything!” If that is all we have got to answer for then I am guessing we all are going to have a serious problem on the day. Because that is not an answer that will get any one a pass into second grade never mind into heaven!
The truly delectable Yousef Zeidan-as well as other scholars- repeatedly stated that the Arab/Israeli argument over Jerusalem never has been and is still not about the sacred, and should never have involved religion at any stage. I completely and utterly agree. It is delightfully reassuring to hear what I have believed for years stated by someone of such high esteem. And let’s face it, it actually does not matter. It does not matter if there is or there is no proof that the Kotel is or is not the actual remain of the second temple. It does not matter if there is or there is no proof Mohammad did or did not start a journey to heaven from that very spot everyone is willing to die for now. It does not even matter if the Aqsa mentioned in the Quran is actually referring to the temple or what was left of it. The irony is of course that the only probability of Jerusalem having any significance to Muslims, can only be justified first by the acknowledgement of the Jewish temple as the only house of prayer –at that time- dedicated for the worship of the same deity promoted by Mohammad as the one and only God. The one thing we all know for sure is that there was no mosque in Jerusalem at the time of the night journey. But as I said, in my view it does not actually matter. Because no one has a monopoly on the divine. And if we can’t understand and share the divine then we should not be involving Him in our quarrels .
So what does matter? Well, let us start with the obvious shall we? The whole world is under the clear threat of fanaticism conceived initially by a bunch of zealots claiming to fight for Allah to liberate Muslims and all that is Islamic from the oppression of the non-Muslims. We all know what started the so called religious revival in the Middle East. A revival that seemed to rely primarily on two conditions it seems; women must be neither seen nor heard and everyone but everyone must elevate the liberation of Jerusalem from the Jews above all other priorities at all times. It goes something like this; “Don’t you worry about a thing God will provide” say the ever increasing number of preachers. “But in case of emergencies blame Israel for everything wrong”. How is that working for every one?? And how long can we even attempt to explain this to our children? Who is going to stand accountable and responsible for generations lost and locked in either despair and apathy or total rage with nothing in between?
My father told me a story once when I was very young. “Two women claimed to be mothers to one child. The dispute was brought in front of a wise king who proposed to cut the child in two and give each woman one half. The woman who screamed “No” let the other woman have the child was deemed to be the real mother. I have always loved this story. We may all want Jerusalem, we may want her, need her, argue and fight, even kill over her, but have any of us actually loved her? And if we loved her is it not time we let her heal? Because until there is peace in Jerusalem, there will be no peace anywhere! And if peace in the world starts with peace in Jerusalem, does it matter if the flag above it is blue, green or white? What it must never ever be is Black!