WaPo Errs on Religious Freedom in Jerusalem
The Washington Post, in its Dec. 21 edition, runs a lengthy obituary on Jerry Bird, a long-time Middle East peace activist, who died at the age of 86 in Washington ("'Impassioned' Middle East peace activist" by Adam Bernstein, page B5.)
Bernstein mentions that Mrs. Bird was instrumental in organizing speaking tours by three women -- a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew -- to promote inter-faith peace initiatives in the Middle East. Her label for these tours was "Women in Jerusalem: Three Women. Three Faiths. One Shared City."
"The women were strangers to one another but agreed that Jerusalem should be shared among the three faiths," Bernstein writes. "That view was in stark opposition to the Israeli government's official position that Jerusalem is the 'eternal capital' of Israel."
Au contraire. Under Israel's policy and control, Jerusalem is shared among the three monotheistic faiths. Muslims by the tens of thousands pray at Al Aqsa Mosque. Worshipers of various branches of Christianity pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And Jews pray at the Western Wall, Judaism's most sacred site.
In fact, this is the first time in history that Jerusalem basks in such interfaith tolerance. And it has been so since 1967, when Israel liberated East Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation. When Jordan was in charge, Jews were forbidden to pray at the Western Wall and dozens of synagogues were demolished. One of the most prominent synagogues was converted into stables for the Jordanian cavalry.
Jews also were forbidden to pray at the Western Wall under Muslim rule in earlier centuries. And during the Crusader period, intolerance of Islam and Judaism reigned supreme. Only under Israeli rule has Jerusalem blossomed into a capital shared by three major faiths.
To suggest the opposite, that Jerusalem is not "shared among the three faiths," is an unspeakable slander. The Washington Post owes its readers a prompt correction.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers