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Keeping Jerusalem: Why Dividing the Holy City Can Never Bring Peace


JERUSALEM, Israel - When it comes to Israeli-Palestinian talks, the subject of a divided Jerusalem is often the deal breaker for the Jewish state. But why?

Jerusalem's Old City, the Temple Mount, and the Mount of Olives all share common bonds. In addition to biblical significance, they're all in the part of the city Palestinians want as their future capital.

Scripture says Jerusalem is a city set on a hill.  

Chaim Silberstein, founder and president of Keep Jerusalem, believes the city must remain united. CBN's Scott Ross spent a day with Silberstein, looking at Jerusalem from different angles to understand its complexity.

"We are standing on the hill, the Mount of Olives, and we're overlooking the Temple Mount, a beautiful vision here of the Old City and behind it the New City," Silberstein said.  

Jerusalem is a city ensconced in geopolitics and divisiveness, both within the Jewish community itself and certainly in the surrounding Arab nations, many of which are against the Jewish people.

Israel's capital has been conquered more than any other city in history. Yet it's the only capital the Jewish people have ever known.

Still, the world refuses to recognize it as Israel's capital even though it's mentioned more than 640 times in the Old Testament and not once by name in the Koran.
"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?" Ross asked rhetorically.

"We know that over 3,000 years ago, King David came here," Silberstein explained. "He conquered Jerusalem and he set up his capital here for 1,000 years. Israel had sovereignty; the Jews had sovereignty in the land of Israel.

"A pocket of Jews remained in - in Palestine, in Israel, throughout the centuries, but we only saw a real return of the Jewish people in the last 150 years or so," Silberstein explained. "And today when we look at Jerusalem, you see Jerusalem built up."

A Turning Point

"At what point?" Ross asked.

"It was only when the Israelis liberated Jerusalem in '67 that they changed that because they needed to get us out so they then created this idea that they want a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Silberstein continued.

On the world stage, Jerusalem is typically divided between east and west. The newer western sector of the city is primarily Jewish.

The older eastern section stretches from north to south. The majority of the city's Arabs live there, but so do an almost equal number of Jewish Israelis.

Ross asked if a divided Jerusalem is realistic.

"I think that it would be a disaster of historic proportions and a huge mistake because dividing up Jerusalem will create the exact opposite effect of peace," Silberstein said.

From 1949 to 1967 Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan controlling the eastern sector. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel defeated Jordan and regained sovereignty over the city.

Silberstein took Ross to the Ammunition Hill, the battlefield that turned the tide.
"This is the actual spot where hand-to-hand combat took place. Is that correct?" Ross asked.
"Correct," Silberstein said. "This is probably the toughest battle in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War. Between the west and Mount Scopus was Ammunition Hill so it was critical to take this hill."

A Foreign King's Palace

The Bible calls Jerusalem the city of the Great King. Over the centuries, the city has seen many kings.

In 1964, Jordan's King Hussein, the late father of King Abdullah II, started building a hilltop palace on the northern edge of Jerusalem. The Six-Day War interrupted his plans.
"This site where we are now is not really the palace of King Hussein, but rather the palace of King Saul," Silberstein explained.

From higher up, it's easy to see why kings old and new would want to occupy Ammunition Hill.

"We're looking eastwards and we're actually looking into the Judean Desert," Silberstein continued. "Behind the Judean Desert are the mountains of Moab, which are where Jordan is today. We can see all the way to the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley.  

Silberstein pointed out the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev below where they were standing and Neve Ya'akov to the north.

"These two neighborhoods are basically nestled within Arab neighborhoods that are surrounding them," he said. "So if we were to cut off Jerusalem and say everything to the left of this line would be Palestine, 90,000 Jews living in these two neighborhoods would find themselves in Palestine," Silberstein said.

To the north we could see biblical Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank. In the distance, just five miles from Jerusalem, is Ramallah - the current seat of government for the Palestinian Authority.
"The important thing to understand - when you want to understand the strategic issues facing Jerusalem - is what is the goal of the Arabs," Silberstein continued. "They understand that Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people and if they can liberate Jerusalem, from their point of view, then they will have succeeded in liberating Israel ultimately."

Jerusalem's Real Future

Silberstein believes the Arabs working to liberate Jerusalem in three primary ways:

· Force
· Propaganda and diplomacy
· Demography

"What they're doing is building and building and building inside Jerusalem, largely illegal structures," he said. "In fact they've successfully created a territorial continuum that runs from Ramallah in the north, all the way through Jerusalem, through the Old City, to Bethlehem in the south. And by doing that, they will have infiltrated a demographic Trojan horse inside Jerusalem."

"Do you have hope for this city to eventually be whole?" Ross asked. "Do you see a good future ahead or no?"

"Zechariah chapter 14 talks about what's happening here on the Mount of Olives," he said. "There'll be an earthquake here; there'll be a war; there'll be all kinds of unnatural things that are happening here."

"That's yet to happen," Ross interjected.

"That's yet to happen in the future, but Zechariah ends the prophecy by saying 'and Jerusalem will dwell secure,'" Silberstein said. "The question is how we will get there."
"The scripture tells us in Psalms, pray for the peace of Jerusalem," Scott said, asking, "in practical terms, what does that mean?"

"So I believe that the thing that is guaranteed to bring peace to Jerusalem is keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty," Silberstein answered without hesitation. "And that certainly is the prelude to hopefully the incredible event that we hope and pray will happen later, which will be ultimate peace, both to Jerusalem and to the world."

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