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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Sept. 8, 1995, V3, #165
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Jerusalem of Gold Shines Over Israel

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has begun celebrations marking 3,000 years of history, since King David made Jerusalem his capital. But the opening of the 15-month event called "Jerusalem-3000" has been overshadowed by accusations that the celebration is an attempt to buttress Israel's claim to the disputed city.

No one knows exactly when David conquered the city. Scholars generally date it at 1000 BCE, others at 996 BCE. But a few years ago, former Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, decided that 1996 was as good a year as any to celebrate the event and promote the city as a religious, cultural and tourist attraction.

Jerusalem-3000 festivities include concerts, operas, museum exhibits and conferences. But the event has inevitably taken on political overtones, particularly coming during Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in which the future of the city is eventually to be put on the negotiating table. The commemoration of Israel's biblical claim on the entire city has enraged Palestinian leaders who say it is an attempt to entrench Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Mahdi Abdel-Hadi is director of a Palestinian think tank in Jerusalem. He says Israel has the right to celebrate, but not at the expense of the Palestinians' rights.

"You cannot pick up on certain dates in history and say since King David occupied the city it becomes a Jewish city, or an Israeli city. Fourteen-hundred years of our history, our culture, our presence in the city cannot be dismissed easily because the Israelis are occupying the city, and simply because the Israelis are in control. The whole world will not accept it."

But Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert insists that the celebration is not intended to be political. There may be debates about the

future of the city but  not  about the past, says the mayor, and
there is  no  reason  not  to emphasize the Jewish roots of

"We should remember, and bear in mind, that for no time in history, for one brief second, was Jerusalem a capital of any Muslim or Arab entity, not one single second in all of all of its history of 3,000 years or 8,000. It was the capital of the kingdom of David 3,000 years ago, and never ceased to be the capital of the Jewish people since then."

Olmert says there have been efforts at including events related to Islam, but that the Muslim community here refused to participate.

Critics of Jerusalem-3000 have come from other sectors, as well. This summer the European Union announced it was boycotting the event because it is short-changing the Christian and Muslim facets of the city. And ultra-religious Jews complain about the secular nature of the celebrations and the inclusion of Christian themes in many of the programs. The Berlin Opera, for example, is performing Beethoven's opera "Jesus on the Mount of Olives" at the actual site.

The opening ceremony of Jerusalem-3000 took place at the City of David, the ruins of the ancient settlement where King David proclaimed the capital of the Jewish kingdom. For more than a century, archaeologists have been digging at the site, which is today in the middle of an Arab neighborhood.

District Archeologist Gideon Avni rejects criticisms that the celebrations are biased in favor of Jewish history, and neglects the role of Christians and Muslims.

"We have one main purpose, and this is showing through this area, through this whole archeological area, the whole sequence of the history of Jerusalem. And the visitor...will be able to see remains from the early Bronze Period before King David...the remains of the biblical city, of the Roman city, Byzantine, and a large section of the whole project will be dedicated to the early Islamic monuments."

One enduring physical monument of the Jerusalem-3000 celebrations will be an archeological park circling the old walled city, which will link for the first time the many excavations and historical and holy sites scattered throughout the area.

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