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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
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
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
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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