Jerusalem: Israel’s Eternal and Divisible Capital?

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15 Nov 2007

While Jerusalem is in the midst of a year-long celebration marking the 40th anniversary of reunification, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged recently that his government was prepared to divide the city as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The difficulties presented by this issue are highly complex and emotional and there has yet to be published any official government plan detailing just how such a division would occur.

Conventional thought holds that the city would be divided roughly between east and west, between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods. But that won’t be so simple in modern Jerusalem, a city of 750,000 residents, where neighborhoods often intertwine. And then there is the question of the old city, where suggestions range from giving the area international status to granting security control to the Palestinian Authority.

Even where such physical division of Jerusalem might be practical, the idea raises the specter of pre-1967 Jerusalem, when Jewish neighborhoods were regularly targeted by cross-border sniper fire. Indeed one doesn’t have to go back to 1967, but only to 2002, when terrorists fired repeatedly at homes in Gilo from nearby Beit Jalla. Or to this week, as rocket fire continues unabated from Gaza.

If progress is made on other issues dividing Israelis and the Palestinians, this issue may gain prominence as negotiators prepare for a summit in Annapolis later this month.

Yehoshua Halevi is a photographer and owner of Golden Light Images. Learn more at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.