Darkness arrived; my tired feet protested, but a force more powerful urged me to continue walking the centuries-old streets where every stone bore testament to the co-existence of millions of people — Muslims, Jews and Christians. They lived, fought and worshipped the one God on this Holy Land for centuries. I looked for answers that belied reasoning: Why did God make a mere 0.9 square kilometre the iconic juxtaposition of three Abrahamic religions that have failed to reconcile with one another till today? Perhaps the fault lay less with the heavens than with ourselves.
Donald Trump is the scofflaw today. Like a fool, he’s rushed in where our better angels would fear to tread. He’s poured oil over the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by accepting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when all past US presidents have stayed clear of this distinction. Jerusalem rightfully belongs to the Palestinians. In Arabic, Jerusalem means ‘the holy house or al Qudus al Sharif.’ Like the Kaaba in Makkah, Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock is built around a sacred stone believed to be the place from where our Holy Prophet (pbuh) ascended to heaven during his Night Journey. In close proximity stands the al Aqsa Mosque. It’s the third holiest site in Islam after the mosques of al Haram in Makkah and al Nabawi in Madinah. According to the Holy Quran, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was taken on a steed to visit the ‘Farthest Mosque’ (literally al Aqsa in Arabic) from Makkah to Jerusalem where he prayed at al Aqsa Mosque, and then ascended to Heaven during the Isra wal Miraj or ‘Night Journey’.
All 86 countries have embassies in Israel’s capital Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem! Listen up Trump.
“In one blow, Trump destroyed not only the chances of any peace but the stability and security of the region as a whole,” Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, tells CNN. “He has given all extremists and nuts all over the world who are ready to commit acts of violence a perfect excuse because he has provoked spiritual sentiments and religious feelings to the point where we don’t know how far the ramifications will go.”
Trump doesn’t care if he has thrown a bomb into the Middle East peace process. He only cares for his 33% American voters who are mostly evangelicals egging him on to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His 30-something son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is responsible for this disastrous decision. The mealy-mouthed Kushner was secretly in Riyadh recently. He bonded with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). The two stayed up to 4am ‘swapping stories’.
My guess is the two were plotting for Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Like Kushner, MbS is ambitious and self-opinionated. He loves to own big-ticket items. I won’t be surprised if he’s the secret buyer of a $450.3 million painting by Leonardo da Vinci auctioned at Christie’s New York. The New York Times, without naming MbS as the supposed owner, is surprised why an Arab would splurge on a “controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ?”
How can I forget the beautiful call for Zohar prayers float by as I drive past the famous Hebrew University in Jerusalem? It’s the oldest and the best among all universities in Israel having produced eight Nobel Laureates. I meet a young Israeli research student. He’s war-weary. “I want peace in this Holy Land; it belongs to Muslims and Jews alike.” But peace is a mirage as I see during my stay in Israel-occupied Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territory. Approaching Jericho, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, located near the Jordan River in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank I come across protesters shouting anti-Israel slogans. I quickly turn back, thinking about this unfortunate part of the world racked with endless strife wrought by politics and religion.
Trump is the latest devil-may-care fire-thrower in this conflagration.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2017.