Christian Leaders Say Public Housing in Jerusalem Legitimate Effort at Renewal

Twenty-four Christian leaders aligned as Christians Concerned for Israel declared today that “internationalization of the entire City of Jerusalem is no longer a viable solution to the problem of conserving the peace, security and sacred character of the city and its holy places.” They added that “Since both Israel and Jordan are adamantly opposed to the plan, it is unworkable.” Furthermore, they said, “the behavior of the government of Israel with respect to the holy places has been exemplary” and “has achieved the main purpose of internationalization, which is to provide protection and free access to the holy places for all.” The signers of the statement, representing themselves, included Father Edward H. Flannery, Megr. John M. Oesterreicher and Sister Rose Thering of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.; Dr. A. Roy Eckhardt of Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa., co-author of “Encounter With Israel,” and Dr. Bernhard E. Olson of the National Conference of Christians and Jews here.

The 24 Christian leaders–Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals–said they were “convinced” that the construction of public housing in Jerusalem “is a legitimate effort on the part of the Israeli government to effectuate a renewal of certain slum areas of the city, to rehouse in new apartments Arabs from these quarters, to provide living space for a Jewish population increased by immigrations and to reintroduce a Jewish presence into the Old City from which it had been forcibly barred after the war of 1948.” The statement stressed that “the development plans are in no sense designed to oust the Arabs, nor to ‘suffocate’ the Christian and Muslim population,” as has been charged “in the general press and church press.” As for a solution other than internationalization, the Christian leaders recommended that it arise from “negotiations carried on at the peace table between Israel and Arab countries.” In a separate statement the president of Christians Concerned for Israel, Prof. Franklin H. Littell of the Department of Religion at Temple University, Philadelphia, asserted that “a growing number of people of the churches is aware that our whole understanding of the relationship of the church to the Jewish people must be changed.” He added: “After Auschwitz, there is no place for balcony-sitters on this issue.”

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