Witnesses of 3 Faiths Tell House Body They Oppose Divided Jerusalem
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Witnesses of 3 Faiths Tell House Body They Oppose Divided Jerusalem

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Jewish, Catholic and Moslem witnesses testifying at a House subcommittee hearing on Jerusalem agreed yesterday that they were opposed to a divided city but differed over who should have sovereignty over a unified Jerusalem. Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, director of the department of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee said a divided Jerusalem would be a “moral and human disaster.” He insisted that Jewish claims to the city took priority over the claims of other faiths because Jerusalem “is an entirely necessary and indispensable part of Judaism as it is not for Christianity and Moslems.” Differing views were expressed by Dr. James Kritzeck of the Institute for Advanced Religious Studies at Notre Dame University, Rev. Joseph L. Ryan, S.J. of the Cambridge Center of Social Studies, Cambridge, Mass, and Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf, director of the Islamic Center here. All of them gave testimony at a hearing of the Near East subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D., Ind.) who observed at the close of the session, “We are dealing with the most difficult problem of the Middle East.” The hearing, which began at 2:00 p.m., adjourned late in the afternoon.

In formal statements read to the subcommittee, Rabbi Tanenbaum argued for Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, Dr. Kritzeck and Father Ryan urged internationalization and Dr. Rauf wanted the city restored to Moslem rule. Replying to questions afterwards, the two Roman Catholic witnesses told Rep. Jonathan B. Bingham (D., N.Y.) that their statement represented only themselves. Dr. Kritzeck remarked that “The Christian church would be satisfied with a say-so in the administration of the Holy Places.” Father Ryan observed that “the question of the Holy Places should be considered in the light of the whole city of Jerusalem.” Congressmen questioning the witnesses sought to establish the relative importance of Jerusalem to each of the three faiths. Rabbi Tanenbaum observed that “All three faiths have a deep interest in Jerusalem and its environs” but he cautioned against “equating one and the same thing to Jews, Christians and Moslems.” He said, “Judaism has no Rome, no Geneva, no Mecca, no Medina–only Jerusalem. It is an entirely necessary and indispensable part of Judaism as it is not for Christianity and Moslems. That is why there is so much feeling on the part of the Jews all over the world for it.” Rep. James G. Fulton (R., Pa.) responded that he had visited the Wailing Wall and saw the “intensity of the feeling” of the Jews there. Dr. Rauf listed Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem in that order in response to Rep. Bingham’s question as to which were the holiest places of Islam. The Moslem scholar said he was opposed to a divided city, adding that it was “difficult to separate the administration of the Holy City and its Holy Places; the government should handle all of it.”

Replying to the same question, Father Ryan listed Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem as Christianity’s holy cities. Dr. Kritzeck declared, “Jerusalem would be my unhesitating answer,” to which Rep. Bingham retorted, “Not to most Christians, but to Roman Catholics, Rome would be most important.” He and several other subcommittee members took issue with the testimony presented by the Catholic and Moslem witnesses. At one point Bingham said, “Your statement is good from the Arab point of view but not Israel’s.” He spoke of his visit to Israel and the West Bank this year where he said he could “attest conditions were remarkably peaceful and stable.” He said he saw no guards at Bethlehem and other places and that Arab Christians with whom he spoke, though not in favor of Israel’s policies, denied alleged misdeeds by the Israelis that “regrettably” a United Nations committee had reported. Bingham observed that Israel “Would have been glad to stand by the status quo” in Jerusalem in 1967 but Jordan attacked and “there must be consequences.” When Father Ryan countered, “Does military conquest establish right?” the New York Congressman replied, “Over the centuries it has.”

Rep. Lester L. Wolff (D., N.Y.) challenged Dr. Rauf’s statement that Moslems suspected Israeli authorities of “condoning” the burning of the El Aksa mosque in East Jerusalem two years ago. The Congressman noted that a “deranged Australian” had set the fire and that the Arab guards at the mosque were unable to avert the act. In another reference to Dr. Rauf’s presentation which demanded Moslem rule of Jerusalem, Rep. Seymour Halpern (R., N.Y.) asked “why as a Jew” was he forbidden entry in the early 1960s to the Holy Places under Jordanian control. Rauf replied that he was not at the hearing to “defend a contemporary state” (Jordan) and that he “personally regretted the ban.” He said the Jordanian Government “did make mistakes” in an “exceptional situation.” Halpern observed that “no comparison can be made between the upkeep of the Holy Places at present” and the “squalor” before 1967 at the sites. Rabbi Tanenbaum said that Israel was prepared to turn over the city’s Holy Places with complete extra-territorial control to the religious denominations. Rep. Fulton said, “We want to keep the Holy Places holy but how do you run them?” When the session adjourned, Dr. Rauf approached Rabbi Tanenbaum, shook his hand and suggested a dialogue on Arab-Jewish religious matters at a future time. Rabbi Tanenbaum accepted the invitation.

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