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Case for Unified Jerusalem to Be Presented Before House Subcommittee Wednesday

July 27, 1971
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The Near East subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear testimony Wednesday in support of the view that the interests of Christians. Moslems and Jews would be best served if Jerusalem remains a unified city as it has been throughout its history, except for the period 1948-67 when it was divided by the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem. The testimony will be presented by Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, director of the national interreligious affairs department of the American Jewish Committee, who was invited to appear before the Congressional body. An advance text of Rabbi Tanenbaum’s remarks was provided to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for publication today. It has also been circulated among committee members. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D.,Ind,). Other authorities invited to testify July 28 are Dr. James Kritzeck, of Notre Dame University , a theological advisor at the Second Vatican Council and Muhammed Abd al-Rauf, of the Islamic Center in New York, Rabbi Tanenbaum also serves as co-secretary of a joint Vatican-Jewish international committee and a joint World Council of Churches-Jewish committee. The hearings before the subcommittee are part of a series devoted to the Middle East conflict that include testimony on the re-opening of the Suez Canal, borders and the Palestinian problem.

“A viable Jewish people in the land of Israel and the restoration of Jerusalem to its natural condition as a unified city, is indispensable to the survival of the Jewish spirit and ethos in our ago.” Rabbi Tananbaum will tell the House subcommittee. “The Christian interest in the Holy Land as Prof. George Williams of Harvard recently formulated it, involves religiously, solely the question of free access to the holy places, and the security and stability of the Christian populations in Jerusalem and in Israel. Once these interests are satisfied. Christians go beyond their religious compliance and enter into the realm of polities in which they have no standing as ecclesiastical bodies. As groups of Christian authorities, both in Israel and the United States have recently testified, never has there been such free access to the holy places as since 1967 when Jerusalem was reunified under Israeli jurisdiction.” Rabbi Tanenbaum says, “With regard to the presence of Christian communities in Israel and the charge that they are being ‘suffocated’ by Israeli housing projects, it is instructive to look at some statistics.” Rabbi Tanenbaum notes that during the period of Jordanian occupation there was a sharp drop in the number of Christians in Jerusalem–from 25, 000 in 1948 to 10,800 in 1967. “It is now evident that some 20,000 Christians emigrated from Jerusalem during that period of Jordanian occupation and that it has come to a hall in 1967. Against the background of the mounting departures of Christians from such Arab countries as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya, it seems that the Christian community in Israel has because one of the most stable and flourishing.”

Rabbi Tanenbaum devotes a large portion of his presentation to the meaning of Jerusalem to Jews as the center of Judaism. The city’s profound significance, he says, is the achievement of the Jewish people dating from Abraham and who, beginning with the Dravidian era about 1000 B.C.E., transformed the city into a center of political and religious unity, later to become a shrine of the three monotheistic faiths. “In the mind of the Jewish people, as well as in actual practice.” Rabbi Tanenbaum says, “Jerusalem became an integral part of the Temples and identical with it… In distinction from other religious that have invested their reverence for Jerusalem or particular localities of sites which are connected with specific events in their religious histories. Judaism has sanctities the city as such. In doing so, Judaism has kept alive the significance attached to Jerusalem in the Bible, and that has been of decisive importance for the significance attached to the Holy City in Jewish tradition until this very day.” Jewish attachment to Jerusalem has been more intense and more complicated than that of other faiths Rabbi Tanenbaum says because “Jewry has nowhere established another independent national center and as is natural. Jerusalem and the land of Israel are intertwined far more intimately with the religion and historic memories of the Jewish people…Jewish religious literature is more intimately connected with the history. Its climate and its soil. In the daily prayers of the Jews to this day one of the benedictions of the silent devotion is a prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem…”

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