To walk Jerusalem's Old City with Albert Aghazarian, a Jerusalemite and Armenian Orthodox Christian, is to come face to face with 3,000 years of human history and conflict. On a brisk Monday morning, Aghazarian, a history lecturer at Birzeit University on the West Bank, takes a group of visitors away from the tourist-congested holy places to a rooftop near Jaffa Gate.
"In the one-square kilometer of the Old City, there are 400 holy sites," he says. From the rooftop's height, the Old City and the surrounding hillsides seem at peace. Aghazarian, however, is not about to permit the city's sunny beauty to lull anyone into thinking that modern-day Jerusalem is, in the words of Psalm 122, "at unity with itself." The Old City should not be seen as neatly compartmentalized into its Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian quarters, he says. There is a climate of hostility and suspicion. Each quarter has subsections. And there are many disputes among residents over who has the legal right to live in certain buildings or areas. He concludes, "The city is more divided than ever. The target should be to unify the city."
A few blocks away, Ibrahim Bader, a schoolteacher and jeweler, is at work in his 87-year-old grandfather's shop in the Christian Quarter. Bader, whose mother is Christian and father Muslim, says, "Everyone is fighting for Jerusalem because Jerusalem is a pearl." Bader has made personal peace with his family by observing the holy days of both Islam and Christianity, yet he recognizes the need for Israelis and Palestinians to continue in the peace process. "We are tired of war, killing, and problems. We want to live like [other] nations."
In the bloody and chaotic politics of the Middle East, the region's divisions are often ...1