AxisMundi Jerusalem

Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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Welcome to Jerusalem, centre of the world

February 6, 2009

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Not so long ago, as war raged in Iraq, there was much talk about a suggestion that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians deserved less attention from the United States and other world powers than it had enjoyed over the past 60-odd years, that the intractable dispute was distracting policymakers and that the plight of the stateless Palestinians was much less central to the problems in relations between the Arab world and the West than had long been supposed. It is a debate that continues, though as journalists who have chosen to work in Jerusalem perhaps we may be forgiven for occasionally pointing out that many thinkers continue to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as central to the problems of the region and so to the world at large.

A survey last year by Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution, Does the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Still Matter?, found that 86 percent of non-Palestinian Arabs, from Morocco to the Emirates, placed the fate of Palestinians among their top three concerns. That was an increase from 69 percent in 2005, when a larval sectarian civil war in Iraq seemed to be dragging Sunni and Shiite Muslims into a broader regional conflict. And it was still higher than the 73 percent who thought the Palestinian question mattered in 2002: “Despite the Iraq war and the increasing focus on a Sunni-Shiite divide, the Palestinian question remains a central prism through which Arabs view the world,” Telhami concluded.

At Reuters, we think it matters. We have more than 70 journalists working in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, covering the news and trends across a range of media, in text, in pictures and in video. You can view much of our work at the Reuters News and AlertNet sites linked to in the bar to the right. This blog site complements that work and, we hope, gives readers and chance to debate the topics that matter in the region and the world beyond. You will see an archive of material from recent months, including during the recent war in the Gaza Strip. With Israeli voters going to the polls this coming Tuesday and Egyptian mediators working against the clock to try and solidify the ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, now seemed like a good time to draw your attention to it and let you know that we plan to enrich the site with more material.

Why call it AxisMundi, the “axis of the world” in Latin? Well from our bureau in Jerusalem, we do sometimes feel we are at the centre of world news. It’s not just us of course. Jerusalem has at times and variously been seen as the Axis Mundi, the centre of the world (indeed sometimes “the world’s navel”), by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. All believe Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son to God on a rock at what is now Jerusalem, before God stayed his hand. That rock, seen as a point of contact between earth and heaven, is now covered by the golden dome in the picture above. It is where Jews built the Temple destroyed by Roman troops 2,000 years ago in a conflict that would end with the Jews’ exile from Jerusalem.  It is where Muslims believe Mohammad rose to heaven and where the Dome of the Rock, built after Muslims captured the city from Christian rulers,  now stands.

Shared religious ideas have not, of course, always brought dialogue and understanding between people of the related faiths. A mere visit by hawkish Israeli politician Ariel Sharon in 2000 to the area around the rock, known as al-Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary by Muslims and the Temple Mount by Jews, sparked violence that compounded a collapse in peace negotiations. Thousands of people have since been killed, including 1,300 during the 22-day Israeli offensive in Gaza that ended on Jan. 18. Both Jews and Arabs, as well as good number of Christians in the powerful states of the West, have a passionate interest in who controls Jerusalem and its holy sites. Thousands of years after the rock was first seen as sacred, Jerusalem remains at the centre of the world’s concerns and the conflict that surges for a couple of hundred kilometres around it, in the narrow confines of Israel and the Palestinian territories, defines the future for billions of people very much farther afield. Do please visit this site frequently to find out more and to share ideas on the news from centre of the world…

(PICTURE: The moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse from the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City February 21, 2008. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte)

Comments

its sad to see that the 3 abrahamic religions who all have many things in common, who have been given this holy city from as a way to unify people has been transformed into a symbol of war, violence, and hatered.Instead of this being the place where the violence and hatred ends, its being used by religious extremist from all three faiths to spew hatred towards the others. what if the wailing was destroyed by a terrorist attack? jews around the world would be outraged. the same goes if the mosque there was destroyed, even moderate muslims would be outraged. we would see mosques, churches, and synogagues around the would being attacked. all three faiths have a right to call this place thiers, since all 3 have history here. the mosque should be guarded and protected by muslims, the wall by the jews and the chirstian site by christians and all 3 working under 1 organization (be it the UN or some other force) and follow the same guidelines. its sad to see that this gift from god to his people is becoming the source of hatred by evil people.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive
 

There was a time when the killing of hundreds of children – particularly by a claimed democratic state – would cause an international outcry. In the case of Israel, in Gaza, this has signally failed to happen because the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry has disseminated propaganda that insists that the killings were the fault of Hamas who allegedly used the Palestinian children – four hundred of them – as so-called ‘human shields’ to prevent the IDF killing their mothers and fathers!

It is difficult to accept that the public would be so gullible as to accept this fabrication. These children, and many women, and civilian men – all of whom posed no threat whatsoever to the mighty Israeli army – had their lives abruptly ended by a US-supplied cluster bomb or missile fired from an F16 bomber, tank or helicopter gunship – or just from being brutally shot through the head by an Israeli soldier. These are the documented facts. Witness after witness will attest to the inhumanity of the Israeli army and to the atrocity that was carried out a few short weeks ago. Yet, incredibly, there is little outcry or condemnation of this terrible war crime.

If the perpetrators are not brought to justice, there will be little hope that democratic societies will continue to exist. Democracy depends on the rule of law and the upholding of human and civil rights. Today, in Israel, these essential cornerstones of the democratic system have been cynically thrown overboard in a desperate attempt to maintain its illegal occupation and control of Palestinian lands in the knowledge that the US will vote against any resolution of the UNSC to take action. Is this democracy?

That the world stands by, blind and uncaring, is an example of moral cowardice rarely seen before in the last half century. A travesty of justice that, when the historiography of the 21st century is written, will question why ordinary people around the world, chose to condone such barbaric acts against innocent children – acts reminiscent of WW2.

Posted by Rachel Pine | Report as abusive
 

I could Not agree with you more sidney, the three Abrahmic religions have a lot in common but the media only highlights the differences and too much emphasis is what we dont have in commmon. At least we can all agree on that humanity is above all but the reality is even children in UN building in Gaza are NOT safe from the Isralei war machine.

But it was NOT always like this when Saladin Ayubi great Muslim warrior who took over the city, he did run rivers of blood. Infact he washed the Jerusalem streets with rose petals to wash off what the crusaders did. In my eyes when the Muslims controled it all were allowed to worship in their holly places.

But yes I agree there should be body consisting members from all 3 religion who should look after Jeruslam.

Posted by Hussain | Report as abusive
 

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