Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
they that love thee shall prosper.
Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will say now,
peace be within thee.
For the sake of the House of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.
The world's great religions preach peace.
So it is ironic that at the root of so many of the conflicts in the Middle East has been an emotional, at times irrational, determination by the followers of different faiths to control the soil to which they trace the roots of their particular practices of religion.
Nowhere are those conflicts more bluntly in evidence than in Jerusalem, a compact city that is home to structures, traditions and living faith communities that are the touchstones of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. With the approach of the Christmastide that is so linked to the city and the region surrounding it, surely it is appropriate to ponder what it might mean to sincerely seek after the peace of Jerusalem.
We neglect the question at our peril. The struggle among these religions has poured too much blood on the ancient stones of the streets of Jerusalem. And that bloodshed influences the politics not just of Israel and Palestine but of the Middle East and the world. Yet for the most part, contemporary political leaders who profess to be the children of Abraham cannot seem to recognize that they are called, first, to seek peace--not property, ideological reassurance or tactical advantage.
It is troubling that President Bush, who claims a deep Christian faith, is so very unwilling to listen to the former President whose devotion to the teachings of the Nazarene has earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and other honors awarded those who devote their lives to promoting reconciliation and redemption.
Carter's new book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (Simon & Schuster), is an urgent plea for the United States to play a more useful role in promoting peace in the region. To do so, Carter argues, the United States must stop "squandering international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization of Palestinian territories."
Carter's book has been wrongly characterized, mostly by those who have not read it, as an attack on Israel. In fact, it is a call for the United States to respect the fact that most Israelis and most Palestinians want peace. "As I said in a 1979 speech to the Israeli Knesset, ‘The people support a settlement. Political leaders are the obstacles to peace,'" Carter explains. "Over the years, public opinion surveys have consistently shown that a majority of Israelis favor withdrawing from Palestinian territory in exchange for peace ("swapping land for peace"), and recent polls show that 80 percent of Palestinians still want a two-state peace agreement with Israel."
Carter, who successfully negotiated a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Egypt and who has remained highly engaged with Middle East affairs over the past twenty-five years, is not naïve. He knows that a roadmap to peace requires travel through difficult territory. He has taken his hits for being honest about what must be done. But when he prays for the peace of Jerusalem, he means it.
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