Minutes of Meeting

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May 16, 1999

Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: Review of Book on Jerusalem

Facilitator: Dr. Thomas A. Idinopulos, Professor, Miami University

Host: Robin Smith

PRESENT: Robin Smith and Felix Garfunkel, Cochairs; Bert Buby, Shirley Flacks, Erika Garfunkel, Bette Jasko, Bob Jasko, Jack Kelley, Eleanor Koenigsberg, Harry Koenigsberg, John Magee, Abraham Miller, Eileen Moorman, Bill Rain, Ken Rosenzweig, Dieter Walk, Suzie Walk, Rose Wendel.

Robin called the meeting to order at about 7:50 PM. Dieter delivered the blessing which included concerns for the Israeli election to be held tomorrow and hope that the Israeli people will exercise their votes with good judgment. Robin announced that there will be a 3-minute limit on announcements from each person during the Dialogue meetings. Those who have information that will not fit into the 3-minute announcement period are requested to provide the information to Ken who can consider including it in the Dialogue minutes. The Dialogue Dinner in Honor of Bert Buby was announced (see the article later in these minutes). Also, details of the July 11 Dialogue Retreat, to be facilitated by Rabbi Shmuel Klatzkin, were discussed (see the Dialogue Schedule). Dieter and Suzi Walk discussed the October Dialogue tour of Israel. There will be an open house on June 6 at Beth Jacob Synagogue to answer questions about the tour.

Dieter announced that Harold Rubenstein is in Good Samaritan Hospital and will probably be there for 10 days to 2 weeks. Members of the Dialogue are encourage to wish him well.

Robin introduced the meeting speaker, Dr. Thomas A. Idinopulos. He has written eight books and many articles. An earlier, book published in 1991, was Jerusalem Blessed, Jerusalem Cursed: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy City from David's Time to our Own. Dr. Idinopulos has focused his professional efforts primarily in the area of Jewish-Christian relations and the Holocaust. Robin said that we are fortunate to have him as a speaker. The topic of his talk is derived from his recently published book on Jerusalem, Jerusalem, A History of the Holiest City As Seen Through the Struggles of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Dr. Idinopulos's Presentation

Dr. Idinopulos thanked Robin, Dieter and Suzie for arranging his visit. He introduced his friend, Dr. Abraham Miller, Professor of Political Science from the University of Cincinnati who is visiting the Dialogue meeting. Dr. Idinopulos passed around some beautiful watercolor prints of Jerusalem by the artist David Roberts who lived in the 19th century. One was of the Golden Gate which is the double gate in the Jerusalem city wall. Roberts's pictures have now become famous.

Dr. Idinopulos stated that he desires to evoke the "genes" of the city. He began his description of the city of Jerusalem in a very personal way. He noted he has been going to Jerusalem for 25 years. One trip was on the last day of September, 1973. He came at the invitation of a Christian theological institute in Jerusalem to lecture on the Book of Job, Eli Wiesel, and other topics. Dr. Idinopulos took a taxi from Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion Airport) to Jerusalem. The taxi driver was a 30-year-old Morrocan Jew who had immigrated to Israel. As the taxi traveled through the Judean hills, Dr. Idinopulos engaged in conversation with the taxi driver. Topics discussed included the quality of Jewish life in Morroco and Israel and the relationship of suffering to Jewish life. After arriving at the theological institute, Dr. Idinopulos went up several flights of stairs to the roof of the building, where he enjoyed the beautiful scene of the surroundings of Jerusalem, including the Judean hills and Bethlehem. He inhaled the smell of lemon, pine, and jasmine, and felt exhausted, famished, and elated. Four days later, forces of Egypt, Jordon, and Syria went to war against Israel.

Religious people view Jerusalem as an entryway to heaven. Years of warfare have scarred the city. Different religious groups live in their own Jerusalem neighborhoods, eyeing each other warily. Dr. Idinopulos raised the following important questions. Who should govern Jerusalem? Should it be divided? Would a solution to the problem of Jerusalem enhance or detract from the overall peace process? Noone better anticipated the Jerusalem problem than the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah said, "It shall come to pass that the mountain of the house of the lord shall be established as the highest mountain . . . they shall beat their swords into plowshares and there will be no more training for war."

Isaiah knew that Jerusalem was a city of daily strife containing at the same time the way for learning God's message. The heights bear impressive names, including Mount of Olives and Mount Moriah; the valleys below include Gehanna, Jehosefat, and Kidron valley. These are the heights and depths of the terrain. People of good will and abiding faith rise with the hills. Jerusalem in spite of her tormented history comforts the believers. Where modern cities have become functional, Jerusalem retains its ancient ways. For the people of Jerusalem, faith is not a mirror; it is a port to God. The stone on Mount Moriah is the source of Jerusalem's vision, a vision of world redemption. Jerusalem, whatever its problems, is still the root of redemption. Large numbers of people are making their way to Jerusalem for the millennium. The city is both sanctified and alluring. It is best seen at dawn. Looking up at the beautiful hills at dawn, one can readily believe that God chose this city. What divides people is the daily practices of different religions.

Jerusalem has been a battleground among the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. God's wisdom is questionable in selecting a place with so many stones. Dr. Idinopulos recalls a conversation he had with a Mennonite clergyman in Jerusalem in which the clergyman observed that Jerusalem is a pile of rocks. The prophet understood that spirit is never disembodied. The Mennonite did not understand that Jerusalem is more precious because of the blood spilt over the stones. The righteous shedding of blood must be pleasing to God. Dr. Idinopulos noted that there is a striking dissimilarity of the monuments of the city. Most conquerors of the city have desecrated the monuments of competing religions. Antagonism between religious groups is a pervasive characteristic of the city's history. As an example, Dr. Idinopulos cited the fact that no window in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is washed without extensive arguments between the various Christian sects which have proprietary rights in the Church.

Residents of Jerusalem cast furtive glances, full of contempt for other religious groups. The Psalmists visualized Jerusalem as a city of peace. Yet, there are separate Chambers of Commerce for Jews and Arabs. The neighborhood one lives in determines who one marries and associates with. Noone walks about free in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is an eschatological city--always concerned with the end time of the world. Everyone in the city worries. Jerusalem has urban renewal; yet it is the antithesis of the modern. There is no colorless, odorless gray mass in Jerusalem. The Turks built the wall of the city to keep the Messiah out. The city is full of diverse smells. Because the city is particular, style and form are important. Jews treat Muslims with extreme delicacy. The Hassidim generally do not speak to goyim (non-Jews). But when asked, they will give a quarter hour lecture to the inquirer about the subject of inquiry. There is a Red Russian Church associated with the original Russian community aligned with the Soviet Union. The priests were all said to be Soviet spies. This church is shunned by the anti-communist White Russian community in Jerusalem. Dr. Idinopulos attended the Red Russian Church where there was a great splurge. Israeli government officials circulated in the Church, networking with the priests and other attendees. Jerusalem is a sensuous city. Dr. Idinopulos concluded his formal presentation at 9:00 PM.

Discussion Period

Erica had a comment and a question. She noted that Dr. Idinopulos wrote and read beautifully. She asked about the Golden Gate. It was closed by the Arabs. Why do the Gush Emunim want to open the gate? In his reply, Dr. Idinopulos noted the literalism of many of the religious sects that inhabit Jerusalem. He also discussed the power of the status quo in Jerusalem; it is the single source of stability and active peace in the city. The Temple Mount is designated mainly as an Islamic shrine. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a Christian shrine. When they ruled the area, the Turks maintained that the Western Wall was a Muslim shrine but Jews had rights there. However, there has been a change with respect to the Western Wall since Israel gained control. Dieter said he thought that Muslims were allowed on the Temple Mount as a concession. Dr. Idinopulos observed that Israelis saw the 6-day war as a reunification, not a conquest. Dieter said he did not know that Islam had a messianic tradition. Dr. Idinopulos replied that Islam believes in the final judgment which is messianic. Abe expressed surprise that Muslims have a concept of a Messiah. Dr. Idinopulos replied it is more of an age than a person. Jewish tradition never built up the Messiah to be a divine figure. Bert said there is a convergence of all three religions with respect to the eschatological nature of the city. Dr. Idinopulos noted that the interest of the Millenialists in Jerusalem is an illustration of this eschatological nature. Dr. Idinopulos said he had brought some of his recently published books along for sale.

Ken asked whether the Jerusalem problem can be solved. Dr. Idinopulos noted that any solution to the Jerusalem problem must be pragmatic in that it must recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city while recognizing Arab rights to form its own capital in the city. Abe says he sees two Idinopulos perspectives in conflict. On the one hand, sectarian religious passion is a characteristic of the city; on the other hand, pragmatism is needed to achieve a solution. Dr. Idinopulos admits that there may be two viewpoints; however he is an optimist and would not add his own curse to a cursed city. He noted that Palestinians finally recognize that they must compromise in order to achieve some of their goals. Similarly, the Israelis have come to recognize the necessity of compromise. Leah said that pragmatism is part of the problem of Jerusalem. She told the story of an Israeli reporter who took them to Jericho after the turnover of that city to the Palestinians. The visitors went to a coffeehouse that they used to go to when the city was under Israeli control. At the coffeehouse, the group talked to uniformed Palestinian policemen in quite a civil manner. However, both pragmatism and passion can arise at any time. Abe drew an analogy to Yugoslavia which is a multiracial society with an underlying stream of ethnic passion. Felix asked whether there is any role in the settlement for the Christian population. Dr. Idinopulos replied that there are not many Christians left; there are not more than 100,000 in the whole country of Israel. The Christians are in a very ambivalent situation. Major Christian denominations have important properties in Israel. However, Dr. Idinopulos noted the changed Vatican policy that nothing is worth fighting for in the Holy Land.

Eleanor asked about the number of travelers to Israel for the Millennium. Dr. Idinopulos replied that there will be quite a few such visitors. Bert said that the Vatican has opposed Millennialism. Dr. Idinopulos observed that the first Christians were Jews. Abe asked how accurate is the date of the Millennium. Dr. Idinopulos said we do not know for sure the exact date. There is potential for disorder because of the passions of the Millennialist Christians. Rose Wendel suggested the Dialogue buy Dr. Idinopulos's recent Jerusalem book for Harold Rubenstein as a get well gift. This was approved unanimously by those in attendance.

The meeting adjourned at about 9:30 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Ken Rosenzweig, Secretary
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