On May 2008, I was invited by the Turin Book Fair to join a debate on Jerusalem. At the speakers’ table, there were as well a couple of Italian journalists who had just published a stylish book on the Holy City. At the end of the debate, I asked one of them: “When were you in Jerusalem last time?”. “I was never in Jerusalem in my life” he replied. Mr. Trump, instead, has at least been in Jerusalem once, last May. His recent announcement of the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel has however made me wondering whether he has ever realized what that place is about. I am afraid that Mr. Trump did not spend enough time in the city to understand its plural nature. With all its religious traditions, its pilgrims coming in droves every day, and the incoming and outgoing diasporas of Jewish and Arab people which have been continuously reshaping its human profile, Jerusalem has always been a city with a genuine history of cultural contaminations occurred at times of war and of peace, and with therefore a deeply rooted identity of Mediterranean essence, in the way this notion is used by Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf: an identity which is less tribal, less exclusive, less a prisoner of selective myths, and open to others and to the realities of the neighbours across the region. And that is still the case, despite the growingly aggressive policies of Judaization of the city’s ancient and outer districts.
Mr. Trump has not meditated enough either on the Christian holy books, because he has forgotten that God is unity and trinity, and the religious mystery of the Christian revelation materializes in the fact that Jerusalem is a holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Mr. Trump has not studied either the history of the Middle East, and therefore cannot visualize how many civilizations and armies have battled to occupy the city, govern it and dispossess it of its plural nature throughout the centuries, and always failed in imposing a single historical narrative. Mr. Trump is not either a man of empathy, he does not show any interest in expressing sorrow for the suffering of the weakest, Palestinians included, and cannot therefore realize that the only way to pay a tribute to human pain and the remembrance of historical brutalities such as the Holocaust is to neutralize the reasons for future conflicts.
The President of the United States, probably, is only a stupid, pretentious and ignorant person, and his heart is unable of any motion of compassion for whom is less lucky than him. He is ready to put at stake the destiny of two nations, and does not care of what Jerusalem has represented and still represents to millions of people because he only seeks what makes him (pretending) to be above the others; he is ready to make others paying any price and to defy the Nations and the Earth itself in order to satisfy his ego. Or, looking at the kind of courtesans and comrades he has filled his cabinet with, with their destabilizing and insane ideologies, perhaps the story behind his decisions is merely about blunt hate… The hate of the Muslims, the Arabs and the Oppressed.
Poor Jerusalemites, they live in a cursed place, where sultans and emperors earlier, and presidents and kings nowadays have brandished the sword in Whoever’s name to win others’ fear and land, and therefore hold more power. Palestinian writer Suad Amiry told me once: “If we have to pay such a price because we live in a holy land, I wish God could abandon us”. I can understand that: an Arab Jerusalemite is de facto a stateless person, neither a citizen of Israel, nor a citizen of Jordan or Palestine. He/she cannot vote at Israeli elections, and Israel makes anything possible so that he/she does not vote at Palestinian elections. If an Arab Jerusalemite born in Jerusalem quits the city for a while, he/she loses the right to live there. Ethnical eradication is the goal of many policies set up by the Israeli government for Jerusalem.
I hate Jerusalem, there you can barely find peace in churches, mosques and synagogues, you feel the tension in the streets, soldiers are everywhere in East Jerusalem. You walk at a fast pace, you watch behind you. You go to Jerusalem to look for peace, and you leave Jerusalem to look for peace. Jerusalem is the mirror of our contemporary times: We cannot meet peace outside our borders because we have not cultivated peace within them.
We live at times of bullies’ self-portrayal, exhibitionism and arrogance, and the leadership of honorable or ancient nations are not exempted from it, whether these nations’ names are Israel, America, Russia, Egypt or Saudi Arabia. I apologize for making names, the reality is in fact that bullying is permeating the art of governance everywhere, even in Europe and between Palestinians, but certain bullies are more powerful and therefore harmful than others. Declaring Jerusalem the capital city of one single nation, when that city hosts at least two, is an act of bullying. Ignoring that this act ignites rage in all Muslim and Arab nations, and feeds disgust in many others is an act of idiocy. Creating the conditions for further instability and violence in a place blessed by at least three great faiths is a blaspheme.
Never mind, some would say, as long as Jewish Jerusalemites live enjoying a sense of normality, even if Arab Jerusalemites can lose their home or residency status at any moment. It is another mirror of our times, where our apparent peaceful and innocuous well-being is in the reality based upon someone else’s oppression. And history teaches that oppression generates turmoil.
Many others could be the reasons for taking Jerusalem as a mirror of our times: the fact for instance that it is a divided city (despite its Arab side has been illegally annexed by Israel thirty-seven years ago), where the boundaries are either cement barriers like those behind the Mount of Olives preventing the Arab of the Eastern neighborhoods to reach the Old City, or the invisible lines marking the immaterial separation between the races, the rich and the poor, or the functioning and the decaying. On the other hand, the fact that in Jerusalem you can pray and practice your own religious teachings in one of the dozens of temples embodying the diversity of the divine revelation reflects our times of welcomed or despised cultural coexistence. Or again, what happens between Israel and the Palestinians shows how arduous it is even in our current times of democracy and education for all to learn from past human pain, and teach the next generations compassion and understanding, instead of replicating the horror of power games and persecution.
Once more, the fact that people are still able to learn how to endure injustice and never surrender is another reason to view Jerusalem as a mirror of our times. Humanity offers the best when the Power delivers the worst, like all those Israeli Jews who refuse the military Occupation, stand against it and are prosecuted for that by their own courts.
Mr. President, let me speculate that you have decided to declare Jerusalem the capital city of the Jewish State because you have never taken the time the realize that Jerusalem is mirroring the contradictions of our nations and the burden of our mistakes, included yours. In your narcissism you have challenged History by provoking a large part of Humanity, as a pyromaniac who sets fire to a dry forest. You do not care, I should have known, you are the paladin of the careless, but Jerusalem is too ancient and wise, it is impregnated with too many wonderful deeds and unforgiving memories, to pay attention to other kings and emperors’ moods.
The stones of the Old City are like the dust of the stars, from which life and death in their multiform variety and unexpectedness have manifested themselves on this Earth.
Bologna, December 10, 2017.