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Jerusalem: unified city, divided views

Forty years after the city was unified, it remains split into Arab and Jewish enclaves.

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Judith Katz and Mahmoud Moussa Atoon live down the street from each other. Both teach, both have an affinity for history, and both have an almost romantic love of the land on which they live. Were they residents of almost any other city, they might cross paths buying groceries, dropping kids off at school, or taking a walk.

But the two are unlikely ever to have a word with each other, nor do they really want to.

On Tuesday, Israel will kick off celebra-tions marking the 40th anniversary of what it calls the reunification of Jerusalem; Mrs. Katz will be among the merrymakers. But Mr. Atoon will be among the mourners: Arab East Jerusalemites, who now make up just over a third of the city's population, say it is a solemn moment to take stock of lives under occupation.

The tale is one for which there is no entirely fair telling. But it encapsulates central tensions: Israelis fear a growing Arab population that could take away their demographic edge – and wear away the right to call its capital city a seat of democracy. Moreover, Palestinian and Israeli proponents of a two-state solution, long presumed to mean some kind of plan to award both peoples a capital seat in Jerusalem, worry that facts on the ground will preclude an equitable peace.

Wrapped in the Jerusalem 'envelope'

Atoon lives in Sur Baher, down the slight slope from Ramat Rachel, where Katz lives. The former was once a Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and the latter, an agricultural kibbutz that sat in view of the holy city. In the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967, whose actual anniversary is during the first week of June, both areas became part of Greater Jerusalem, eventually wrapped into the municipal lines Israeli officials designated as the "Jerusalem envelope." 

But their views of Jerusalem, so enchanting from the vantage between the two communities that tour buses like to pull in for a photo opportunity, are a window into how such radically different narratives can coexist on the same hilltop. 


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