It has been proven true over the years that victors write the history. Nowhere is this fact more obvious than in Jerusalem, where some Israelis are trying unsuccessfully to rewrite centuries-old history.
By changing facts on the ground the some Israelis are desperately trying to claim exclusivity to a city that has been known for its diversity and religious pluralism.
The latest attempt to monopolize the holy city has been so over the top that an Israeli newspaper called the effort “absurd.”
A map of Jerusalem’s old city distributed for free to all tourists and produced by the Israeli tourism ministry received widespread condemnations from Christian and Muslim religious and social leaders.
Of the 57 tourist locations identified by Israelis in the old city of Jerusalem, only one Islamic and five Christian sites were listed.
Al Haram Al Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary covering 144 dunums, which occupies about a quarter of the old city is the only Islamic site on the said map.
For this world-famous setting, Israelis using the Jewish term Temple Mount. It contains a dozen locations, including the silver domed Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, the Golden Dome of the Rock, the Islamic Museum, as well as Islamic schools and shrines.
Christian locations which fill out the old city are also greatly reduced to a mere five.
The Via Dolorosa alone has 14 sites along its stations of the cross, showing the path Jesus travelled before his crucifixion.
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer whose bell tower majestically fills the city’s landscape is totally ignored by the creators of this highly inaccurate map.
In exchange for the ignored historic religious sites and locations that have been preserved and honoured for centuries, the Israeli ministry of tourism, run by a right-wing minister, has forced down the tourists’ throats Jewish locations that not even Israeli tour guides heard of.
Almost every Jewish owned house or synagogue in the old city is given prominence, an attempt that the Israeli daily Haartez called “absurd” because of its silliness.
Jordan’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al Fayez told the Washington-based news website Al Monitor that the attempt to monopolise Jerusalem will not work.
“The attempts to divert Jerusalem to one group or one faith is not helpful. Jerusalem is holy for the three monotheistic religions and is rich with many sites for Muslims, Christians and Jews. For us, Jerusalem is important to all,” said Fayez.
The Israeli ministry of tourism refused to retract the map and claimed that it was created with the help of “experts” in tourism. No list or names of these experts have been identified.
While Palestinian political and religious officials have publicly condemned the forged and irresponsible map, few international figures seriously opposed it.
The United Nations Education and Cultural Organisation and the Vatican have yet to publicly denounce this effort to monopolise the city’s multi-religious history.
The controversial map is the latest reflection of the struggle for the narrative regarding Jerusalem.
Israel’s apologists are working overtime to try and minimise Christian and Islamic cultural connections to the city of Jerusalem while greatly exaggerating any remnants of Jewish presence.
Over the past decades, Palestinian and international efforts focused on protecting religious sites and the presence of the faithful which is often referred to as the living stones.
Some efforts by the Palestinian Jerusalem Tourism Cluster attempted to respond to this Israeli effort by creating and distributing their own inclusive map to the old city, but much more effort is needed.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has channelled enormous political and financial investment in protecting Al Aqsa Mosque and blocking right-wing Israeli efforts to take over the mosque, as many worry that it would lead to a division like that witnessed in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque.
Nevertheless, much more effort is needed in public relations and to promote a more inclusive narrative to the old city of Jerusalem, which can reflect a fair representation of the importance of the holy city to the faithful of all the monotheistic religions.
By Daoud Kuttab Palestinian journalist