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My Childhood in Jerusalem

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Published on May 3, 2011

Here is the old city, situated in the heart of Jerusalem. Today a UNESCO heritage site, it retains all the charm of the Ottoman era. In the hands of the Turks until 1917, when it came under the British Protectorate. Forever destined to be the holy city par excellence, in 1949 the United Nations proclaimed it an international city, precisely to promote the peaceful existence of the various religions. Only a year later, however, it was declared -- but only unilaterally by Israel -- the capital of the Jewish state, among many contradictions and difficulties.Mr. Issa Habash spoke about it in a meeting held at the Swedish International Center. Many years behind him and an honorary title -- Knight of the Holy Sepulcher -- Habash retraced the years of his childhood, when he was a boy in Palestine and the divisions did not yet exist.ISSA HABASH: "It was a happy childhood. Our neighbors were our fellow Palestinians and we never had any problems with our Jewish friends. We were living together like brothers and sisters. This period continued until the beginning of the Second World War."The problems all started -- Habash said -- after those happy years. The horror of war brought hate and fear.ISSA HABASH: "At that time, the Jews began to ask the English for new guarantees, and things began to get worse."Making matters worse, and for everyone. Jews, Christians and Muslims, who today live together, under other circumstances, in this city, which we -- still, despite everything -- call holy. A city which does not cease to speak to the hearts of those who live and have lived here, as Christians, past and present, through all the ups and downs of recent history.ISSA HABASH: "The beauty of Jerusalem is its way of praying ...And Jerusalem is not only the Holy Sepulcher or the Mount of Olives or the Way of the Cross, it is the entire old city, in general, it is the holy city ... because Our Lord walked on these stones, he preached, he breathed ...the old city is sacred for me....and this is the opinion of the Christians of this country...and it does not matter if we are many or few. Yes, of course, now we are a minority, it is true, but this remains the land of Our Lord, this is why we call it the holy city, no? And the Christian presence here is still very strong, at least in its deep sense of faith ...".

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