Speaker to address division in Jerusalem

SOUTHBURY — Jerusalem is a sacred city.

The largest Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – value the holy area. For too long, though, the city has been a hotbed of political strife.

Israel contends that it should remain under its control, and not be divided. Palestinian leaders maintain that before 1967, parts of the city were not part of Israel.

Today, the Israeli government is centered in West Jerusalem, known as the new city. East Jerusalem has been dominated mostly by Muslims.

It’s a division that Joel Abramson doesn’t stand for and on Saturday he will present “One Jerusalem or Two: The Contest of a Contested City” at B’nai Israel in Southbury as part of the Israel Advocacy Committee’s afternoon lecture series.

Rabbi Eric Polokoff, of B’nai Israel, explained that the series targets hard questions – issues that he says the media doesn’t present thoroughly.

“What these forums have done is given us the opportunity to provide some of that missing context,” he said.

“In a small community, in a small town in a small state – we know very well that our power is limited, but we try, you have to try,” Abramson added.

Abramson is a member of the national commission of the Anti-Defamation League, the recipient of Connecticut Region’s Mal and Rae Webber Leadership Award and a representative of the Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur.

He is the parent and grandparent of Israelis and said he remembers when there was no East Jerusalem.

During his presentation he will discuss how the city became segregated after Jordanian occupation.

“Israel has a ancient history, at least 5,000 years. And in all those thousands of years, Jerusalem has been divided for 19,” he explained. “Suddenly those 19 years become gold standard about how to free Jerusalem? Why are we advocating going back to 19 years of a very bad idea? We’ll get into some of that discussion.”

Polokoff said the lecture is meant to spur conversation and ideas and to educate people about the Middle East.

“Jerusalem is a spiritual center for many of us and it’s one of the hot topics of the moment,” he said. “To understand the history of Jerusalem is necessary to understand the peace negotiations which we hope will be conducted. In our own extremely small way, through small gathering, what we’re trying to do is have that exchange of ideas, which will create an understanding which can combat what we see as a form of hatred.”

The lecture, which is free and open to everyone, will be in the synagogue’s sanctuary, 444 Main St. North from 4 to 6 p.m.

You can find a detailed event flier here.

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