JERUSALEM – This holy city is usually bustling with tourists year round with surges of visitors during the high holidays in the fall and spring when Jews and Christians alike make their pilgrimages to Israel.
And nothing – not terrorism or rocket attacks – has ever stopped Evangelical supporters of Israel from coming by the thousands to show their love for this country.
Except for COVID.
That’s why the year 2020 has been absolutely odd and outright devastating. For nearly one year now, Israel’s borders have been closed to all foreigners leaving the Old City alleyways empty and, in many ways, depressing.
This was the focus of part 2 of my interview with Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum who told me that the absence of Christian visitors this year has been “painful.”
“Throughout our wars and our urban warfare situation, the intifadas … the Evangelical community always could come and always came. Through the good and the bad, they always came,” Hassan-Nahoum acknowledged.
“And this is the first time in our history that non-citizens, including Jews, from all around the world, cannot make it. And we find this is particularly painful for Jerusalem.”
Hassan-Nahoum explained that what makes Jerusalem so special is that the city was built 3,000 years ago by King David, purposely outside of Judah and Benjamin, so that no one tribe could claim ownership.
“For me, what’s special about Jerusalem is that our very DNA is one of ingathering and is one of diversity,” she said.
That’s why Hassan-Nahoum is working to keep the character of Jerusalem as a welcoming and open city that is “the capital city of the State of Israel, the capital city of the Jewish people all around the world, but is also in the hearts and souls of Christians and Muslims.”
She credits the current mayor, Moshe Lion, for his ability to navigate the complicated issues that are special to the city to keep its character intact.
“You know, we have the ultra-Orthodox who are 50% of the (city) council, even they are 25% of the population here. You have the Arab population of the city, which is 40%. You have also the clashes between the ultra-Orthodox and the secular (Jews) – it’s really a very complicated city,” Hassan-Nahoum said. “And this man knows how to balance everybody. And he does it quietly and diplomatically and somehow makes everybody feel good.”
Hassan-Nahoum also talks about how it was love at first sight when she visited Israel for the first time at 14 years old. She shares her story in this delightful interview you don’t want to miss.
Here's the full interview.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.