The first time I was in Jerusalem, it was a divided city. It was December 1957 and, after a stop in Jerusalem, my family was going next to Egypt. But Egypt would not let us in if we were coming from Israel, with which it had no diplomatic relations then. So we had to stay on the Jordanian side of the city.
When I returned to Jerusalem last year, it was a geographically unified city again but with a divided heart.
It's intriguing to me that U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has set a 9-month timetable for the talks, meaning any child conceived this weekend would be born, perhaps, into a world in which the Middle East is, for the first time in a long, long time, at peace.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Jerusalem is unique among world cities in that it is the religious center of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And both the Jewish nation of Israel and the Palestinians consider it (or at least part of it) their capitol.
There is a branch of Christianity that believes the Second Coming of Christ will not happen until Jews have control of the Temple Mount, currently the site of a mosque at the Dome of the Rock. So these Christians (I and many other Christians reject their end-times version of things) are great supporters of Israel in hopes that Israel eventually will gain Temple Mount control.
There are lots of similar religious complications to the question of Jerusalem, though perhaps none so pointed as that one.
So as we follow the peace talks and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, let's not assume things will work out fully in the end (or in nine months) just because negotiators settle some issues other than Jerusalem first.
(In the photo here that I took last year in Jerusalem, you see the Dome of the Rock and you see the dove of peace looking for a place to land.)
* * *
FAREWELL TO A SCHOLAR OF RELIGION