For those unfamiliar with the real reason why the Camp David 2000, Barak-Arafat summit failed, they can find the answer in one word. Jerusalem. Solving the issues around this holy city proved to be the toughest problem for Palestinian and Israeli leaders..

Now, in a new four-part TV series, The Shape of the Future, that shows how the conflict might actually be resolved, the producers take on the issue of Jerusalem in a  program can be seen this Saturday night, July 16 at 8:30 PM in Arabic on the Ma’an Network and the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and on Abu Dhabi satellite TV at 7:00 PM (Jerusalem time). This same program will be shown in Hebrew on Israel’s Channel 8 on July 23 at 8:30 PM. .

‘Jerusalem is my city,’ declares Nazmi al-Jubeh, who co-directs an institute dedicated to Palestinian historical preservation.  He speaks with conviction and without arrogance about Jerusalem’s problems and contradictions, while displaying a deep love for the city.  Similarly, former Jerusalem city engineer Elinoar Barzacchi, an Israeli, talks with real passion about the same city, although admitting that she no longer adheres to the myths of the 1970s, when she first moved there from Haifa..

The film’s most important and impressive feature is the pictorial essay it presents about the invisible wall that currently divides Jerusalem’s Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews.   In the past, the discussion was the difference between eastern and western parts of Jerusalem.  Now, however, there are more than 200,000 Jewish Israelis living in Palestinian areas occupied during the 1967 June war, and the invisible wall is no longer an east-west affair but a barrier that snakes from one neighborhood to the other and is based simply on ethnicity.

The film takes us on a journey along the Jewish community’s well-paved roads, through well-equipped gardens and playgrounds, and to the Palestinian areas, which  are mostly ignored and under-served, despite the fact that both populations pay municipal taxes at the same rate.

A number of Palestinian and Israeli experts interviewed in the program talk about this invisible wall phenomena, pointing out that any visitor to the various areas in the city can easily notice when they are in a Jewish area in comparison to when they cross that invisible wall into the Palestinian areas.

With such a complicated and intertwining situation, can the issue of sovereignty be divided?  Is it possible to have shared sovereignty? The proposal of President Clinton is offered as one way out. Namely, that Palestinians should have sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods, while Israel should have sovereignty over Jewish ones. Haaretz military affairs reporter Ze’ev Schiff endorses the idea.  While Palestinian journalist Nabil Khatib feels that dividing Jerusalem will be next to impossible, Schiff and he agree that the city should  be the capital of two states 

To solve this problem, the producers of The Shape of the Future choose a very wise route. They concentrate more on the day-to-day, micro issues than on the big-picture, macro issues.

To accomplish this, Nazmi al-Jubeh and Elinoar Barzacchi reinforce each other on a number of basic questions. They agree on the need for a transitional period and they feel that the key to solving many of the problems is to address social and municipal issues.  The documentary does a good job in identifying some of the main features of the city – or shall we say, the two cities – by looking at the human side.

No one seeing this 30 minute documentary will doubt about the fact that Jerusalem today is not a unified or integrated city, but a deeply divided place where there is no doubt about who the rulers and the ruled are.

The absence of a physical wall between the two Jerusalems doesn’t fool most of the experts interviewed in the film. We get to see a visual essay about a Palestinian truck driver from the northern neighborhood of Kufr Akab, Sameeh Abu Rumeileh. He tells us that the normal trip from Ramallah to Jerusalem’s Old City to Ramallah, which used to take 15 minutes, now take a couple of hours. Twelve regular checkpoints and 23 mobile ones have been established in and around the city. The 15,000 people in Kufr Akab, who are legal residents of Jerusalem, get almost none of the city services that Jewish neighborhoods get. Abu Rumeileh explains that municipal officials refuse to come to provide services, but they have no problem coming when they want to arrest someone.  After waiting 15 years in vain for the municipality to provide Kufr Akab with a sewage system, residents finally decided to contribute over a million dollars in their own money in order to build one.

Al-Jubeh and Barzacchi give many ideas for how the city could function as capital of two states.  They talk about two separate municipalities: Al Quds for Palestinians and Yerushalayim for Israelis, with a coordinating committee to deal with joint issues and provide some services, like electricity and sewage.

The Jerusalem shape of the future seems the most difficult one to envision. Clearly creative minds and mutual trust will be needed in order to begin the hard road of solving this difficult part of the conflict.

* Daoud Kutab is a Palestinian journalist and the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah.

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