More balanced views on Jerusalem's history needed

Dr Gil Yaron's commentary and other articles alluding to Jewish ancestral rights over the whole of Jerusalem contain unassailable and informative arguments (How Jerusalem gained its status as a holy city, Jan 14; and Artefact set to fuel Jerusalem debate, Jan 19).

I would not be surprised if many readers are persuaded towards that particular narrative of the Israeli occupation of Palestine - that is, that the former is simply taking what is rightfully theirs.

I find this narrative troubling, as it is akin to arguing for an exclusive Malay nation here based on historical, scientific and archaeological evidence of Malay sovereignty over ancient Singapore.

As is typical with epic narratives of long lost heritage, it does not address centuries of economic transactions, social assimilation, political machinations and cultural exchanges that legitimised the said heritage changing hands or being shared between co-existing races; notwithstanding those which did not co-exist.

Palestinians and Israelis can continue to split hairs or dig up more artefacts to deny the other a decent piece of land to call home. Or they can take a leaf from the book of nations like Singapore and learn how different races can co-exist.

But if Singapore is to be of help to that end, Singaporeans' exposure to such erudite scholarships on Jewish ancestral heritage must be balanced with equally erudite expositions on how Jews, Muslims and Christians once co-existed somewhat harmoniously in the holy land.

Then, even if no one cares to learn from us, at the very least, we Singaporeans can learn to appreciate our forefathers' collective struggles, sacrifices and compromises in creating our multiracial co-existence.

Osman Sidek

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2018, with the headline 'More balanced views on Jerusalem's history needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe