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May 11, 2012
THE JORDAN TIMES - Hazem Nusseibeh of Jerusalem
Hazem Nusseibeh celebrated his 90th birthday on May 6, 2012. To celebrate the auspicious occasion, HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal hosted a banquet in his honour.
The invitees included a number of Dr Nusseibeh's illustrious Jerusalemite friends, both Muslim and Christian, among them Haj Zaki Ghoul, the last appointed Arab mayor of Jerusalem, Raef Nijim who was involved over the last few decades in the conservation and the restoration of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, Rajai Dajani, former minister of interior and senator, and others.
Prince Hassan paid tribute to Nusseibeh, a Jordanian, scion of a prominent Jerusalemite family whose history goes back to the arrival of Islam to Palestine. His family name is derived from Nusseibah Al Maziniyyah, from Al Najjar clan of the Khazraj tribe of Medina, a woman companion of Prophet Mohammad who fought alongside him in the first battles of Islam, whose ancestry is associated with one of the most peaceful and dramatic events in the history of Islam.
Upon the peaceful entrance into Jerusalem of Caliph Omar Bin Al Khattab, the Damascus-born Patriarch Sophronius invited him to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, holiest of all churches in Christendom. Fearing that future generations of Muslims might convert the church into a mosque, the caliph wisely declined, choosing a location outside the church, a few metres away, which since then stands as the Mosque of Omar on the very spot where he prayed.
"The Covenant of Omar", proclaimed in Jerusalem at the time, remains the earliest declaration of religious freedom and tolerance in history, emphasising the greatest of human rights, religious freedom, while exhorting religious freedom for and acceptance of the "the other".
Hoping to avoid the continuous clashes between the rival Christian sects, the caliph entrusted the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Nusseibeh family, an honour and a trust which they still keep today.
Today, the city of Jerusalem, indeed, all of Palestine is being systematically emptied of its Christian population by Israel and its Zionist neoconservative supporters of the West. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, since the establishment of Israel, has become basically a museum visited by groups of tourists from all over the globe. Most of the original local Christians have been pushed out systematically over the years.
Nusseibeh's birthday celebration was a tribute to his intellectual, literary and diplomatic achievements, to Jerusalem and what it stands for, to Jordanian national unity and to the wisdom, character and statesmanship of its host.
Nusseibeh's history has been closely associated with the development of Jordan over the years; his age is almost that of Jordan.
The posts he held are many, starting with Majlis Al I'mar, minister of Palestinian affairs, of foreign affairs, of the Royal Court, senator and many other positions. He is the author of innumerable articles and books in both Arabic and English, including "Arab Nationalism", "Jordan Political History", "We and the World", "Living Memory", and "Jerusalemite Memories".
The writer is director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies and former foreign minister of Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.
by Kamel S. Abu Jaber
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