Thursday, September 15, 2005

What would happen if mosques were burned — and other silly questions

By Jonathan Tobin

Several years ago before I came to Philadelphia, I accompanied the former governor of Connecticut on his first trip to Israel.

In my journalistic capacity, I tagged along as John Rowland, then considered an up-and-coming star of the Republican Party, was schlepped around Jerusalem on a whirlwind tour conducted by guides from Israel's foreign ministry.

But as we were winding our way around the Old City, I began to chafe a bit. The visit to the sites of several ruined synagogues in the Jewish Quarter did not elicit even a mention from the guide over the fact that they'd been blown up by the Jordanian Arab Legion after they took the place from its outnumbered Jewish defenders.

Nor did a view of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives prompt the guide to mention that the cemetery had been desecrated by the Jordanians during their occupation of part of the city before the unification of Jerusalem by Israel in June 1967.

Frustrated that an opportunity to educate an American leader about the history of the city was being missed, I doffed my journalist's cap and intervened in the conversation.

The result was an angry riposte from the guide, who told me to let him do his job and not add to the confusion on the part of the governor.


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