The moral and legal standing of men and women as it relates to abortion and custodianship have been debated for many years. The courts have typically sided with women regarding abortion, but have become more open to the desires of men in matters of custodianship. Is there any lesson here for the status of Jerusalem?
Abortion and Custodianship
US court rulings in abortion cases almost always side with the woman. Consider the two extreme cases of dispute: if a woman decides to have an abortion but the father of the fetus does not, the courts rule in favor of the woman and do not make her go to term with an unwanted pregnancy. Conversely, if the man wants the fetus to be aborted but the mother does not, the court will not force a woman to have an unwanted abortion.
The situation becomes more morally murky on the next level: financial support for the unwanted child or abortion. Men have argued that it is unreasonable and unfair to make them pay for an outcome that they didn’t desire. If they want to keep the baby but the woman does not, how cruel is it to make the man pay for the abortion? In the other extreme situation where the man wanted the fetus to be aborted, the courts not only ignore their wishes, but further compel the man to give financial support to a child that they never wanted.
In almost every situation of contention related to having and supporting a child, the US courts almost exclusively come down on the side of women. While the legal system may recognize that the rulings are unfair to men, it ultimately concluded that the woman is the more vested party: she’s the one who must carry the fetus to term.
But what about custodianship?
Once a child is born and both parents want to have custody, why should the mother’s desire outweigh those of the father? If the mother wants sole custody, should her wishes be automatically granted? Courts have begun to move away from such approach.
The US legal system has started to award custody based on the child’s best interests, not the desires of the warring parents. A mother is not considered to be inherently the better parent, nor to have greater love for the child. The court examines a range of matters regarding the child’s well-being.
Is there a basis of considering the custodianship of the city of Jerusalem using such rationale?
The three monotheistic religions all consider the city of Jerusalem holy and have fought for centuries over every one of its stones. Each religion has fought on the battlefield to control the city’s holy places, and in modern times, each has also battled in international fora and the media.
If a city could have a mother, Jerusalem’s would be Judaism. Tradition states that Abraham bound the heir to the Jewish people, his son Isaac, as a sacrifice at the very location that Isaac’s descendants would use as a capital city and build two holy Temples. Over a thousand years after Abraham and Isaac, Christianity would see Jesus walk the city streets to his death. Hundreds of years later, Islamic tradition would consider that its prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the city.
The city was not born from a consensual union. Jerusalem was stripped from Judaism in a pagan fire. Over time, the pagans adopted Christianity and the city took on a Christian character. With the Arab invasion of the seventh century, the Christians and Muslims battled for the city on-and-off for 500 years, with the Muslims ultimately prevailing. Just fifty years ago, the Jewish State retook control of the city.
Since losing the city of Jerusalem in a war that it started, Arab Muslims have sought to sue for control over the city. Palestinian Arabs declare that they want a new state with Jerusalem as its capital. Jordanian Arabs argue that they are the custodians of the holiest site, as they have invested and managed the Temple Mount for a long time.
And the Jewish State has made its claim known: it has come home. Jerusalem and Judaism is a family reunited.
The United Nations has weighed in on the matter. It is not a logical, fair or legal arbiter, as the decisions at the UN are advanced by majority vote, and a single Jewish State doesn’t perform well against a phalanx of over 50 Islamic countries. And the results bear that out: UNESCO voted that Jerusalem is “in danger” because the Jewish State controls it.
What if Jerusalem were viewed from the prism of what is best for the city, as the US courts do now in considering the custodianship of a child?
- Jerusalem was neglected under 400 years of Muslim Ottoman rule; it has flourished under Jewish rule
- The Muslim population in Jerusalem declined under Ottoman rule, but under Jewish rule, both the Muslim and Jewish populations have grown
- When Arab Muslims ruled the city from 1949-1967, it forbade Jews from living in the city, or even entering to visit Judaism’s holy places, but since Jews have ruled the city, all religions have been welcomed to live and pray§
Under Israeli sovereignty, Jerusalem has thrived. All “parents” have been able to visit and enjoy their “child.” This is in sharp contrast to a city besieged for centuries under competing custodianship.
People have suggested dividing the city as the most fair manner to resolve the competing claims between Jews and Muslims. But such a division is deadly, much like King Solomon’s proposed cutting of a baby in two to satisfy the claims of two mothers: the baby could not possibly survive.
US courts evaluate what’s in a child’s best interests in deciding custodianship; it does not award it based on avoiding a parent going on a violent bloodbath. Similarly Jerusalem’s sovereignty should be in the hands of the only party that has nurtured it: Israel.
The best interest for both the city itself and for all of those that love it is to see Jerusalem remain under the sole custodianship of its natural mother which has nurtured the city back to health, blossoming as it hasn’t in centuries. Israel.
§ Israel has continued to maintain a ban on Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, to calm the Muslim world. Several Jewish activists are pushing to end the ban.
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