Why in the world do we still call Jerusalem the Holy City?

The most genuine sense of holiness I experienced in Jerusalem was at the Al-Aqsa mosque complex. In the exquisite interior at the iconic Dome of the Rock, my mind meandered through the history of this revered Muslim shrine, first built in the 7th century on the Temple Mount, the site of the Jewish temple destroyed by Romans in 70 A.D. To this Christian, Al-Aqsa was a place with meaning for all three Abrahamic religions.

What a shock to see the videos from Al-Aqsa this week, when Palestinians gathered to pray during Ramadan. Israeli police broke through doors, scattering worshipers. They used stun grenades and rubber bullets in response to rock-throwing protesters. Outrage at the desecration of the sacred space spread throughout the region. Gaza militants began launching rockets toward Jerusalem and other towns in Israel.

Predictably, Israel responded by once again pounding the imprisoned Gaza territory with bombs. Also, predictably, the Biden administration issued the timeworn statement about Israel's right to defend itself. Once again, death is the only victor.

At the core of what ignited this latest violence is racism; the soul of an ethnic-religious supremacy that allocates rights to people based on whether or not they are Jews. In East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Palestinians are fighting expulsion from their longtime homes by Israeli settlers.

Under Israeli law, Israeli Jews can claim Palestinian homes that were owned by Jews before 1948, the year Israel was founded. Palestinians do not have the same right to claim homes they owned in Israel before 750,000 Palestinians were expelled in 1948 to create a Jewish majority.

Americans struggle to understand what's happening in Jerusalem. It's described as a "conflict," a simplification implying equal power that does not exist between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli officials call it a "real estate dispute," an amusing description that might also work for the Battle of the Bulge. For many whose tax money subsidizes what's happening in the so-called Holy City, it is all just a confusing hot mess. One friend tells me "the Israeli-Palestinian situation has been around for so long that most of us have moved on."

He may have moved on, but so has Israel. It has become an apartheid state, and – unless there is a major change – it is headed toward the apocalypse.

The latest major organization to pin the apartheid label on Israel is Human Rights Watch. B'Tselem, Israel's own human rights organization, did it earlier.

As for apocalypse, American Christian Zionists would welcome it. They believe the apocalypse will signal the end of the world, when Jews will convert to Christianity and be swept into Heaven alongside Christians, or else. Despite their dystopian vision of end times, Christian Zionists are also voters who support American policies that privilege Israel.

As apartheid-inspired violence boils over in an unholy Jerusalem, as Gaza fires rockets and Israel drops bombs, as the number of dead human beings, including children, grows, the U.S. must decide whether to keep enabling apartheid, partly by its so-called "special relationship" with Israel.

What is most special about that relationship is not that Israel, a prosperous country, is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. What's really special is that American leaders grant impunity to Israel, no matter what it does, no matter how it spends $3.8 billion a year of American taxpayer money.

America sets aside its own values about human rights in order to claim that we share Israel's values. Consider that America outlawed our own racist apartheid Jim Crow laws decades ago, but we support the apartheid system in Israel.

One person who wants to reset the special relationship with Israel is Minnesota's Fourth District Rep. Betty McCollum. She has introduced a bill in the U.S. House to prohibit Israel from using U.S. taxpayer money for the military detention, interrogation and imprisonment of Palestinian children; to demolish Palestinian homes; or to facilitate the annexation of occupied Palestinian territory, which is illegal under international law. If her bill were to become law, it would put human rights conditions on U.S. aid to Israel.

McCollum's bill has 19 cosponsors — only one of them from Minnesota, fellow Democrat Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar. Meanwhile, 331 other members of the US House have declared their opposition to placing any conditions on aid to Israel by signing a letter instigated by AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. Should America condition our aid to Israel on Israel's support for human rights? A majority of the House says, "No."

And so goes the corruption of American values through an unholy special relationship. American tax dollars already subsidize apartheid. If something doesn't change soon, we could also be paying for the apocalypse.

Mary Christine Bader lives in Wayzata.