Mayors can play an important role in making peace by creating good relations with their neighbors, President Shimon Peres told participants at the 25th Jerusalem Conference of Mayors at Beit Hanassi on Tuesday.
Looking around at mayors from more than 40 cities in some 30 countries, Peres told his guests that in many ways, they represented the changes taking place in our time.
In the future, he forecast, there will be very few villages: "The world is marching from small villages and towns to large cities."
People used to live off agriculture, but now they are living off science, and the structure is changing "because you are not living off the land, you are living off the mind," he said.
The trend was universal, he observed, citing China as a paradigm, with 700 million people moving from rural to urban life.
The transfer from the village to the city involved many changes, such as the movement from low-level occupation to hi-tech and from countries that don't have work to countries that don't have workers, said Peres.
"The future is total equality," he said, emphasizing that there would be no discrimination against skin color or gender.
Because of all the changes, cities must now have local, national and global agendas, he said. Federal governments will have less to do, because they will be too small to control the global economy and too large to control the needs of the people.
"When someone has a problem, he calls the mayor, not the prime minister," he said.
And, Peres continued, the government doesn't have enough money for the cities' expenses of the city, so mayors must think of ways to make money on their own. A city's income was not just from taxes, but from industry, he said.
Thus it is incumbent on every mayor to bring new industry to his or her city.
Mayors also have to deal with issues such as pollution, he added, linking the problem to disappearing borders.
"Pollution doesn't need a visa to go from one place to another," he commented, but solving problems such as pollution led to regional cooperation, which in turn led to economic cooperation, which in turn led to peace.
Meanwhile, after praying on the Temple Mount, two Muslim mayors attending the conference called on their co-religionists to visit Jerusalem.
Al-Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Adam Kimbisa, from Kampala, Uganda, prayed at the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa Mosque on Sunday and said if every Muslim could see Jerusalem, their perception of Jewish control of the city would change.
"If people could visit each other frequently, these artificial barriers could be broken very easily," said Sebaggala. "Here I prayed, I walked freely, nobody was harassing me, and I felt very good. Seeing is believing."
AP contributed to this report.