Friday, May 26, 2006

Post-Yom Yerushalayim Thoughts

Yesterday was Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), celebrating the anniversary of the reunification of the city during the Six Day War of 1967. I always love taking some time, on Yom Yerushalayim, to appreciate the privilege I have of living in what many (including me) consider to be the holiest place on earth, and the fact that the Old City, including the Temple Mount (Judaism's holiest site - so holy that most Orthodox Jews consider ourselves too impure to set foot on it) is once again under Jewish (sort of) sovereignty. It's truly a miracle, and I am so incredibly grateful that I can literally walk to the Wailing Wall any time I please.

But . . . I have some questions for some of my readers. This question is NOT (I repeat, NOT) coming out of a desire to "split" Jerusalem, but rather out of an abhorrence of intellectual dishonesty . . . and out of curiosity as to how people think about these matters . . . (so please don't jump down my throat (Rivka), and keep the discourse civil. Thank you.)

Let's say that you are, at the very least, uncomfortable about giving any part of the Land of Israel to PA control. (I think most Israelis fit that category, and most Jews worldwide, including myself.) At the least, uncomfortable, and at most, vehemently opposed to the depths of your soul. And let's say, also, that however opposed you are to giving up control over any other part of the Land, you are more opposed to giving up parts of Jerusalem, because . . . it's Jerusalem. No explanation required. That is, on a scale of one to ten (with ten being "most opposed" you are at, say, a 7 when it comes to other parts of the West Bank, but at a 10 when it comes to Jerusalem, or something like that).

Now, I have a few questions for you:

1- Are you more opposed when it comes to any part of the municipality of Jerusalem, or just more opposed when it comes to the Old City and/or Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem such as Talpiot and Ramat Eshkol? That is, would giving up sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem upset you just as much as giving up the Old City? Would it upset you MORE than giving up areas outside Jerusalem? Or is it really just the Old City and Jewish neighborhoods that hold an even more important place in your heart?

I guess we could re-word it thusly:
On a scale of one to ten, how opposed are you to giving up Arab villages in the West Bank? Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem? Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem? The Old City?

2- Have you ever been to any Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem? Do you know the names of any of those neighborhoods? (I'm asking my Jewish readers, especially the ones who live in, or often visit, Israel's capital.)

3- What makes a neighborhood part of Jerusalem? Because the residents there feel that they are? Because the Jerusalem City Hall has jurisdiction over the garbage collection and parking tickets there? Because of some inherent increase of holiness in certain areas? Because it was part of Jerusalem when King Hezekiah lived in it? (According to that last, none of West Jerusalem is part of Jerusalem, either.) In other words, what's in a name?

In case you were wondering where I stand on this right now . . . I vehemently oppose giving up sovereignty over any part of the Old City and other places that hold hugely prominent places in the hearts of most Jews, under any circumstances. Regarding now-Jewish neighborhoods such as French Hill and Talpiot, I see no reason for Israel to give them up- why should we? Yes, I hear the arguments from the other side . . . but frankly, those arguments are weak, and don't make me care. The city is NOT occupied, it is annexed. As for Arab neighborhoods . . . . at least I'm honest enough to admit that I've hardly ever been in them, and since obviously most residents there don't want to be Israelis (since it was annexed, Arabs in East Jerusalem may accept Israeli citizenship, but most have opted not to take advantage of the offer), then I have no more problem with giving it up than I have about giving up most other pieces of land, at least from an ideological perspective. However, there are logistical problems. It is very difficult to split up a city without destroying vital infrastructure such as travel. It would make a mess of things - for everyone.

(Notice that I'm not saying "fine with me, split up Jerusalem." I'm talking about how much splitting Jerusalem would bother me in relation to how much any other land-for-more-war concessions would bother me.)

Bottom line: This whole issue sucks. I wish the world would accept the fact that Jerusalem was annexed, with citizenship offered to its Arab residents, and if they don't want to take it, then that's their prerogative, not our problem. I wish the city I live in wasn't under a microscope, and that we were free to get on with the business of improving the economy here and quality of life for everyone. I wish people would stop calling East Jerusalem "occupied," when it is not. The Palestinians don't have to like that Israel annexed East Jerusalem, but they can stop lying about it.

I used to live in the Big Apple . . . now I live in a place so fractured, it's applesauce.

Here is an exerpt from the poem "Jerusalem 1967" by Yehudah Amichai (translated):

I've come back to this city where they have given
names to distances as if to human beings
and the numbers are not of bus-routes
but rather: 70 After, 1917, 500
B.C., Forty-Eight. These are the lines
we really travel on.

And already the ghosts of the past are meeting
with the ghosts of the future and negotiating about me from above,
giving and taking, not taking and not giving,
in the high arches of shell-orbits above my head.

A person who comes back to Jerusalem feels that the places
that used to hurt do not hurt anymore.
But a faint warning remains in everything,
like the movement of a light veil: warning.

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