Home  > Historical Perspectives
United and open to all (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Nadav Shragai 05/20/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=1914 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Happy holiday to the Jews. Today is Jerusalem Day. Let´s face it, this is not a holiday for the Arab residents of Jerusalem; there is no reason for false pretenses. But the reunification of Jerusalem, and the Jews´ return to the Temple Mount, to the Western Wall, to the City of David, to the old Jewish Quarter, to Shimon Hatzaddik (Simeon the Just) and to Mount Scopus was a life-altering event, no less than another occasion that we celebrate every year: Independence Day.

Independence Day is also not an Arab-Israeli holiday — on the contrary — but just as we would never dampen our joy or mourn together with the defeated side, which tried to destroy us, so it is on Jerusalem Day. We will not dampen our delight because of the grief of those who hoped to wipe us off the map.

This grief, incidentally, has diminished over the years. The Arabs of Jerusalem are rather terrified of the possibility that the Palestinian Authority will assume guardianship over them. Despite being subjected to discrimination in quite a few areas, as official residents of Israel they enjoy a long list of important civil rights and benefits, and most of them (as polls indicate) prefer to continue living here with us, rather than re-dividing Jerusalem.

But it is not just Arabs who don´t celebrate Jerusalem Day. In recent years, certain Jerusalem "lovers," Jews actually, have taken advantage of Jerusalem Day to criticize the city and list its shortcomings. We can assume they will also do so this year, and therefore a more balanced overview is called for.

Forty-five years ago we returned to the Western Wall, but we forgot the Temple Mount. We built an impressive chain of neighborhoods on the outskirts of the Old City, where about 200,000 Jews live today, which completed changed the demographics and geography of Jerusalem. But we neglected the historical core of the city, the Old City, and we didn´t make enough of an effort to settle Jews there as well. Today, Jerusalem is undergoing a magnificent renaissance, in tourism and in culture. Millions of people visit the city annually, but its Jewish residents are leaving the city at a rate of about 18,000 per year. People are fleeing Jerusalem because there are no jobs and no available housing. U.S. pressure has brought to a halt in construction in east Jerusalem and environmentalists have blocked construction in the western part of the city. We need to be a little less considerate of both, and begin building a little more, so that more Jews will stay in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has divided aspects and united aspects, but more than anything else it has gained a type of normalization, which would be brutally destroyed if the city were to be re-divided in accordance with Bill Clinton´s parameters or in the spirit of the Oslo Accords. The Jews and Arabs of Jerusalem alike rely on a plethora of joint services such as health services, public transportation, roads, electricity, sewerage, water, communications, commerce, hotels and academia. And most importantly: The Jordanian Legion is no longer shooting at us, the walls that once divided the city have fallen, Jerusalem is open to all and members of all faiths enjoy the freedom to worship as they see fit.

The poet Yitzhak Shalev wrote this just before 1967: "Woe to the city that has no south and no north / the city with the lost eastern edge / blocked horizons and bound distances / a screen obstructs the beauty of its forums." This screen must not obstruct Jerusalem ever again.


Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY