Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Did We Forget Thee, O Jerusalem?

Boris Shusteff
September 20, 2000

"If you want one simple word to symbolize all of Jewish history, that would be Jerusalem".

(Teddy Kollek, August 11, 1988).

It is hard to believe that we, the Jews, have exhausted our love for Jerusalem. For almost two millennia we swore our allegiance to our greatest city. Three times a day, year after year, century after century we promised to return to our eternal capital. We uttered countless beautiful words about Jerusalem. Myriads of poems and songs were dedicated to her. How many times we have repeated: "If I forget thee O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning ?"

What has happened to us? When did we lose our soul? Our shame cannot be greater. We forgot thee, O Jerusalem! Our "tongues cleaved to the roofs of our mouths" and we are unable to speak in your defense. The enemy is ready to devour you and we are silent.

"I heard a cry, like a woman in labor, a scream like a woman bearing her first child. It was the cry of Jerusalem gasping for breath, stretching out her hand and saying 'I am doomed! They are coming to kill me!'"

(Jeremiah 4:31)

They are coming from all over the world. Every one of them dares to say that they have rights to thee, O Jerusalem. And we allow them to pronounce the words that should be an abomination to our ears. On September 15 Martin Indyk, US Ambassador to Israel, said "the solution to the disputes between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem is sharing sovereignty in the city." He said that the "holy city is sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and it cannot be under the exclusive sovereignty of one side."

It is forgivable for Martin Indyk, an American citizen, who calls Jerusalem a "holy city" not to know that in the 13th century the famous Arab geographer Yakut said that "Mecca is holy to Moslems and Jerusalem to the Jews" (1). However, it is inexcusable for Martin Indyk, the Australian born Jew, even to think that anyone else but the Jews can have sovereign rights to the city. If Indyk strives for "equality" he should first suggest that the cities of Mecca, Medina and Vatican be razed to the ground and then ask the Christians and the Moslems to wait approximately two thousand years. Only then, if they show the same devotion to the city that the Jews have demonstrated for Jerusalem, Indyk will have the right to say that "There is no other solution, it cannot be the exclusive preserve of one religion."

As a Jew, Indyk should know that Jerusalem is the "exclusive preserve" of only one religion - Judaism. While in the Jewish Bible Jerusalem is mentioned on 656 occasions, in the Koran Jerusalem is not mentioned at all. How one can even compare the sanctity of Jerusalem in Judaism with its place in Islam, knowing that Egyptian Sultan el Kamil, in 1229, handing over Jerusalem to Emperor Frederick II of Sicily and Germany said, "I have ceded nothing but churches and houses in ruins" (1).

One does not question the sanctity of Jerusalem for Christians and Moslems. The issue at stake is the place that the city occupies in their religions. Famous Christian historian Reverend James Parkes noted that "if we are to be factual we still must make a distinction" (2). While Jerusalem is the place where these three monotheistic religions meet, "each is there by its own right, but each is not there because Jerusalem is the heart and nerve center of its world-wide community. That applies only to Jewry and Judaism" (2).

Since Jerusalem has "nothing significant to nations as such" (2) with the exception of the Jewish people, Parkes concluded,

"That Jerusalem should remain united and within the political sovereignty of Israel is right and proper; for, though both Christendom and Islam venerate it as a holy city, neither religion could claim that it has ever had the place in their thought that it has had for nearly three millennia of Jewry" (2).

And this Jewry today is silent. The silence of the Jews is deafening. One should notice that Martin Indyk called for sharing sovereignty over Jerusalem while at Hebrew Union College, in front of a Jewish audience. But if Barak, Beilin, Ben-Ami and other Israeli leaders do not feel ashamed to forsake Jerusalem, why should an American Jew be any different?

How easily the current Israeli leaders juggle the various proposals that pour in from all over the world, in an attempt to satisfy Arafat's demands. They try to be especially creative in dividing up the holiest place of the Jews - the Temple Mount. Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Ben-Ami's suggestion for Israel to keep "residual sovereignty" over the Temple Mount speaks volumes of our degradation as a people. His idea is to give sovereignty to a third party that will subsequently delegate "the ruling authorities and custodianship over the holy places" (3) to the Palestinian Arabs. As MEMRI indicated this "will absolve Israel from the chore of transferring authorities over part of Temple Mount directly to Arafat." (3).

Another "brilliant" idea is to divide sovereignty over the Temple Mount into "above-ground" and "over-ground." Israel will relinquish its sovereignty over the Temple Mount area but will keep its sovereignty over "the subterranean layers and the Western Wall" (3). It appears that the "galut" mentality has blossomed among the Israeli Jewish leaders. Like their brethren centuries ago, they try to be "invisible" to their neighbors. They hope that the Arabs will leave them alone if no symbol of Jewish sovereignty is displayed on the Temple Mount. They agree to allow the Palestinian flag to fly there and are ready to bury the Jewish flag under the ground.

Although, don't we have enough Jewish flags under the ground? Didn't we wrap up in them enough bodies of heroes who fell defending the Jewish quarter and the Temple Mount? How quickly have we forgotten those who gave their lives for Jerusalem. Maybe we should revive in our memory the events of 1948 when the Jewish heroes, completely cut off from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem, were defending the Jewish quarter of the Old City? Sir Martin Gilbert quoted Dr. Avraham Laufer, an Austrian Jew who headed the medical unit that provided medical services for the besieged Jews.

"I have to admit that men who would have been hospitalized under normal battle conditions were sent back to the front after being bandaged. We did this because we were short of men and because while they were receiving treatment their places were being taken in the posts by the children" (4).

These Jewish children were defending one of the parts of "East Jerusalem" that today the world media unashamedly names "predominantly, historically and traditionally Arab." They were defending the Jerusalem that their fathers, grandfathers and countless generations of great-grandfathers prayed about.

Laufer wrote that he will never forget one case, when a handsome boy about twenty years old was brought in.

"A piece of shrapnel had penetrated his eye.
"How long will the operation take?" he asked
"About fifteen to twenty minutes," I answered.

"Too long," he said. "The situation at our post is desperate right now. Just put a few drops of something in to kill the pain and bandage it. I'll be back as soon as we have driven them off."

'An hour later they brought him back. His handsome face was blown away by a shell. There was no need to trouble any further about his eye. He was dead'" (4).

Perhaps, today, the shrapnel of the Oslo "peace process" has penetrated our eyes and we do not see the ongoing division of Jerusalem? But why, then, are our Jewish hearts silent, if they are still alive? Did we really forget thee, O Jerusalem?


1. Eliyahu Tal. Whose Jerusalem? Israel, 1994.

2. James Parks. Whose Land? Penguin Books. Great Britain, 1970.

3. Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), September 13, 2000

4. Martin Gilbert. Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York, 1996.

Source: GAMLA


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