Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Op-Ed: RECLAIMING JERUSALEM

by MK Rabbi Benny Elon

Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio
Broadcast on Sep. 29, 1999 / Tishrei 19, 5760

In This Article:

1. Jerusalem and Sukkot
2. Mt. of Olives - East of Jerusalem
3. A Critical Year Ahead
4. Reclaiming Our City
5. It's Up To Us!

JERUSALEM AND SUKKOT

Jerusalem and Mt. of Olives stand at the center of the haftarah (public reading from the Prophets) that we read on Sukkot. The passage, from the book of Zechariah, chapter 14, tells us that in the future, woe will be to those nations of the world who do not arrive in Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, and a great plague will befall those who fought against Jerusalem. The holiday of Sukkot, on which are brought 70 sacrifices on behalf of the 70 nations of the world, will be the time when all the nations and the entire world will finally appreciate the place of the Nation of Israel and that of Jerusalem.

A special focus in this haftarah is placed on the Mt. of Olives: "Then shall the L-rd go out and fight against those nations. And his feet shall stand that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split along its middle by a very great valley from east to west. Half of the mountain shall be removed towards the north, and half of it - towards the south."

MT. OF OLIVES - EAST OF JERUSALEM

The description of the Mt. of Olives as east of Jerusalem is very significant. East of Jerusalem was always very important - the Geonim used to arrive from there, and the Mt. of Olives was always a place where Jews would stand and look out onto the remnants of the Holy Temple when they weren't allowed to enter the city itself. Here, atop this mountain, was where David prayed while running away from King Saul. On Hoshana Rabba (the seventh day of Sukkot) a special, important, well-known, and holy Hoshanot ceremony was held, in which Kohanim (priests) holding willow branches would walk around the mountain. There are Geonic reports of this ceremony, and Kabbalistic writings about what will happen in the Redemption process when this ceremony - the forerunner of today's twice-yearly massive Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall - is renewed.

A CRITICAL YEAR AHEAD

In the politics of today, too, this year may well have critical implications for the future of Jerusalem and Mt. of Olives. This could be the year in which the nations of the world will attempt to determine the fate of the Jerusalem, and the Arabs will likely attempt in various ways - including terrorism - to separate us from the eastern half of Jerusalem and Mt. of Olives. They will make every effort that we should not come to visit the ancient Mt. of Olives cemetery, or Yeshivat Beit Orot, or Ir David (the City of David, just below Dung Gate and the southern entrance to the Western Wall). They will do their best that we should not live in this entire area, east of the Old City of Jerusalem, the area known as the City of David.

RECLAIMING OUR CITY

This could also be the year, too, in which maps will be drawn, and we will see whether the city is truly united - not only in declarations, of which we hear many from our politicians: "eternal capital, united forever, etc." - but also in practice. If you have a car, you should try to get out and take trips in the different parts of our capital, and you will see that great efforts are being made in truly making this city totally Jewish. We are working on this very hard - myself, and many others - not only in Beit Orot, and not only in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood. Many many lands in Jerusalem and environs are owned by Jews and can be reclaimed.. These include a clear majority of the lands surrounding Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount - from the Kidron, from Shimon HaTzaddik, the University (known as Tzurim Valley), the Valley of Yehoshaphat, the Valley of the King, the ancient and holy Jewish cemetery on Mt. of Olives, the City of David, the Ben Hinnom valley - all along the east half of Jerusalem.

Our presence must not only be under the ground, in the cemetery, but also above ground, with Jews walking there on Shabbatot inside the eruv, with schoolchildren on trips in their capital, walking along the green patches - all this is not only possible, but it must be done. This is what will determine the fate of Jerusalem, and will decide: Will the nations despair of dividing Jerusalem, while we determine facts on the ground to perpetuate its genuine unity? Or will we be like those who merely parrot declarations, but don't get up and do anything? Unfortunately, there are those who do this - sitting in the Diaspora, every year they recite "Next Year in Jerusalem," in the full knowledge that next year they will be exactly where they are now.

IT'S UP TO US!

This is the test that all of us will face this very year - there is nothing more urgent than this. The status of Jerusalem will be determined by us. I would be happy to meet each of you personally to walk around the various parts of Jerusalem and show how we are investing efforts, and how we must continue to do so. We are the Nation of Israel, returning to its Land and returning to its City, the Eternal City. May the words of the Prophet Zechariah - in the above chapter - be fulfilled: "On that day, He and His Name will be one."

Chag Same'ach, and we hope to see you - walking in Jerusalem!

Rabbi Benny Elon, a Knesset Member of the National Union party, headed the Beit Orot Yeshiva in eastern Jerusalem.

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