A Staunch Voice for Jerusalem from Denver
The Intermountain Jewish News of Denver is an important Jewish weekly, already in the third generation of editors of the Goldberg family. Its current chief editor is Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, who is also a fine scholar and author of an important book of biographies of great scholars of our time.
He has now written a historic editorial in which he sounds a heart-rending outcry over the abandonment of Jerusalem by the Peres government. It is must reading for every lover of Zion, and I therefore gladly yield my column this week to Rabbi Goldberg:
"If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand wither..."
Forget Psalm 37. Forget a unified Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty. Forget it all, the Israeli government's protestations notwithstanding.
Jerusalem, too, is being readied for the Arabs.
Jerusalem, too, is on the chopping block.
The Holy City will go the way of the other territories, if the people running the peace process keep running it. There is nothing in the peace process, as currently conceived, that protects Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
Every ounce of logic that has governed the peace process until now dictates against Israel holding the line on the last Jewish stronghold of sentimental, religious, geograpolitical and historic Jewish territory...
Sentiment. Backers of the peace process maintain that Jerusalem is "different," sentimentally. Jews are attached to Jerusalem. Jews "feel" Jerusalem. Jews love and cherish Jerusalem. Jerusalem is special. So run the official statements.
They are sincere, but then again, so were the official statements of everyone from Ben Gurion to Begin that no Jew or no collectivity of Jews had the right to give up one square inch or Israel. That's right. It was not only the right-winger, Menachem Begin, who said this, but the left-winger, David Ben Gurion. So sincerity is not enough. Policy is what counts. And under the policy of the peace process, the very same thing that is now being said about Jerusalem was, until quite recently, also said about the rest of the Land of Israel. "The Land of Israel is different," everyone on both the right and the left said, "different from all other lands. Jews are attached to the Land of Israel, they feel it and cherish it and love it."
Sentiment made no difference. Big parts of the Land of Israel were renounced -- put out of Jewish hands, by Jewish hands.
To the rulers of Israel, sentiment did not outweigh other claims for peace or the supposedly superseding rights of Palestinian Arabs.
Once the principle of renunciation of the Land of Israel is established, there is absolutely nothing about Jerusalem that will prove to be different.
Religion. Backers of the peace process say that Jerusalem is "different," religiously. It is the center of the Jewish religion.
It is. But so is Hebron. And Nablus. And Bethlehem.
For that matter so is every square inch of the Land of Israel. Read the Talmudic tractate Middot. The special holiness of Jerusalem is set forth, as well as the uniqueness of the entire Land of Israel. A commitment to the Jewish religion that will, without pain or dissonance, turn over parts of the Land of Israel -- Nablus, Bethlehem, and, soon Hebron -- will do the same with parts of Jerusalem.
Supporters of the peace process will argue that a unified Jerusalem, with Palestinian Arabs under Jewish jurisdiction will be harder on Israeli security than a redivided Jerusalem (except they'll avoid the term re-divided",' they'll use "two-sector" or "multi-borough" or some such euphemism). A Palestinian entity that will come into existence with the first Palestinian election will not be satisfied with its "capital" as the object of Israeli largess. Therefore, a re-divided Jerusalem -- part of it an independent Palestinian capital 'will have a better chance of keeping terrorists and thieves out of Jewish Jerusalem.
So, the argument will run. Of course, the real argument goes the other way; but with the rush to renounce so entrenched in the Israeli mentality, the argument for a divided city will seen superior.
History. Backers of the peace process say that Jerusalem is "different," historically. It has been the object of Jewish yearning for all the ages. There is no parallel capital in history that retained the loyalty of its dispersed citizens. Besides, Jerusalem is not and never has been an Arab capital, nor an important city in Islam.
But again, the same can be said for the rest of the Land of Israel, and look at the ease with which it is given away by the powers that be.
There is no record of meaningful Arab residence in the Land of Israel in antiquity. There is no record of any Israeli city, Jerusalem or otherwise, ever being an Arab capital, yet, Arab rights to the land of Israel are duly acknowledged. What's different about Arab East Jerusalem? On this logic, nothing. When Jews prayed throughout the ages for the return to the Holy Land, yes, they had Jerusalem especially in mind. But that was because the Jerusalem they yearned for was the Messianic Jerusalem, the city with a rebuilt Third Temple, the ultimate Jerusalem. This is not the Jerusalem that any one now possesses, or that the current rulers of Israel wish for (or ever have wished for). So on religious grounds, too, it will not be difficult for the present backers of the peace process to rationalize.
"Look, under a reasonable agreement with the Palestinians, we can have control of West Jerusalem (Jewish Jerusalem); we can have control over access to the Western Wall; we can retain the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem -- what more do we need? Do we really need to run the garbage detail or social services for the Arabs in East Jerusalem? What's the bid deal? Let the Arabs have their part of Jerusalem. It doesn't hurt us. It doesn't hurt our control over out part of Jerusalem. For peace, it's worth it. Why not?'
But the Psalmist said: "If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand wither..."
This is the clarion call that has governed Jewish sensibilities for 3,000 years. Even in advance of the negotiations over the final status of the "territories," the leaders of Israel have already forgotten this clarion call. Every sign points to it. Every single ideological and procedural decision in the peace process points to the eventual abandonment of a unified, uncompromised, unattenuated, Jewish Jerusalem as Israel's capital -- and only Israel's capital.
Well, then, should we oppose peace?
The very question reflects the assumptions now governing the peace process. For peace, anything is justifiable. If we must give away half of Jerusalem, so be it.
But that's only as far as the present Israeli government goes. What about a new government? If the present government is defeated in the next Israeli election, are these the only alternatives: to oppose peace, or to continue the present Israeli policies, only under a different party banner? No. there is a third way. We should not oppose peace, but, on the other hand, we should insist on a real peace. There can be no real peace without two conditions:
I) A unified Jewish Jerusalem and a basis for demanding it:
There is no basis for a Jewish right to Jerusalem without the affirmation of the Jewish right to all of the Land of Israel. Jerusalem is an integral part of Israel, and the concept of a holy land embraces Jerusalem. The land of Israel and the eternal city of Jerusalem are two sides of the same coin ... Geopolitically, Jerusalem is the one place where Jews and Palestinians have most consistently, extensively and successfully lived in peace since the Israeli reunification of the city in 1967. Geopolitically, the real argument is for a unified Jerusalem. By principle, the Jewish right to Jerusalem, and by pragmatism, the Jewish conduct of peace in Jerusalem are the best guarantees of peace in Jerusalem.
2) The PLO’s renunciation of its Covenant, which, to this very day, calls for the destruction of Israel.
Not one single Israeli withdrawal should have taken place, no future withdrawal should take place, and no Palestinian election should be allowed to take place, before the PLO renounces its intent to destroy Israel. This obvious point -- a matter of both the most principled dignity and self-respect and the most pragmatic, sober, realistic policy -- is what makes us worry about Jerusalem. If Israel can give up Jewish holy land to a Palestinian Authority that is sworn to the destruction of Israel, then Israel can do anything -- even give away parts of Jerusalem.
Besides logic, there is emotion. It is the emotion behind the Israeli withdrawals that is the most frightening of all. What's the emotion behind the withdrawals? In a word, nothing. These withdrawals from the precious land of Israel (by the way, the concept,. "precious land of Israel," is borrowed from both secular Zionist and Jewish sacred literature’s are carried out without any noticeable sense of pain, dissonance, regret or missed historic opportunity.
As such, Jerusalem is already forgotten. Its only a matter of time before it's gone -- unless the present government and the present concept are changed.
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