And yet, there are those who choose to focus narrowly on specific personal difficulties in order to encourage conflict, turn back Jewish history, and, ultimately, bring about incalculable suffering.
By Dr. Shmuel Katz and Chaim Silberstein, Special to United with Israel
Jerusalem Reunification Day, also known as Jerusalem Liberation Day, has come and gone – most fortunately without the actualization of the terror threatened by Hamas. Though many are not aware of the sublime significance of this day, it is actually nothing less than the absolutely brightest and happiest day (aside from Israel Independence Day) in the past two millennia of Jewish history.
Next year will mark exactly 2,900 years since the beginning of King David’s rule over the Kingdom of Judea. It was he who established Jerusalem, based on Biblical verses, as the holiest city and eternal capital of the Jewish People. But when the Romans sacked the city and set the Holy Temple ablaze in 68 C.E., this set off some 1,900 years of mourning and longing for our national return – until it finally, joyfully happened:
The most recent grim, 19 year (lengthy) period of Exile from our holy city ended in 1967 in a defensive war, when the entire city was liberated by Israeli forces as a response to the illegal Jordanian occupation, and their unprovoked attack on the state of Israel. The national and individual exhilaration can barely be described in words.
This short overview necessarily ignores the myriads of personal struggles and tribulations experienced by the individuals who lived through these centuries. Today, as well, countless happy and sad personal stories relating to the reunification of Jerusalem affect real people – but the vast majority of them cannot be widely told or remembered in the framework of the historic national saga that is gloriously playing out.
And yet, there are those who choose to focus narrowly on specific personal difficulties in order to encourage conflict, turn back Jewish history, and, ultimately, bring about incalculable suffering not just to individuals, but to masses of people, both Jewish and Arab.
A recent Jerusalem Post article by a well-known far left researcher, who actively seeks to divide Jerusalem and turn Israel from a Jewish state into one of “all its citizens,” bitterly laments the celebrations of Jerusalem Day. He derides the very idea that Jerusalem is united, calls Jerusalem Day one of Palestinian “mourning” and “anger,” and brings as proof an anecdotal example that takes up almost a full quarter of the article: a story of his Arab friend who from Bethlehem, married to an eastern-Jerusalemite, who was long unable to live or drive in Jerusalem.
He then sums up: “I cannot celebrate the false unity of this city… It is a city of more hatred and pain than a city of love and compassion.”
It is incredible that individual stories of relative suffering, stemming largely from security considerations, should be used and disseminated in order to wrest eastern and northern Jerusalem from Israel and transfer it to the undemocratic, authoritarian Palestinian Authority.
Yes, the PA is officially an “authoritarian regime,” according to the Economist’s 2020 democracy index, which heavy-handedly cracks down on opposition and civil society. In addition, its leaders have repeatedly said they would not tolerate Jews in their midst. PA chief Mahmoud Abbas has said, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah.” Thus, even partial Arab control of Jerusalem, as those like the above-cited author and seek, would mean suffering on a massive scale for Jews, Christians and Moslems alike.
There are many who claim that Jerusalem is not actually united, as Jews barely ever enter any Arab neighborhoods. We note that there is no parallel claim that Arabs do not frequent Jewish areas, for Arabs feel free to enter, for work or other purposes, all Jewish neighborhoods in the city.
But the demand that because of a lack of mingling, the city must be divided is spurious. There is no shortage of cities around the world with sections that are all but closed to various sectors of the populace – yet no one demands that they be partitioned! There are European urban neighborhoods to which even the police are afraid to enter. There are also plenty of ethnic areas that those of other ethnicities prefer not to frequent, unconnected to fear and crime factors. Such is the way of the world.
Investment in Arab neighborhoods
The above-cited article, filled with resentment at the myriads of Israelis who march and dance joyfully on Jerusalem Day to celebrate the growth of their city, ignores the benefits that this growth has brought to the Arab residents as well. The author claims that infrastructures in some Arab neighborhoods are substandard, yet he ignores the great energy and budgeting invested by the Jerusalem Municipality to improve this situation.
Note also, that by choice, most of the Arab residents of Jerusalem do not participate in municipal elections and thereby ensure representatives in the city hall who would lobby for their quality of life. Notwithstanding, the city of Jerusalem invests heavily in the eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods.
He also overlooks the fact that these crowded conditions are largely the result of the rampant illegal construction by the residents, with no regard for zoning, sanitation, or earthquake safety. The claim that the city does not allow them to build legally is false; they simply do not apply sufficiently for construction permits.
The Municipality reports that between 2011 and 2017, it received a “disproportionately low number of [Arab] building permit applications.” Specifically, only 14% of permit applications were from Arab neighborhoods, close to a third of the Arab share in the city’s population. Some of the reasons they don’t apply for permits are, not recognizing Israeli sovereignty, trying to avoid and bypass the heavy taxes other legal residents pay, and submission to pressure by nefarious external forces. At the same time, the applications they do submit are approved on a very high scale. In 2016, for instance, a whopping 197 out of 198 Arab building applications were approved!
The article in question takes a bitter and hate-mongering tone regarding what he terms Jerusalem’s “false unity.” It states that “for most of the Palestinian people [sic]… [Jerusalem Day is a day of mourning and remembering.”
In fact, however, many of the Arabs in Jerusalem are actually quite happy living under Israeli rule. Better off in general than most of their brethren living nearby under Palestinian Authority rule, a majority of Jerusalem Arabs have repeatedly shown in public surveys that they would rather continue living under Israeli control than under (in) the PA.
The article further avers that Jerusalem Day is “a day of anger caused by direct provocation,” and that the city is one of “hatred and pain.” If the author is referring to the Arab mother who was widely quoted some years ago saying that she prays that all her sons die killing Jews, then he is right. The incitement from the PA government and media, as well as from some religious Muslim leaders, has led to many murderous attacks against Jews. One can only fearfully imagine what will be the lot of Jerusalem’s residents if the PA or their cohorts take control of even part of the city.
We should all be aware of the fact that should evil gain money, power, political influence and control over territories, ALL good people will become their victims, including those who tried to appease them. Let us continue to strive for a united Jerusalem, free and under a democratic Israeli sovereignty.
Dr. Shmuel Katz served as an IDF officer in the Six-Day War. A Fellow of the Israeli Surgical Society, the American College of Surgeons, and other medical societies, he is also on the board of many pro-Israel organizations. Chaim Silberstein is founder and director of Keep Jerusalem, a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded to educate the public at large as to the importance of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.