I thought I had written all that I would write about Jerusalem here (see O Jerusalem!
) but the issue just won't go away of course. We should not have to explain the obvious, but it appears there is no choice. Jerusalem has been central to Judaism for 3,000 years.
Each day observant Jew
s pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and almost everyone vows, each year at the Passover
Seder, "Next Year in Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been central to Zionism
since its inception. "Zion" is the name of a hill in Jerusalem. Hatikva
, the Zionist anthem and later the Israeli national anthem, expresses the hope, "to be a free nation in our own land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem." The Hebrew University, Hadassah hospital and Jewish Agency headquarters were all established in Jerusalem as testimony to the intimate and integral connection between the new Zionist community and the national capital of the ancient Hebrew state and the renewed Jewish state. The Knesset was located in Jerusalem as soon as it was practical to do so. The location of every Zionist institution and every settlement was a political
statement. Jerusalem was certainly not the most convenient place for these institutions.
In the 1948 War of Independence
, David Ben-Gurion
insisted that no effort be spared to save Jerusalem. He understood that Israel could not continue to exist if all of Jerusalem were to be lost. Great efforts and bravery against all odds were expended in a desperate effort to hold the Jewish quarter of the Old City, which was conquered and ethnically cleansed of Jews
in May 1948. For 19 years, bitter Israelis looked across the barbed wire of the Mandelbaum gate or down from the roof of the Notre Dame hospice at the part of Jerusalem that was illegally occupied by the Jordanians and off limit to Jews. The Israeli right and the Israeli left reproached each other for the loss of the wailing wall and the cemetery on Mt Olives in the old city, and the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus Presumably, you know all this. So why am I bothering to reiterate the obvious?
Believe it or not, someone has taken on himself the task of rewriting history. The Soviets were experts at this: "Dear comrade - Please remove the article on Kaganovich, Lazar and paste the enclosed pages in your issue of the Soviet Encyclopedia." Even in free societies, the past can be changed at will, since human memory depends on the written or recorded word and only history that is passed on in this way remains in the "collective memory."
With effort and persistence, it would be possible to obliterate the Holocaust
or any other event or fact from human memory in a few generations. "Revisionist" historians have already done a fair job of changing Israel's history. The next target is apparently Jerusalem. Ameinu, ostensibly a Zionist organization, tells us For Zionists, the Obsession with Jerusalem is a Recent Phenomenon
. The article states:
The idea that the Jewish people have had a continuous, unbreakable emotional and spiritual connection with Jerusalem for thousands of years is, of course, one of the organizing principles of our narrative... But the transformation of that emotional and spiritual identification into the core of a political ideology, is, in fact, a recent phenomenon.
Recent is relative. The Old Testament Bible was edited in its final form about 2,500 years ago. From the point of view of Paleontology, that is fairly recent. It attests to the political importance of Jerusalem in the Jewish national narrative. Hatikva was written only 130 or so years ago, a mere speck in the scale of time considered from the point of view of cosmology.
And the author, Dan Fleshler, can find a quote from Walter Laqueur's History of Zionism to prove his point. You can always find one quote from somebody to prove your point, especially if you quote out of context. Laqueur's history includes numerous proofs of the centrality of Jerusalem as a political issue, but in his new preface, he may choose to ignore those proofs. If Walter Laqueur says it is so, then it must certainly be so. It doesn't matter how many people died trying to save the old city in 1948, or how many died to liberate Jerusalem in 1967. It doesn't matter if the name "Zionism" was chosen for the Jewish national movement either. If Walter Laqueur and Dan Fleschler said it is so, then it must be true, and never mind what it says in Hatikva, right?
Fleschler's declaration is not entirely without merit. Ameinu, Fleshler and Laqueur are correct to point out that Halutzim had contempt for the ultraorthodox inhabitants of the old city who lived from charity, and that most Israelis would not want to live in Jerusalem as it is now. But that is a reason for changing Jerusalem, not for abandoning it. It is not a reason for changing history either. The following is also unarguable:
The idea that Jerusalem was the beginning and end of Zionism, that Israel could not exist without having full sovereignty over the entire city emerged only after 1967...
. Obviously, Israel existed as a state before 1967, without Jerusalem, and while sovereignty in Jerusalem is certainly an end or goal of Zionism, it was not the beginning and is certainly not the end. It is one thing to say that Israel can live without part of the old city, it is absurd to say that Jerusalem had no political importance for Zionism before 1967. The Knesset was established there as soon as possible after independence, and a rebuilt Hadassah hospital opened its doors in Jerusalem as soon as the money could be found to fund it. Israel risked UN censure time and again by holding military parades in Jerusalem. Weekly convoys maintained an Israeli presence in the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus for 19 years. The student records and other materials kept there could have been duplicated or removed if the place was of no importance.
Do Dan Fleschler and Ameinu pretend that all this was done without any political motive, or are they simply ignorant of Israeli history? The Israeli government consistently upheld the political importance of Jerusalem, against the greatest hardships, and against the sentiments and convenience of government members. As Fleschler points out, because of its isolation and atmosphere, most Israelis didn't want to live in Jerusalem and it was not a convenient place for the government. Nonetheless, state institutions were established there, and the government made every effort to get offices and people to move to Jerusalem, not for sentimental or emotional reasons, but for very important political reasons.
Arguably, the Christian and Muslim world, as well as the Jewish people, will not really accept that we have returned to our land until and unless we have undisputed control of Jerusalem. That is is the real issue. That is what people died for in 1948 and 1967. Since at least the time of the Crusaders, whoever controls Jerusalem is understood to control the land. The problem is not control of this or that holy place, but acceptance by the world that Israel is the restored commonwealth of the Jewish people, which is the ultimate goal of Zionism.
Fleschler and Ameinu are advocating for an end that is perhaps legitimate: compromise over Jerusalem. It would not be justified to block a real peace agreement with the Palestinians because of Jewish neighborhoods in Har Choma, or insistence on keeping Jewish control over Arab neighborhoods like Jabel Mukaber and Shuafat. Indeed, the terror attack on Yeshiva Merkaz Harav was carried out by an Arab resident of Jabel Mukaber, pointing out the dangers that may be involved in keeping such areas. But Ameinu's stance can also be easily understood and trumpeted as total acquiescence in the demands of the Palestinian Authority, that Israel must retreat to the borders of the 1949 armistice, and give up the entire old city of Jerusalem and the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus as well. Ameinu and Fleschler have provided the Palestinian propagandists with "proof" that Zionists don't really care about Jerusalem.
Nobody has pointed out to me where, in the writings of any Zionist, or where in the Bible for that matter, it is stated that Shuafat and Kalandia and Jebel Abu Ghneim must be part of Israel forever and ever. King Saul's kingdom did not even include Jerusalem. But any compromise over Jerusalem is undertaken reluctantly. Keeping control of Jerusalem is a political goal, even if it is not the political goal. We will certainly not win many converts to the cause of compromise with the incredible proposal that Jerusalem was of no political importance to Zionism.
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Replies: 1 Comment
I'm pretty secularized, but the songs and prayers of the sedar table seem most instructive. We give thanks to G-d for delivering us from slavery in Egypt and declare "Dai-anu" -- that was sufficient. But we also proclaim, "next year in Jerusalem".
The founders of modern Israel were both great dreamers and, at the same great pragmatists. They accepted the 1948 armistice borders as being better than nothing. I wonder what they would think of the likes of the men you name above.
Lynne T, Friday, March 28th
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