Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reaffirming Our Commitment to Jerusalem

...When we rejoice today and raise the national flag, when we sing "Jerusalem of Gold," we will remember the words of Nathan Alterman, that justice lies with us, and we will not let the devil twist our minds.

Nadav Shragai..
Israel Hayom..
28 May '14..

Happy holiday, fellow Jews; today we celebrate Jerusalem Day.

This is a wonderful opportunity to clarify a few things we can be happy about. This is a day to mark the great joy, not tragedy -- despite what a few professional lamenters might say -- that came with the return to our historical home of Jerusalem, the most holy of our sites. The 200,000 Jews residing in Jerusalem beyond the distorted, outdated border lines are not an obstacle to peace, but an obstacle to re-division. Many of this city's residents, Jews and Arabs, not only feel that dividing Jerusalem is not a "solution," it is a surefire recipe for chaos and increased hostilities.

For 364 days out of the year, we discuss the best and worst courses of action, what should and should not be done in Jerusalem. But on this one day, the day the city was liberated, it is befitting to pay homage to our own sense of justice, to cast a steady eye outward and inward, and to heed the essence of the Torah's teachings. In the spirit of the historian Ben-Zion Dinur: The Arabs have full rights in Jerusalem, but no rights over Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is the embodiment of Jewish justice. It is the strongest collective memory we have as a people. It has been present in our lives for 2,000 years, in our prayers, celebrations, days of mourning, religious ceremonies, songs. It has been part of our unyielding longing. It was and still is one of the clearest markers of Jewish identity, if you will -- the true law, unwritten, that defines Israel as the home of the Jewish people.

Many years ago, Menachem Begin posited that Jerusalem defended Israel more profoundly than Israel defended Jerusalem. He was right, but his diagnosis was only a partial one. Throughout all the years of our exile, Jerusalem indeed functioned as the glue unifying the Jews dispersed throughout the Diaspora.

But when we returned, too many of us began to lose our bond with the city. More importantly, we began to forget our obligation to Jerusalem.

Beyond the Zionist endeavor of construction, immigration and settlement of Jews in Jerusalem, we need to go back to strengthening our commitment to the city; to expand and deepen our historical consciousness and memory; to re-establish, through our bodies and minds -- especially among the younger generation -- our love for Jerusalem; to stroll across its ancient and modern landscape.

But this is not enough. Just as Jewish children in Israel learn math, English, chemistry and Bible in school, they should also learn a subject known as Jerusalem in elementary and high school. This city, after all, is not just the history and geography of our people; it is our physics, chemistry and biology. Without knowing the city's history and significance, we will be unable to understand why it is the embodiment of Jewish justice and our claim to this land. Education on Jerusalem can span poetry, a rich variety of literature written in and about the city, Torah sources, history and archaeology. This, of course, is not a short-term lesson plan, it is a long-term educational guideline, befitting of what we can learn from such a city if we are willing to take the journey.

The Muslims are doing part of the "job" for us. Their anthology of falsities on Jerusalem balloons by the day, and obligates us to learn and deepen our roots. They not only object to our rights and to our connection to Jerusalem, they also revise the city's history, alter its biography, replace ancient history with recent history, and they are trying to de-Judaize public consciousness. They "force" us to revisit our justification for Jerusalem, the foundations of which can never be allowed to solely consist our defense-security needs. They force us to make it clear that in contrast to our continuous bond to Jerusalem, the city barely ever played a role in Arab political and cultural life. Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo -- yes. Jerusalem -- no. Ramle, the only city in Israel founded by Muslims (during the first Arab conquest), became a provincial capital, but this was not the case for Jerusalem. Throughout the years Jerusalem was never the capital for any nation, other than the Jews.

Do not, therefore, allow the misguided among us to confuse you: We did not conquer a foreign land. We returned to the cradle of our lives, to Zion and to Jerusalem. A person who returns to his home cannot be considered an occupier. This is not mere terminology. We liberated the city from a long line of occupiers -- the latest of which were the Jordanians -- who were abusive and hostile toward us and our rights for many generations.

When we rejoice today and raise the national flag, when we sing "Jerusalem of Gold," we will remember the words of Nathan Alterman, that justice lies with us, and we will not let the devil twist our minds.


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