Monday, July 27, 2009


A Jewish Obligation to Live in Jerusalem
by Mordechai Kedar
Published 27/7/2009 ©

Recently, pressure has been applied by US President Barack Obama to prevent the construction of a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. If Israel deserves the title "state" it has to stand united in an effort to rebuff this pressure resolutely.

There are several justifications for this strong Israeli stand. First, the struggle over settlement in Jerusalem is at heart a struggle over Israeli sovereignty in the city, based on 3,000 years of Jewish history in the holy city, long before Washington was the capital of the United States, Paris the capital of France and Cairo the capital of Egypt. Jerusalem, and particularly the area of the Temple, embodies the hopes and is the focus of the prayers of the Jewish people since it went into exile 1,940 years ago.

Zionism is based on the idea of returning to Zion, meaning to Jerusalem, not to Beersheva or Haifa or Jaffa. Every year at this time, during the month of Av, we weep for the destruction of Jerusalem, with mourning for Yavne, Tzippori, Masada and Gamla added to the mourning for Jerusalem. The prophets of Israel prophesied the salvation of Jerusalem and no other city. Conceding any portion of the city, especially the Temple Mount, would create a sense of destruction among many Jews. They then might lose their faith in the Zionist enterprise and react in ways that could endanger the unity of Israeli society.

Second, if the state of Israel concedes the Temple Mount and other parts of Jerusalem it would be signaling world Jewry that it has lost its link to Judaism and would thereby risk losing the support of many Jews in the world who would consider this an act of treachery against our religion, our history and the Jewish hope of salvation that was realized in part 42 years ago.

Third, Jerusalem never was, even for a day, the capital of a Palestinian or Arab entity. After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, the capital was Ramleh, located 40 km from Jerusalem. Even Jordan, which ruled East Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967 did not make it its capital. Accordingly, the Palestinian demand to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine has no basis in history.

Fourth, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the issue of Jerusalem does not stand alone: if Israel shows even a little flexibility on this question, it will invite pressures to concede "just a little" on the issue of refugees and the crack in the dam will widen and wreak destruction on the entire Zionist enterprise.

Fifth, concessions offered in neighborhoods adjacent to Jerusalem would place the capital of Israel within range of light weapons, enable snipers to target pedestrians and return the city back to the pre-1967 days of protective walls. Today the city is already within range of missiles and rockets from Ramallah and Bethlehem; moving the attackers even closer, within the line of sight of Jerusalem, would only increase their appetite for rendering the lives of Jews unbearable. No one in Israel or beyond can assure us that a future Palestinian government will deal with these
attackers efficiently, without the bother of High Court injunctions and appeals from human rights activists.

Sixth, the territory of East Jerusalem was never under Jordanian sovereignty. Hence it is impossible to argue that East Jerusalem is "occupied territory". At most this is disputed territory, to which the non-Jewish contender cannot be defined in sovereign terms since it is not a state. Accordingly, Israel has a considerable judicial advantage in seeking recognition of its annexation. Only politics is delaying this process.

The conclusion that emerges from this discussion is that a concession on Jerusalem or parts of the city constitutes surrender to a baseless Palestinian, Arab and Islamic demand and could endanger both the capital of Israel and the entire Zionist enterprise. Israel must expand and enrich Jewish residence in the historic capital of the Jewish people in order to eliminate once and forever the possibility of partitioning the city. We don't have to generate superfluous friction by placing Jews in crowded Arab neighborhoods. But housing construction in the Shepherd Hotel location is important, if only because of the link between this structure and the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who volunteered to recruit tens of thousands of
Muslims for the Nazi extermination machine.

The entire city of Jerusalem should be developed on the basis of Jewish-Arab equality; interested Arab residents should be granted full Israeli citizenship. Israel should declare for all to see and hear on road signs, in official documents and in the language used by the Broadcasting Authority that the name of its capital is Yerushalaim, not Urshalim and certainly not al-Quds. The Islamic conquest of this country ended with WWI and there is no reason to perpetuate the name that desert tribes gave the eternal city of the Jewish people.-

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a lecturer in the Department of Arabic and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University.

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