Friday, May 15, 2015

My Jerusalem

In Tehillim, the day that Jerusalem was destroyed is called "Jerusalem Day" – "One the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion... G-d, remember... Jerusalem Day, for those who say, 'Destroy it, destroy it, to its foundation." [137:1,7]. Today Jerusalem Day is one of our most important times of joy, as the day when we released it from its foreign conquest and unified it under our sovereignty, 48 years ago. Thus we were loyal to our eternal oath, "If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning, let my tongue cling to my palate if I do not remember you; if I do not lift up Jerusalem to my highest joy." [137:5]. The wise men of Babylon, who could only see Jerusalem in their imagination, said, "Ten measures of beauty descended to the world. Jerusalem took nine measures and one was left for the rest of the world. [Kiddushin 49b]. The wise men of Jerusalem, who were familiar with the city as it existed, said, "There are ten measures of suffering in the world, nine of them in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world" [Talmud Yerushalmi 3:6].
I was privileged to have been a member of the Paratrooper's Brigade under the command of Mota Gur, which freed the city in the Six Day War. I was in the 71st Battalion, commanded by Uzi Eilam, which first broke into the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. I was moderately injured in my leg, and ever since I have felt that I am bonded with the city by blood. I live there with my family and my children and grandchildren. I can see both of the above elements, the beauty and the suffering, and I feel the pain of every element of damage and erosion that occurs, in terms of values, culture, and political status, and every type of damage to the strength of the city.
Dangers from Within and from Without
The harm and the threats are both internal and external. The external elements stem from the Palestinians and the Arab world, the United Nations, and other nations which do not recognize the unification of the city and its status as the capital of our country. Our ability to withstand these threats depends mainly on having a broad national consensus with respect to the status of the city. The reality that we see in front of us is a reason for worry: Who celebrates Jerusalem Day except for religious Zionists and those who live in the city? It is not only the "State of Tel Aviv" which ignores this day, but also the elites from among the culture, academia, the press, and political powers. Aside from two government ceremonies – a festive meeting at the Knesset and a ceremony held at Ammunition Hill – there is no festive atmosphere in the country on this day. This is a disturbing sign of erosion in the recognition of the status of the city and in the ability to display a broad national consensus against the external threats against the city.
The Jerusalem Basic Law, which was relevant on the day that it was passed, does not provide a proper response today for the "Jerusalem down below." While it is true that the exit of educated youngsters has declined a bit, what is needed is a completely new revolutionary approach. This Basic Law must be amended to include benefits and extra privileges, and to encourage citizens of Israel and new Olim to live in Jerusalem, to work there, and to enjoy a level of municipal and national benefits which is substantially better than what is available in other parts of the country. As part of my previous public activities, I was witness to the tough struggles of the mayors and Jerusalem MK's in an effort to increase the national resources available to Jerusalem, but these struggles usually achieved only partial success. Jerusalem is in need of significant support in all walks of life: education, higher learning, science, promoting employment and investment, municipal services, housing, tourism, and more.
We must demand that the new government does not show any weakness against international pressure from the other countries in the world, including the United States and Europe. Our statements must be strong and not defensive, taking the initiative and not apologetic. The Christian world knows very well from its own religious sources about the close relationship between Judaism and Jerusalem, and that there is no such a relationship between Islam and the city - remember that Jerusalem is not mentioned at all in the Koran. A hesitant attitude and a policy of zigzagging will only increase international pressure on us to divide Jerusalem.
The Capital of the Jewish Nation
We must also take action with respect to "heavenly Jerusalem." In the past I proposed a law that would require the official name of the city to be not merely "the capital of the State of Israel" but rather "the capital of Israel and the Jewish Nation." This would be a proper expression of the central character of the city in Jewish life as a whole. It would also serve to internally strengthen the eternal value of Jerusalem.
Let us remember the successful struggle by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook against the British on the subject of prayer rights at the Western Wall, which appeared in his article, "Our Wall." He wrote: "This nation had a Temple which was exalted in its sanctity above and beyond all other temples all over the world. After it was robbed of its land and its proud Temple was destroyed, all that remained on this earth was the Western Wall. When the remnants of the descendants of this nation pour out their hearts in this place, any nation whose soul has a spark of humanity must stand trembling at the sanctity of the return of this nation, with great anticipation, in awe of the ancient nation." We will finish with Rav Kook's resounding cry: "Let Yisrael know what is happening to the remnant of its precious Temple! And let all cultured nations in the world, together with the League of Nations and especially the British nation which is in charge of the Mandate! Let them know to repair the evil that has been perpetrated... Let them be fully aware who it is that stands behind our wall."

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