The Zionist Conspiracy
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
My Reflections on Jerusalem Day
In lieu of saying the Hallel prayer, following are some thoughts about Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), on the 40th anniversary - in the Hebrew calendar - of the liberation of Jerusalem.
My first meaningful understanding of the significance of what transpired in 1967 was during the summer of 1979, when I was six years old. My family spent that summer in a very large house in the Shaarei Chesed section of Jerusalem. I have many clear memories of that summer, including discovering a family of mice while walking around in a jag-lagged stupor in middle of the night, dining nightly either at Sova Restaurant or Richie's Pizza - never elsewhere - on King George Street, and Tisha B'Av, when Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash and my father was hospitalized with a kidney stone.
Also among these memories is my brother mentioning early in our trip that the family living in the house - they were in Japan for that summer - "were going to move from Indiana to New York. But after '67 they moved to Israel."
I was very curious. There were Jews from Indiana? And what, I wondered, had happened 12 years earlier that would cause an American family to change their plans and move to Israel?
When we walked through the Arab shuk to the Western Wall on Friday nights, I would learn that until '67 Jews were prevented by barbed wire from entering the eastern part of Jerusalem.
My mother recalled waking up on June 7, 1967 and hearing Jay Bushinsky reporting for WINS radio in New York from the Western Wall.
For the last 28 years I have retained a six year year old's fascination with the Six Day War. I've read just about all of the books on the subject. When I landed a gig as a sportswriter for The Jerusalem Post in 1990, I used my access to scourge through the Post's archives and read all of the news coverage from late May through mid-June 1967. When I signed up for eBay in 1998, the first thing I did was buy all of the magazines and newspapers relating to the Six Day War.
When I visit Israel, I usually try to make it to Ammunition Hill - and am always taken aback - if not surprised anymore - that nobody else is there. My first stop in Israel is almost always the One Last Day Museum, where John Philips' photographs depicting the destruction of the Jewish Quarter in May 1948 are displayed, after which one can truly appreciate the privilege of walking around the Old City.
I used to visit the wonderful Tourjeman Post Museum next to the Rockefeller Museum by a main border to the Old City. That was the museum commemorating the Six Day War - until some elites decided that after Oslo a museum commemorating a war was an anachronism, and replaced Tourjeman Post with the Museum of the Seam, dedicated to co-existence between Arab and Israeli.
While co-existence between Arabs and Israelis may be illusory, my childlike wonderment about the Six Day War must co-exist with concerns about the geopolitical realities that face Jerusalem.
Over the last 40 years, Israel made some excellent decisions and some terrible decisions with respect to Jerusalem. The decision to hand over control of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Wakf was the worst of all. Formal annexation of all of Jerusalem and the expansion of Jerusalem's borders to include and develop new neighborhoods like Ramat Eshkol, French Hill and Ramot in the north and Gilo and Har Homa in the south were correct, as was resettlement in Gush Etzion to the city's south and settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim and Givat Ze'ev just to the north of Jerusalem.
In recent years, Israel's erstwhile efforts to retain Jerusalem as its "eternal and undivided capital" have steadily eroded. Following Oslo, the Palestinian Authority was allowed a foothold into the city. Ehud Barak accepted the Clinton Plan, which called for division even of the Old City. It's hardly even newsworthy that the U.S. boycotted Israeli events celebrating today's anniversary, and few remember that during his presidential campaign, President Bush promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem "on my first day in office." The city's demographics are changing, with the charedi and Arab sectors growing, and others leaving Jerusalem for places where there are more jobs and municipal services and cheaper housing. Increasingly, apartments in popular areas are gobbled up by Jewish foreigners, and remain empty much of the year. Arab areas receive relatively few city services, undermining the notion of an undivided city.
Israel's mistakes and the resulting serious challenges to its sovereignty in Jerusalem do not negate the significance of the seminal event in Jewish history that occurred on 28 Iyar 5727. But to ensure that Israel retains its rights in and to Jerusalem and that the humiliation and repression experienced by countless previous generations of Jews does not recur, Israel must resume asserting its rights to Jerusalem without fear of censure.