Opinion

Jerusalem must be raised above politics

For the sake of the Jewish future, all must be welcome, safe and free in our holiest city.

A panorama of Jerusalem. Credit: JekLi/Shutterstock.
A panorama of Jerusalem. Credit: JekLi/Shutterstock.
Executive Director of The Israel Forever Foundation, Elana Yael Heideman (Credit: Israel Forever Foundation)
Elana Yael Heideman

We pray for Jerusalem in the direction of Jerusalem. We recall her in our moments of joy and sorrow. But perhaps we don’t truly grasp why it is so important.  And now we are told again and again: It doesn’t belong to you anymore—just give it up.

Today, from every corner of the world, Israel is condemned for its actions in Jerusalem. This is not new, but the current trend is distinctly unique in its effort to erase the history, identity and memory of the Jews and their connection to their ancient capital.

Years ago, in a bold advertisement in The New York Times, Elie Wiesel called on the world to raise Jerusalem above politics. He sought to remind the world that there can be no separation between the Jews and their ancestral homeland. That regardless of politics, the eternal capital of the Jewish nation and the center of our faith should not become fodder for division and strife.

But realities have proven more difficult than imagined, and our values have been tested in every possible way. Today, our enemies threaten to break the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and ignorance is allowing them to get away with it. The facts of history are being transformed with such success that it jeopardizes the eternal legacy of Jerusalem as the sacred center of Judaism.

The political controversies that surround Jerusalem will likely never dissipate, as nations, faiths and governments battle for control of her. Thus, it is even more important for us to learn from individuals whose experience, expertise and insight into Jerusalem can help us to remain strong in our loyalty to the holy city. We must explore how we can overcome polarization, set our political differences aside and hold an honest discussion on whether Jerusalem can indeed be raised above divisiveness.

To explore the question of whether this is possible, Israel Forever hosted former Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and historian and educator Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf for a dynamic discussion on the subject.

Ambassador Oren, sharing his vision for Israel 2048, highlighted important issues central to the sustainability of Jerusalem and Israel. Oren touched on how important it is for every Jew to feel connected to and welcome in our eternal capital.

But Oren’s strongest message was “our need as a collective people to embrace, celebrate and strengthen the Jewish sovereignty we have finally regained after thousands of years. A historical miracle, and one we must never take for granted.”

Oren’s passion for the future of our people and our sovereignty is a demonstration of what Jewish leadership should be—rooted in the core of Jewish rights to our ancestral homeland passed on by each of us in every generation.

Jerusalem, of course, is home to many peoples. All of her citizens have benefited from the investments made to address the complex social, economic and practical challenges of what Fleur Hassan-Nahoum called the most international city in Israel, perhaps in the world.

Through specific details and astounding recollection of the achievements made in Jerusalem over the years, Hassan-Nahoum outlined how locals in all areas of the city have been positively impacted—one person, school and neighborhood at a time.

These efforts are growing despite extremist education, Arab leadership that is “keeping their people poor and angry purposefully,” the ongoing negation of Jewish rights and the financial challenges facing the country’s poorest city.

It is individuals like Hassan-Nahoum who continue to lead Jerusalem out of a tireless commitment to our eternal capital. It is the Jewish values and the civic responsibility we take for all the differing populations of Jerusalem that have enabled the ancient city to thrive in a modern world and dream of what will be for the next decade and the next generation.

Rabbi Woolf expressed the truth that we want Jews to be welcome, safe and free in Jerusalem—in particular, free to pray at our holiest sites. Weaving stories of Jerusalem’s significance to Jewish identity throughout the ages, Woolf brought to life the palpable dream of return felt in 1967 when our capital was liberated and our people were once again able to dance in its streets.

His call to action is to help every Jew raise Jerusalem above their political ideologies and into their hearts. After all, if Jerusalem does not matter to the Jews, then it will be our own indifference, apathy and lack of determination that breaks our millennial bond. If we do not work together to raise Jerusalem above politics, then we will deny our children the ability to understand why our struggle for Jerusalem matters so much.

Watch the complete program Jerusalem Above Politics at www.israelforever.org.

Dr. Elana Heideman is a historian, educator and executive director of the Israel Forever Foundation.
The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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