Opinion

Jerusalem is truly a city of peace and unity

A Jerusalem Post article gets the holy city and its residents wrong.

The Jerusalem skyline seen from the Mount of Olives, May 19, 2008. Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90
The Jerusalem skyline seen from the Mount of Olives, May 19, 2008. Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90
Shmuel Katz and Chaim Silberstein
Dr. Shmuel Katz is a fellow of the Israeli Surgical Society, the American College of Surgeons and other medical societies. Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund.

Jerusalem Reunification Day, also known as Jerusalem Liberation Day, has come and gone. Many are not aware of the sublime significance of this day. In fact, aside from Israel’s Independence Day, it is the brightest and happiest day in the past 2,000 years of Jewish history.

Next year will mark exactly 2,900 years since King David established his rule over the Kingdom of Judea. He then made Jerusalem the holiest city to the Jewish people and their eternal capital.

When the Romans destroyed the city and burned down the Holy Temple in 70 C.E., 1,900 years of mourning and longing for our national return began. Then, it finally, joyously happened.

Following Israel’s founding in 1948, 19 years of exile from Jerusalem ended in 1967 when the entire city was liberated by Israeli forces in a defensive war. The exhilaration can barely be described in words.

In spite of this awesome event, there are those who choose to focus on specific personal difficulties in order to encourage conflict, turn back Jewish history and, ultimately, bring about incalculable suffering for both Jews and Arabs.

A recent Jerusalem Post article by a well-known far-left researcher, who actively seeks to redivide Jerusalem and transform Israel from a Jewish state to a state of “all its citizens,” bitterly laments the recent “Jerusalem Day” celebrations.

The author derides the very idea that Jerusalem is united and calls Jerusalem Day a day of Palestinian “mourning” and “anger.” As proof, he presents an anecdote that takes up almost a quarter of the article: The story of his Arab friend from Bethlehem who married a woman from eastern Jerusalem. This friend has been long unable to live or drive in Jerusalem.

“I cannot celebrate the false unity of this city,” the author says. “It is a city of more hatred and pain than a city of love and compassion.”

It is incredible that individual stories of relative suffering, stemming largely from security considerations, are used to wrest eastern and northern Jerusalem from Israel and transfer it to the undemocratic, authoritarian Palestinian Authority.

Not only is the P.A. authoritarian, but its leaders have repeatedly said they will not tolerate Jews in their midst. P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas has said, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah.”

Clearly, even partial Arab control of Jerusalem, as the author seeks, would mean suffering on a massive scale for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

There are many who claim that Jerusalem is not actually united because Jews almost never enter Arab neighborhoods. It is telling, however, that Arabs do not feel the same about Jewish areas.

Moreover, the claim that, because of a lack of mingling, the city must be divided, is spurious. There is no shortage of cities around the world with sections that are all but closed to various sectors of the population, but no one demands their partition.

Indeed, there are areas of European cities where even the police are afraid to enter. In numerous cities, there are ethnic neighborhoods that other ethnicities prefer not to frequent for reasons unconnected to fear and crime. Such is the way of the world.

The Post article, which is filled with resentment at the Israelis who march and dance on Jerusalem Day in order to celebrate the growth of their city, ignores the benefits this growth has brought to Arab Jerusalemites as well.

The author claims that infrastructure in some Arab neighborhoods is substandard, but ignores the investments made by the Jerusalem Municipality in order to improve this situation.

Moreover, most Arab Jerusalemites do not participate in municipal elections and thus lack advocates in municipal government. Nonetheless, the municipality invests heavily in eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods.

The author also overlooks the fact that these infrastructure problems are mostly caused by rampant illegal construction, undertaken with no regard for zoning, sanitation or earthquake safety. The claim that the city does not allow legal construction in these areas is false. The builders simply do not apply for construction permits.

The Jerusalem Municipality reports that between 2011 and 2017, it received a “disproportionately low number of [Arab] building permit applications.” Only 14% of permit applications were from Arab neighborhoods, proportionate to a third of the Arab population.

This lack of applications has several causes: Refusal to recognize Israeli sovereignty, attempts to avoid and bypass the heavy taxes legal residents pay and submission to pressure by external forces.

The applications that are submitted are overwhelmingly approved. In 2016, for example, approval was given to 197 out of 198 Arab building applications.

The Post article makes much of Jerusalem’s “false unity.” The author states that “for most of the Palestinian people … Jerusalem Day is a day of mourning and remembering.”

In fact, many Arab Jerusalemites are quite happy living under Israeli sovereignty. Public surveys repeatedly show that a majority of them prefer the current situation to living under the P.A.

The author further states that Jerusalem Day is “a day of anger caused by direct provocation” and the city is one of “hatred and pain.” If the author is referring to the constant antisemitic incitement from the P.A. and its media, as well as some Muslim clergy, this has indeed led to many murderous attacks against Jews. One can only imagine what would be the lot of Jerusalem’s residents if the P.A. or its cohorts took control of even part of the city.

When evil gains money, power, political influence and control over territory, all good people become its victims, including those who try to appease it. Let us continue to strive for a united Jerusalem, free and under democratic Israeli sovereignty.

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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