Genuine tolerance? Cancel the march

In a democratic society the sensitivities of the majority must also be taken into account.

November 7, 2006 22:44
3 minute read.

A few months ago, I led a strong campaign in opposition to the Temple Mount Faithful being granted permission to go up to the Temple Mount. Critics asked how I, a haredi mayor, could seek to prevent Jews from visiting the place so holy to them. But my position did not change. Sometimes it is not enough to be right, you have to be wise. Such a visit by Jews to the Mount would be akin to throwing a match into a tinderbox. It would needlessly prompt wars and riots and disturbances. Jerusalem is not only the holy city to the three monotheistic faiths. It is also a city with a unique and complex human fabric. In the last three years we have managed to achieve coexistence here. It is a fragile coexistence, but it is holding. In recent years, every single person in this city has been able to live according to his conscience and his way of life. The fractures of the past - between Arab and Jew, between religious and secular - have started to heal. Everyone has danced his or her own dance without stepping on other people's toes. This coexistence has been one of the catalysts for the dramatic rise in tourism, the high demand for real estate and the flourishing of the city's cultural and commercial life. Jerusalem, which had been known for struggles and demonstrations and wars between religions and communities, has become a symbol of tranquil and peaceful coexistence. THE DEMAND to hold the march in Jerusalem, of all places, is neither right nor wise. The decision to hold it in the holy city, the capital of the Jewish people, did not stem from ignorance or stupidity. It was deliberate. The organizers of the march were well aware that only in Jerusalem would this march make headlines, as well as arousing so much anger and pain and prompting unnecessary hatreds and disturbances. This storm is giving an unprecedented media platform to the organizers of the march, but it is the residents of this city who will have to pay the price for the breaching of a delicate balance. What is at stake here is a matter of principle and of pain, and therefore it makes no difference if the march is held on King George Street, in Talpiot or in the Rose Garden. The price that we are paying, and that we will have to pay in the future for this defiant move, is profound. This is not merely a case of a bull in a china shop, but the rending of that sensitive and fragile fabric of coexistence, the brutal destruction of the human mosaic that we have constructed so carefully, piece by piece. It's no surprise that many of those who are opposed to the march come not only from the religious Jewish, Muslim and Christian sectors, but from the secular world - members of the community who know Jerusalem and know that a march like this will do the opposite of advancing the rights of this or that person. The decision to hold a march like this, in this holy city, this capital, will only create hatreds and shatter the understandings and mutual respect that envelop the city. THE ORGANIZERS claim that opponents of the march want Jerusalem to remain eternally "dark" or "primitive." That is not the case. In Jerusalem no man is persecuted for his faith, ethnicity or tendencies, and if there are bad seeds who are inciting, well, all secular and religious residents of the city unite to ostracize them. In a democratic society the sensitivities of the majority must also be taken into account. As in the past, I oppose and will continue to battle against any and all instances of incitement or violence and to condemn them forcefully. I too have been exposed to violence, but I will not be deterred. Attacks on property, verbal violence or, heaven forbid, physical violence must be condemned. They only harm legitimate protest. Protest yes, violence no. This is the time to show genuine tolerance and maturity and cancel this march in the heart of Jerusalem, for the sake of us all. Such a decision would strengthen anew the mutual recognition and understanding that has prevailed among residents of the city. A decision to cancel the march would boost us all and enable us to benefit together from what is best about Jerusalem. The writer is the mayor of Jerusalem.

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