I have the great privilege to guide walking tours in the areas adjacent to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This is the wall that is part of the Second Jewish Temple built originally in the 6th century BCE and renovated by the king of the Jews, Herod, in the 1st century BCE.

Before starting my tour I love to find out where each person participating comes from. The Holy City attracts people from all over the world, people of all types, languages, religions and countries. I ask each one, "Where are you from?" Some say just their country, at which point I ask them to specify which city or area.

Whenever someone says that they're from Berlin I immediately ask them, "West Berlin or East Berlin?"
The answer I'm usually given, accompanied by a chuckle, is that well, it's all just Berlin today.

That's right, it's just all Berlin. Berlin received its first town charter in the 13th century, making it a city approximately 800 years old. In all its history, Berlin was divided just 44 years, as the result of military occupation at the end of WWII in 1945, one area eventually becoming West Berlin and one East Berlin. After 44 years, in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, Berlin again became just one city, Berlin. So when asked if they come from East Berlin or West Berlin – it's just Berlin. It's been 27 years since the Berlin Wall crumbled, and with every year that passes the division of Berlin passes from reality to history.

There's another type of east and west. I grew up in Chicago and I knew there was an East Chicago, somewhere to the east, across the state line, in Indiana. It is a distinct city with a distinct history that is not connected to Chicago. There is also an East St. Louis, Illinois, that is situated directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. They are two distinct cities that never were one, and they are divided not just by a state line but also by the great Mississippi.

Now – let's take the ancient city of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). It's a city with about 4,000 years of history. 3,000 years ago it was plucked out of obscurity by King David and turned into the political and religious capital of the Jewish Nation ever since. It hasn't served as the capital of anything else, with the possible exception of the Crusader State for about 88 years (1099-1187). It was never a capital city for any Muslim Empire, dynasty or even province. It has once again had a Jewish majority for about the last 150 years.

Jerusalem is one city; there never was an East Jerusalem as there is an East Chicago. However, unfortunately, Jerusalem was divided into East and West, but for just 19 years out of its 4,000-year history. That division was the result of an illegal military occupation by Jordan, which had illegally and belligerently crossed the Jordan River into the land that had been initially earmarked as the Jewish Homeland. During those 19 years of illegal occupation, Jews from anywhere in the world weren't allowed to visit their Holy Places in Jerusalem, in defiance of international law and in disregard of agreements signed by Jordan. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was systematically desecrated and the Jewish synagogues as well as most of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were systematically destroyed by the illegal occupiers.

After 19 years Jerusalem was again reunited: Jordan joined the Arab coalition that was poised to destroy the Jewish State of Israel. Despite Israeli pleas not to make war on Israel, the Jordanians opened hostilities and attacked the Jews in Jerusalem. As a result of the miraculous Six-Day War, Jerusalem was once again united and restored to Jewish sovereignty after many long centuries. It's also the first time in centuries that all people can come to Jerusalem and enjoy freedom of worship.

Fifty years of a united Jerusalem have passed. The time has come to stop saying East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem, as if there was some legitimacy to that illegal and immoral 19 year occupation and division. There never was a city called East Jerusalem or West Jerusalem – just Yerushalayim, or as you say in English: Jerusalem.

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share