Standing at the intersection of inconvenience and history - Comment

Kings, queens, princes, presidents and prime ministers will all be converging on Jerusalem – as if the fulfillment of some Biblical prophecy.

Major road closures are expected as world leaders arrive in Jerusalem for the fifth World Holocaust Forum, January 2020 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Major road closures are expected as world leaders arrive in Jerusalem for the fifth World Holocaust Forum, January 2020
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Vice President Mike Pence, French President Emanuel Macron, Britain’s Prince Charles, and the presidents and leaders of Germany, Austria, Italy and dozens of other countries will descend on Jerusalem on Wednesday, not for a funeral – as was the case after Yitzhak Rabin was killed and Shimon Peres died – but for an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and to shine a spotlight on the rise of global antisemitism.
From President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will both be speaking at the central event at Yad Vashem on Thursday, these guests will certainly hear powerful words about the Jewish people’s journey from the valley of death to rebirth in their own land; from being helpless to being independent; from ashes to statehood.
But randomly ask people on a Jerusalem street what they think about the historic event, and many will start off by complaining about the traffic nightmare that this summit will cause.
 Along with reports about the conference that punctuated the news on the radio throughout the day, there were also reports about inconveniences that Jerusalemites are bound to suffer: from snarled traffic on what are expected to be unusually cold days, to the need for high school students taking the math matriculation exam to leave their homes hours earlier in order to get to the test on time.
Kings, queens, princes, presidents and prime ministers will all be converging on Jerusalem – as if the fulfillment of some Biblical prophecy – but the reflexive reaction of many will be to kvetch about the traffic, and to wonder why the entire highway from the airport to Jerusalem needs to be closed to allow for Putin’s entourage to pass.
And the complaints are not unjustified.
The Fifth World Holocaust Forum – even as it shines a light on the tragic past in the hopes that this may improve the future – will cause a great deal of inconvenience for Jerusalemites in the present. People will be late to work. Appointments will be canceled. Nerves will be frayed.
But, at the same time, a heavy coat of legitimacy will be painted on Israel – a country always thirsting for international legitimacy. And this is all happening not that many years after politicians, diplomats and pundits were warning that Israel was facing a “diplomatic tsunami,” was becoming a pariah state and was on the verge of international isolation.
The arrival of 48 delegations from around the world sends a powerful message to foe and friend alike; rumors of Israel’s seclusion are, well, badly exaggerated.
Or, put differently, does it really matter if Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters calls to boycott us, when the heads of 48 different states are beating a path to our door?
But, still, the tsunami of A-list international dignitaries on our narrow streets is a disruption and nuisance. Jerusalem, though historic, is a backwater compared to New York, Paris, Moscow and Geneva – cities where this type of summit is not a once in a 72-year event.
We have neither the infrastructure nor the experience those cities have in dealing with these types of events. And if an event of this scale would certainly cause traffic problems and other hardships for the residents of those cities, then certainly there will be a good share of hardship in Jerusalem over the next two days.
But the inconvenience needs to be put in perspective.
Yes, traffic is stalled, that’s the annoying news. But the less annoying news: this is happening because the world’s leaders are traveling to Jerusalem to be here. The significance of the occasion must not be lost because the intersection of Aza Street and King George Street will intermittently be closed.
And therein lies a greater message for the country as well. Too often, faced with all that this country deals with – the terrorism, the strategic threats, domestic problems and unending political quarrels – there is a natural tendency to lose sight of the bigger picture, of what is taking place here in the broad sweep of  Jewish history.
But this is a land in which the lens must always be widened.
Will the next few days be a major hassle for many people in the capital and those trying to travel to and from it for work? Certainly. But, in the larger scheme of things, is the inconvenience it worth it? Also yes.
And in this country, keeping that larger scheme of things in mind is critical in coping with the daily problems, both national and personal.•
   


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