Shepherd Hotel Sheikh Jarah 248 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
When my husband Irving was a young man he would go door-to-door around Milwaukee with a Jewish National Fund blue box collecting money to redeem property in the Land of Israel. Although it was during the Depression, everyone put in what they could afford: pennies, nickels and dimes.
In the 19th century, wealthy Jews like Rothschild were purchasing large tracts of land for Jews to settle in the Holy Land. The synagogue Ohel Yitzhak in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, abandoned in 1938 after waves of Arab violence - which we recently rebuilt - was originally built and paid for by European Jews in the 1880s. For thousands of years Jews dreamed of Israel and in the last centuries all Jews took part in the effort to reclaim the land and support Jews who lived there.
THIS IS a part of the Jewish tradition: charity for the poor and reclaiming the land of our country. It was perfectly normal for Irving and me to continue to fulfill these mitzvot. It was the driving force behind Irving's quest to work hard to continue the tradition.
How did this become world news, fodder for riots and outraged pronouncements from foreign leaders?
We were both born in the United States and experienced anti-Semitism while growing up. However, we were secure in the knowledge that our government would ensure our equal rights to live in any neighborhood in any part of the country we wished. We believed that if it was legal, the full force of the government would protect us regardless of the fact that we were Jews.
How is it then, that President Barack Obama demands that the Israeli government disallow the Shepherd Hotel a building permit because Jews would live there? Christians and Muslims yes, Jews no. This is clearly racist. Furthermore, this would deprive us as American citizens of our constitutional rights to equal protection of the law.
It seems to be a continuation of a 2,000-year-old habit of Jews being told where they can and cannot live. This spanned from the ghettos of medieval Europe, to severe zoning restrictions in czarist Russia and finally to the edicts of Nazism, where we were eventually told that we could not live at all.
Can it be possible that we will accept any part of that today in our own nation? Jews should be able to live anywhere in the world. The question should be: "Is the purchase legal and are the permits in order?" Not "what faith do the families living there follow?"
The British Consulate, located near the Shepherd Hotel, also objected to Jews building on our property there. This while construction on several nearby Arab-owned buildings is currently in progress. Someone should remind the British Consulate that there is no longer a British Mandate. I don't mind if they don't come over with a pot of tea, but at least they should remember that they are guests of the Jewish state and behave in a civilized and neighborly way.
The writer is the president of the Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation and serves on the board of numerous prominent organizations both in Israel and abroad.