Forget Thee

In vituperative rejection of Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s dedication of next school year to “United Jerusalem”, former MK Yossi Beilin snarks that perhaps it would be preferable for school children not to visit actual Jerusalem but like exile Jews (“who support in their heart of hearts a united city”) to hear of it only from official propaganda and picture post cards. Why after all pray “Next year in Jerusalem” when they can get on a plane and be there today? And Israeli Jews have no reason at all to express such a hope. (Israel Hayom, 24 Feb 2016).
The Opposition (which calls itself Zionist) pounced in equal disdain. MK Isaac Herzog protested, “I love Jerusalem. We all love Jerusalem, but wonder which Jerusalem Bennett meant? A Jewish and safe Jerusalem or the Jerusalem with 300,000 Palestinians that we annexed and who hate us? The City of David or (refugee camp) Shuafat?” (Jerusalem Post, 22 Feb 2016).
Palestinians are smarter than Jews. They assault Israel’s roots, claiming the Temples didn’t exist; Jewish history is a Zionist fabrication; Israel began only in 1948 by stealing ancient historic Palestine. Abu Mazen’s doctoral thesis denied the Holocaust – there is no reason for Jewish presence here. Jerusalem was never Jewish – it was always Muslim and Ben-Gurion made it a target for conquest because he knew every Jew would fight if Jerusalem were the goal.
Some Jews mea-culpa for everything, adding fuel to their enemies’ fires. Instead of standing by their heritage, Jews debase it. Instead of respecting their history, Jews rewrite it to explain the hatred they face.
Our home-grown detractors could learn a lot about why we are specifically in Israel by studying the denials Palestinians propagate as the bases of their claims. They go for our jugular. They know that our roots go back four millennia while theirs less than one-and-a-half. They know that Jerusalem was our capital and the heart of our faith a thousand years before Christ. They know that the Romans destroyed our Second Temple, bragged about it and did not replace “Judea” with “Palestine” until the second century AD. They know that Islam did not conquer here until five centuries later. They know that Jerusalem has been at the center of our prayers for two thousand years. They know that united Jerusalem is in fact our heart of hearts.
But we don’t care. Or at least significant opinion and policy makers among the Opposition don’t care. They suppose Israel can thrive with a heart torn in two.
Herzog’s “safe” plan would build walls separating Arab neighborhoods from Jewish, returning us to the days of the Jordanian occupation when barricades, barbed wire and gun posts kept us from the Western Wall, the bombarded Jewish Quarter and our soon-to-be-destroyed ancient synagogues and cemeteries. His plan for two states more or less along the 1948 lines would return us to a split Jerusalem sealed off on three sides. It would isolate us from our holiest sites. It would eviscerate the viability of a world city and ghetto-ize our capital. It would reduce what Christianity once saw as the center of the universe to a struggling backwater again. It would remove the central reason we are here.
Jerusalem’s Jewish detractors claim we can live without religion. Sure we can, but not here. Palestinians are smarter than we are. They, by religion, rally forces world-wide, fallaciously claiming their holy sites are under attack while regrettably we show far more respect for Islam’s holy sites than for our own. Witnessing that, our enemies believe Israel’s fall is only a matter of time. Our secular success gives us freedom of movement and they know that under pressure many seek out less hostile climes.
We already have, by the hundreds of thousands, populating Berlin and Los Angeles. Sometimes it seems as if everyone who could leave already has – except those who still in fact have reason to pray, “Next year in Jerusalem”. We pray that next year we will be in the Jerusalem “state of mind”, the Jerusalem of our soul.
Without Jerusalem there would be no Judaism. Without Judaism, there would be no anti-Semitism. Without anti-Semitism there would have been no Zionism. Without Zionism, there is no Israel. Even the “Zionist” Opposition knows that.
Ben-Gurion was right – Jews will fight for Jerusalem. Exile or local, a Jew will weep at the Western Wall. An eternity of Palestinian mythology will never duplicate that. We belong here. It’s in our DNA.
Bennett has a good idea.