Which Jerusalem?

Do Israelis know and should they know the geographic boundaries of the capital and their implications?

maaleh adumim 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
maaleh adumim 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
During the Middle Ages, maps depicted the world as a flower with three petals - Asia, Africa and Europe - with Jerusalem the round pistil smack in the middle. Today, despite the improvement of topographical, archeological and geographic surveys, Jerusalem continues to be better known as a metaphor than a precise geographic area. That's the experience of academics and tour guides, who say most Israelis, including Jerusalemites, don't know the extent of Jerusalem beyond the Jewish residential neighborhoods and parts of the Old City and its environs.
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Hebrew University geographers Ilan Salomon and Larissa Fleishman set out to prove the suspicion, publishing "Where Lies the Green Line: Israeli Students' Mental Map," a survey of nearly 500 Bar-Ilan and Hebrew University students, two years ago. The study found that the majority was unfamiliar with the location of the municipal border or the Green Line, the location and size of the West Bank and the general history of sovereignty there. "Knowing where the east Jerusalem border is and where the Green Line is has political ramifications," says Salomon. "The case of a settlement being on this side or that of the Green Line is a major issue in every election and, just for that reason, people need to know. You can't let people go without knowing such basic information." David Newman, a professor in the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and chief editor of the International Journal of Geopolitics, once ran a map-drawing exercise with geography students at Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion universities, considering the borders of Jerusalem with the West Bank, and also found, he says, that "people know very little." "HOW CAN WE DEFINE the entity called Jerusalem?" asks Prof. Ronnie Ellenblum, geographer and head of the department of history at Hebrew University. "It's not just a city; it's a symbol - an icon. Where does an icon end? In the last 100 years or so, the concept of Jerusalem has expanded more and more and more and each new area is called Jerusalem." In the rest of Israel, new suburbs get new names, he explains. "When they built next to Old Jaffa, they called it Tel Aviv. But because Jerusalem is so important, the name is given widely and, in principle, there is no limit. We can extend until we call Tel Aviv Jerusalem. We have never-ending, expanding, conceptual borders." "Internationally, municipal boundaries grow to meet changing functional needs," says Newman. "In Jerusalem, there are overriding political considerations: How many Jews and how many Arabs are left in Jerusalem. In the past, the municipality wanted to incorporate Mevaseret Zion." Mevaseret, just west of Jerusalem, fought and won in the High Court of Justice to remain a separate municipality. Conversely the Arab village of Abu Ghosh and the haredi community of Telz Stone/Kiryat Ye'arim were rejected from the municipal expansion plans. "This was for political reasons," Newman said. "There is no clear geographic definition of what is Jerusalem - the municipal boundaries don't necessarily reflect the functional realities of the metropolitan area. But if we change the municipal boundaries tomorrow, we create what is Jerusalem tomorrow and that changes over and over." JERUSALEM HAS changed sizes countless times since its beginnings. Through the First and Second Temple periods, the city grew, as each subsequent ruler put his architectural stamp on it. During the late Judaean monarchy, under the House of David, the city spread to the west. And in the Second Temple period the city reached its peak size, when the third wall was built by King Herod's grandson, Herod Agrippa, in 44 CE, according to Prof. Gabriel Barkai, a biblical archeologist at Bar-Ilan. "Only after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the subsequent [Roman] rebuilding of the city, calling it Aelia Capitolina, did the city shrink again." Over the following 17 centuries, Jerusalem remained relatively small, with its main hub comprising no more than one square kilometer. Only in the second half of the 19th century did Jewish and Arab residential neighborhoods develop outside the walls, and over the years since, the city dramatically expanded in every direction. A few months after Israel declared statehood, Jerusalem got another radically new map. In April 1949, Israel and Jordan signed an armistice agreement that divided Jerusalem north to south along the November 1948 cease-fire line, which came to be known as the Green Line - it was drawn in green on the map. The agreement also created demilitarized zones and "no-man's land" zones to minimize contact between the two sides. The agreement did not include Jewish access to the Mount of Olives, Kidron Valley or the Tomb of Simon the Just, but guaranteed access - that was not upheld - to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall. A resupply convoy was given weekly access to the Hebrew University/Hadassah Hospital compound on Mount Scopus. Meanwhile, several Arab neighborhoods that remained on the Israeli side of the city - Talbiye, Katamon, Baka, Ein Kerem, Malha, Mamilla and Musrara - were appropriated and developed into Jewish residential areas. The agreement stated that the armistice lines would not prejudice future territorial settlements, boundary lines or claims by either party. AFTER THE 1967 WAR, Jerusalem's new municipal map enlarged the official size of the city from 38 sq. km. to 108, as Israel now considered the armistice agreement void. Not only did Jerusalem incorporate Jordanian east Jerusalem and the Old City, but extended its borders east and south, to include 28 outlying Arab villages - such as Jebl Mukaber, E-Tur, Sur Bahir and Umm Tuba. A government committee of generals drew up the map, which was quickly approved by the Knesset in late June 1967. State cartographers were eventually ordered not to include the Green Line on official maps. In 1980, after Israel had built a number of new Jewish communities over the Green Line - including French Hill, Ramot Eshkol, East Talpiot, Gilo and Ramot - the Knesset voted to formally incorporate the expanded borders into the State of Israel. Amir Cheshin, who was former mayor Teddy Kollek's senior Arab affairs adviser, explains that though unification of Jewish areas and reclamation of Jewish holy sites were of prime consideration in redrawing the post-1967 borders, this represented only a small area on the new map. The decision was also based on holding as much land with the least Palestinian population as possible, military and security considerations, reclaiming the Jewish settlement of Neveh Ya'acov which had been captured by the Jordanians in 1948, the need for an airport and the need for future development and construction of Jewish neighborhoods, Cheshin says. The new municipal border parallels the Green Line in many places, but on higher plateaus. It reaches the greatest distance from the Green Line in the north, around the British-built Atarot Airport. "Most Israelis don't understand how the present boundaries were created and that there is no independent state on the other side that agreed to them; that's why I say boundary and not border," says Cheshin, who since leaving government has authored books about Jerusalem and become a licensed tour guide for east Jerusalem and the Old City. "Israelis are familiar with Arab villages like Beit Hanina, but they haven't heard of most of the Palestinian villages inside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and they have no idea that most of the Arab neighborhoods were outside the municipal boundaries before 1967. "They say, 'You can't give up one inch of Jerusalem,' but which Jerusalem? If I take them to Umm Tuba, they say, 'Umm what?' When I take them east, they are very, very surprised. They don't know where Jerusalem starts and where it ends." Cheshin says people who take his tours and hear his lectures are also shocked when he tells them that the State of Israel spent its first year and a half debating what city should be its capital. "[David] Ben-Gurion initially suggested Kurnub in the desert, and Golda Meir suggested Mamshit, Nabatean towns. They announced Jerusalem only a year and a half after declaring statehood. The concept of 'undivided' came much later," he says. "Jerusalem is also not mentioned in Israel's Declaration of Independence." Indeed the Knesset voted in December 1949 to transfer the government to Jerusalem, and in January 1950 proclaimed the city the capital. It wasn't until 1980 when the Knesset passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem, which made the status of Jerusalem as capital legal and also enshrined in law that the city would not return any territory added in 1967, using the word "undivided" to describe Jerusalem for the first time. HUNCHED OVER a declassified CIA map of the Jerusalem borders in 1967 and a map from today marking historical and contemporary borders, Sarah Kreimer, associate director of the nonpartisan Israeli organization Ir Amim (city of nations), explains the history and ramifications behind almost every line, zigzag, and swirl marking a boundary. She leads educational tours of the southern, eastern and northern borders of Jerusalem. Four thousand have participated in the tours in 2006, many of whom are Israelis and tourists, and are amazed and moved by what they discover, Kreimer says. "They don't know that almost a quarter of a million east Jerusalem residents are permanent residents, but not citizens. They don't know that Jordanian Jerusalem and historic Jerusalem are much smaller than municipal Jerusalem," she says. "They don't know that most of the expansion and building has nothing to do with the historic Jewish narrative. Or that the land of Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Givat Ze'ev, outside the municipal borders, has, in the eyes of the Israeli High Court, a different legal status than Jerusalem. As administered territory they are not governed by Israeli planning laws of the Interior Ministry, but by the civil administration, which only operates in areas over the Jerusalem municipal border." But the biggest surprise comes from those who witness that the security barrier in east Jerusalem does not separate Jews from Palestinians but Palestinians from Palestinians. "Israel could not call the wall a separation barrier in east Jerusalem because its not between Jewish and Palestinian communities. They call it 'the Jerusalem Envelope,'" she says. Founded in 2004 by lawyer Daniel Seidemann, and guided by a board of city planners, educators and policy and legal experts, Ir Amim labels its Jerusalem maps as "Greater Jerusalem," though it says the term is conceptual and has no official basis in Israeli law. On its tours of the "envelope," it points out that while the barrier does prevent unauthorized Palestinians from entering Israel and that the southern wall is mostly along the municipal boundary, the rest of the route of the barrier is largely governed by demographic considerations and lays the groundwork for the Greater Jerusalem concept. "If our goal is to close the fence to provide security in what is considered Jerusalem, then the fence would be on the municipal border. But because there are other considerations, the [route] is establishing the de-facto border of Greater Jerusalem," says Kreimer. In fact, the barrier's route beyond the municipal border is adding 164 sq. km. to Jerusalem, she says. As the envelope barrier curves - or is proposed to curve - around and far beyond Jewish communities over the municipal border, to leave room for future Jewish development, it also encloses five Palestinian communities: El-Jib, Bir Nabal, El-Judira, Beit Hanina el-Balad and Walaja, save an underground passage to Ramallah. It also encloses Eizariya on three sides. On the Jerusalem municipal side of the border, the envelope barrier cuts 30,000 legal Jerusalem residents out of the city in Ras Hamis, Dahiat A-Salam and the Shuafat Camp. Likewise, in Kafr Akab, north of Atarot, the barrier cuts the village and its 25,000 legal residents off from Jerusalem, forcing them to enter Jerusalem through the Kalandiya Checkpoint. The tour, like the Ir Amim maps, shows the Green Line, the municipal boundaries and the line of the actual and proposed barrier, so that the guides can explain the history of the borders, their placements and ramifications. But such maps are not easy to find. "There was a conscious choice to make the Green Line disappear," Education Minister Yuli Tamir says of previous government policies that forbid its demarcation on official maps, "but I don't think we should educate to ignorance. Israel's eastern border has not been marked [in schoolbooks or maps], and it should be." Her suggestion caused uproar among a number of right-wing MKs. Palestinian school books and maps also do not mark Israel or the Green Line, points out Kreimer, "and this outrages Israelis, but we do the same thing. We don't mark the Green Line or show that the West Bank is disputed, even under Israeli law, so you show all the West Bank as part of Israel, just as the Palestinians show the whole map as Palestine." Israeli MKs themselves remain divided over the Green Line and boundary controversies, as generations of Israelis are growing up not knowing the history and geography of Jerusalem. Gila, a resident of Nahalal, recently took the two-hour drive from the Jezreel Valley to Jerusalem for a tour of the municipal boundaries organized by Ir Amim. "I'm a citizen; I wanted to learn more about the conflict," she says. "But I was shocked. I had no idea where the border was. For me Jerusalem was a Jewish city and the Old City. I now understand that the border is much broader, includes many Arab villages in east Jerusalem, and even bisects Palestinian villages. It really changed my perspective."