Chief Rabbinate calls on gov't to keep J'lem united

MK Gafni: Degel Hatorah willing in principle to cede parts of Jerusalem for peace.

metzger 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
metzger 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In its first attempt at political influence since Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger entered office four years ago, the Chief Rabbinate's Rabbinic Council called on the government Wednesday to keep Jerusalem united. The council, which is headed by Metzger, issued a statement just over a week after the Annapolis summit expressing its "worry and apprehension" that "issues involving Jerusalem…were raised during diplomatic negotiations." "With Jewish national responsibility in mind, the council calls on all who are involved [in the negotiations] not to do anything that is liable to bring about a change in the holy city and the Temple area," the statement said. Chief Rabbi of Rehovot and senior council member Simcha Kook said that the declaration was not referring solely to the Old City and the Temple Mount area, but rather to all parts of the city covered by the Jerusalem Municipality. "Of course it includes everything," said Kook, who is state-employed. "The Knesset is not in the Old City and neither is Yad Vashem or Rehavia." Kook denied that the declaration had a political nature. "We are expressing our halachic opinion regarding the special holy status of Jerusalem," said Kook. "The city should be left out of politics altogether. That is precisely our point. We hope our statement will help strengthen the position that Jerusalem must not be divided." Kook said that dividing Jerusalem would be degrading to the entire Jewish people. "No Arab would willingly give up even a grain of his holy land. A Christian would never give up his holy places. Only we are willing to debase ourselves in such a way," he said. However, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said that in theory if he could be sure that diplomatic negotiations would lead to peace, the Degel Hatorah faction of his party would be willing to cede parts of Jerusalem. "In the present situation splitting Jerusalem would bring more bloodshed, not peace. That's why we are opposed. But since the time of Rabbi [Elazar Menachem Man] Shach the single criterion that has guided our diplomatic decisions has been Jewish lives. Whatever saves the most Jewish lives is what we will do. We do not adhere to all those goyish nationalistic ideals of fighting for the motherland." Gafni said that Shach, who died in 2001, ordered haredi MKs to vote against the 1980 Jerusalem Law which declared the city to be Israel's "eternal and indivisible" capital out of fear that the move would incite Arab violence against Jews. Shortly afterward the UN Security Council issued Resolution 478 which stated that the law was "null and void and must be rescinded forthwith." Meanwhile, in the same year the Chief Rabbinate's Rabbinic Council supported the Jerusalem Law. Since the unification of Jerusalem following the Six Day War, several chief rabbis and rabbinic councils have declared that the city must stay undivided. In 1967, Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman announced publicly that the Jewish people was commanded to keep Jerusalem whole, quoting Psalm 137: "If I forget you Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning" as proof. Former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim announced in 1969 that no political power in the world could annul the Jewish people's ownership of Jerusalem. This is not the first time that a major rabbinic organization has voiced opposition to dividing Jerusalem. Both the Orthodox Union and Agudath Yisrael of America have expressed their opposition to any territorial changes in Jerusalem.