Tuesday, October 10, 2006

O Jerusalem!


Jerusalem is a city of deep symbolism, and deep conflicts. It is full of passion, sadness, nuttiness and dysfunction. It encapsulates everything that is wrong, and most of what is fascinating about Israel and Palestine. A city with much too much history.

The compendium of articles below, taken together – in all their contradictions and ironies – give a flavour of the issues beguiling and bedevelling Jerusalem - and all of Israel.

Many of these links where sent to me by Mark Berch, whose devotion to dissemination of eclectic Jewish information is truly commendable. Thank you, Mark.

• • •

Yehuda Avners’s ode to Jerusalem is sentimental chauvinistic claptrap in my opinion, but it probably represents the unconsidered viewpoint of most Jews, both in Israel and without. A vision that stares right past the earthly Jerusalem that is in front of the eyes, and sees only the imagined heavenly Jerusalem. This article definitely represents part of the problem, not the solution.

Another beguiling fantasy: Reviving Pilgrimages; Hiking to Jerusalem for the Sukkoth. "Yoav has a vision of thousands of people marching to Jerusalem and people everywhere greeting us joyfully, …Perhaps one day visitors from throughout the world will be able to join in a renewal of the ancient pilgrimage to the City of Peace.”

Missing the point of Sukkoth entirely. Jerusalem municipality redoubles its efforts to deny Palestinians permanent housing.

Hareidim too face housing shortages. But rather than being stymied by the authorities they are allowed to build or to expand into secular neighbourhoods as they wish. Haredi activists have begun to organize for group purchase of entire apartments in secular neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Besides housing for Haredim, another segment of Jerusalem's housing stock that is growing rapidly, is that of second homes for wealthy Diaspora Jews. Increasingly apartments in some of Jerusalem’s most affluent neighborhoods are vacant for much or most of the year, and that has triggered fierce discontent among some local residents and officials --- and has triggered crime.

Diaspora Jews are collecting into small groups to negotiate land and housing deals in Jerusalem. Most at astronomical prices.

And here is a look at the efforts of Jews of the French Hill section of Jerusalem to keep Arabs out of their neighbourhood. "There are some who say that this is pure racism, but as a Jew I am happy to be racist. If I won't be one, it's unclear what my children's future will be...."

The densely-populated Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem has been the site of major property ownership disputes since Israel took over in 1967, and courts have increasing difficulties sorting out competing claims, with the result that in July 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that it is impossible to decide who in fact owns the disputed housing.

Some statistics on the net outflow of Jews from Jerusalem over the years. Last year’s net outflow was about 6000. By 2020, the Jewish population is expected to fall from 66% to 60%

Professor Ruth Lapidoth, awarded the Israel Prize for Law, has represented Israel at some of its most critical international moments, has taught at prestigious universities all over the world, has authored nine books, edited numerous others, and published more than 90 academic and scholarly articles. For over a decade, she has focused on legal solutions to the conflict in Jerusalem, taking the widest possible perspective. She considers undivided sovereignty to be unworkable.

In some areas of Jerusalem the school graduation rates are as high as 80-100 percent, while in others, especially neighborhoods with Mizrahim [Sephardim] and immigrants from Ethiopia, they are as low as 20 and under. Why does Jerusalem has such a shocking level of inequality in its schools?

Jerusalem high school kids of Ethiopian origin create a play that reflect their experience in Jerusalem

A gastronomic tour of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods.

A look at Jerusalem’s hidden corners, from the tiny San Simon monastery, to two manhole covers with hand-made designs on them.

A look at the diverse past and diverse present of Jerusalem’s shuk.

Jerusalem sets plans to "rebuild and raise the Churva and Tiferes Yisroel shuls…making them higher than the churches and mosques ... Upon completion one year from now the beis knesses will once again serve as an important spiritual center in the Jewish Quarter and will tower even higher than the Al-Aqsa Mosque, lehavdil !"

An in-depth look at the Kotel tunnels (in 2 parts)

Will the publication of an old photo shake up the entire debate on whether Jews are permitted to go on the Temple Mount?

Could the struggle over the Temple Mount be resolved by having the Jews take the bottom and the Muslims take the top?

A former senior leader of the Waqf, the Islamic custodians of the Temple Mount, says that the first and second Jewish Temples existed and stood at the current location of the Al Aqsa Mosque. He also said that said the Muslim world's widespread denial of this is political in nature and is not rooted in facts.

What should be done with the hundreds of sacks of notes left in the Kotel each year? What about the stones that fall out of the wall? What about the graffiti spray-painted on the wall? No easy questions, these.


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