Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thoughts of Jerusalem Day

Yesterday was Yom Yerushalayim - Jerusalem Day. This is the day set by the Israeli law - and picked up by most Diaspora Jewish organizations - to mark the conquest of East Jerusalem by Israel in the 1967, and its subsequent annexation to Israel (an annexation recognized by no other country in the world.) I wore black to mark the day.

The following article appeared in yesterday's Maariv. The translation is from Coteret.

Shachar-Mario Mordechai, Maariv, May 12 2010 [Hebrew original here ]

On Iyar 28, 5727 (June 7, 1967), the third day of the Six-Day War, IDF troops entered the Old City of Jerusalem. Within less than a year the Knesset established Iyar 28th as Jerusalem Day. After some three decades, while Binyamin Netanyahu was serving his first term as the prime minister of Israel, the Knesset conferred legal standing on that day: It established that this day would commemorate the connection between the city and the Jewish people and that, as such, it was incumbent upon us to celebrate it as a national holiday.

I am a Jew, and I do not forget Jerusalem (nor do I forget my right hand, and certainly not my left), and I recognize the undeniable connection between my people and the holy city. However, it is beyond me why I am obliged to celebrate (or lament) Jerusalem specifically in the context of 1967. I won’t, as Elie Wiesel put it, say that Jerusalem is above politics, since everything that is connected to Jerusalem — and perhaps to every issue in our world — is political. And it is not inconceivable that any day chosen to celebrate Jerusalem Day should be imbued with political significance (even our distant neighbours to the east, the Iranians, celebrate Jerusalem Day — though it is a shame that they do not do so in the tradition of Cyrus). But in my opinion it is more than a tad unfair to mark Jerusalem Day — by law — in keeping with the whims of former MK Hanan Porat and the signature of Binyamin Netanyahu.

Where does that legislation put me? I, like many others in Israel today, believe that 1967 sowed the destructive seeds that have the potential capacity to derail Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. I believe that the occupation of another people undermines Israel’s security, its standing among the nations, its character as a just society, the Zionist vision of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel (and not the entire Land of Israel), and that it also undermines our hold on Jerusalem.

In order to maintain Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state and in order to have Israel be — even if only partially so — a just society, there is no choice but to disengage from East Jerusalem. When I say East Jerusalem, my intention is a disengagement from the Shuafat refugee camp, Abu Dis, Sur Baher, el-Azariyeh. Certainly not from the Old City. Not from the holy basin. The Old City will be administered jointly so as to ensure that religious freedoms are not infringed upon and so that we will be able to visit the Western Wall whenever we want. And when I say joint administration I am not contradicting the words of the Prophet Micha, who said: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the House of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it…for the Law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

That is why I am hard put to celebrate Jerusalem Day on Iyar 28th. Why am I denied the right to celebrate wholeheartedly my connection — as a Jew and an Israeli — to the city? Why Iyar 28th? Why shouldn’t Jerusalem Day be established immediately after the mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, so as to commemorate the emergence from mourning over the city’s destruction to celebration over its rebuilding? And when I say rebuilding I am not referring to Sheikh Jarrah. Just as we make the impossible transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day, why shouldn’t we celebrate Jerusalem Day immediately after Tisha B’Av? I know that Binyamin Netanyahu won’t pick up the gauntlet. But you there, you MKs who are worried about the fate of Jerusalem and the fate of Israel, can anyone hear me?!


Shachar-Mario Mordechai is a poet living in Tel Aviv. He is the 2010 recipient of Tel Aviv Municipality’s nationwide “Poetry By the Way” competition. His poems, translations and reviews have been published by various magazines, literary supplements and online site. His book of poems, “History of the Future,” will be published later this year by Even Hoshen Publishing House. A second book will be published by Am Oved as part of his prize for the Poety By the Way competition.


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