A reflection for Yom Yerushalayim
As we reflect on Jerusalem/Al Kuds on Yom Yerushalayim, my mouth stutters and my eyes well up with tears when I try to describe the violence I have seen in the streets of Jerusalem. I have wandered the streets of Jerusalem since 1966, when this unique city first opened its gates and welcomed me within. The celebration of a city united has become mourning for a city divided.
Currently, the flesh and blood Al kutz/Yerushalayim is a city whose identity is being forcibly altered into a mostly Jewish-only space, with just the amount of Palestinians Jewish people can tolerate which, according to the demographic plan aligned with the concept of a Jewish State, is no more than 20%. Never mind the Palestinian-Jewish populations are equivalent in numbers if you count Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel together.
In today’s Jerusalem, Palestinian family homes are being forcibly taken over by settlers armed by the government or mowed down by Caterpillar militarized bulldozers, while their Jewish brothers and sisters are strolling down Emek Refaim to choose coffee or sushi at one of the fabulous cafes. While Jews drive on Jewish-only roads to the beach or Dead Sea, Palestinians are condemned to endless series of checkpoints that severely limit their movement. And “the situation” worsens for Palestinians by the day.
Palestinian ghettos, dozens and dozens and dozens of ghettos, are under lock down by the Israeli military administration, often backed up by the Palestinian police. Abu Mazen is doing his job.
Palestinians have been warehoused into dozens and dozens of open air prisons guarded by all the new weapons and security systems money can buy. That is, our money can buy. You and I must have put some money into many of the new “archeological” gardens, pathways, museums that cover over Israel’s ongoing appropriation and destruction of Palestinian land.
I mourn this great, sacred city, a fabled city where people from the three Abrahamic faiths have congregated for centuries. If only the borders were open. Most of my Palestinian friends in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala have been denied permission to travel to their holy sites for the last 15 years, much less go shopping or enjoy the sites, or, g-d forbid, visit a family member living on the other side of the Separation Wall.
You and I are watching yet another Middle Eastern city — like Beirut and Baghdad, now Damascus and Jerusalem — divide along ethnic, religious, and national lines as armed gunman enforce the lines of separation, and military bureaucrats operate sophisticated mass surveillance systems to monitor everyone’s movement, and military police use new lethal methods of crowd control (like militarized drones and an array of new missile systems) to demonstrate their system prowess to like-minded people interested in profiting from human chaos and suffering. Yes, weapon systems are tried out on Palestinians.
And yet. And yet, inside the Muslim section of the Old City, you will find people mixing: Israeli Jews on a Saturday, escaping Shabbat in West Jerusalem, go to the Old City for an afternoon meal and a stroll through this most splendorous of cities. Here, amidst the stone passageways, homes, and market stalls, Palestinians, under siege by their Jewish neighbors, nonetheless demonstrate their exquisite hospitality, even as the hovering abyss of transfer, displacement, or murder threatens to swallow up the last crumbs of their future.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is a Freeman Fellow with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). She is cofounder of the Muslim-Jewish Peacewalk and FOR’s “Arts of Resistance” delegations to Palestine, and a member of the rabbinical council of Jewish Voice for Peace. She lives in Berkeley, California.
[Photo: Darko Tepert, Wikimedia Commons.]