As we mark the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, there is no question, as Rabbi Grossman rightly points out, that it is anything but a unified city. This truth is particularly demoralizing following the dizzying sense of hope and possibility that followed Israel’s tremendous victory against the amassed armies of three hostile neighboring countries. It seemed for a brief time that Israel would have land to exchange with its neighbors for peace; this option was torpedoed months later when Arab states met in Khartoum to declare that there would be no recognition, no negotiations with, and no peace with the State of Israel. In many ways, the history of the Middle East over the last 40 years was written by this bombastic and short-sighted declaration.
So there’s the other territory Israel gained following the Six-Day War, and then there’s Jerusalem. If the other patches of land–Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights–were seen largely as chits or security buffers, East Jerusalem was viewed as an innate part of Israel’s heritage and was annexed. Jerusalem is different because Jerusalem is where Jews ruled in Israel for 1,000 years, where the Temples stood, where we direct our prayers and yearnings every day. It is a symbol of Jewish hopes and dreams–the closest thing on this earth to a concrete manifestation of Jewish identity. When one walks the streets of Jerusalem and sees the late afternoon sun reflected off the stone through the piercingly clear air, it is clear what it means to be one with Jewish history.
Israel’s claim to Jerusalem has also had a great impact on the last 40 years of Middle East history, and it should be said that Israel has generally not done right by the Arab residents of East Jerusalem. This wrong should be righted so a process of healing can begin to take place to slowly reunify a city that is reunited only in name. It is the least we can do for Jerusalem.
Read the Full Debate: Myth vs. Reality in Today’s Jerusalem