Israel, Politics, Religion

Yom Yerushalayim is kind of angry

jerusalem1581Uh oh.. I think it’s ambivalence time again. The celebrations of modern Jewish victory and renaissance never seem to pass easily these days for the sensitive.

So we conquered the east side of Yerushalayim. So we reunified the city. So we redeemed and beautified ancient Jewish sites — the ones our ancestors wrote Psalms about, the ones buried under the trash of foreign occupiers, the ones we were only begrudgingly and situationally allowed any access to for 1900 years. So we walked the streets of our “Home Tree” — our axis mundi — fully in control of our time, our paths, and the relics of our forebears under our feet. But..

Isn’t war bad? Didn’t we start it? What about the occupation of the Territories that began that week? What about the theft of resources, the expansion of settlements, the disenfranchisement and repression that somehow still lingers more than 40 years later? What about Sheikh Jarrah?

Well, I agree. That which is awful cries out for repair. That which is closest to us takes precedence. I believe in working to change things. I believe in peace and I believe in fairness. That why I’ve been a contributor at this blog. But..

I also believe in celebrating your heritage and the ability to take charge of it. I once wrote a defense of Yom Ha-atsma’ut for Jewschool. It was lengthy and kinda moony. This is not that.

This is me angry. These are the kinds of stories that keep turning up this Yom Yerushalayim:

We have individuals who are supposed to be our communal conscience, and spokesmen who style themselves our communal protectors, making ridiculous obstructionist claims professing exclusive Jewish attachment to every dunam of the far-flung limits of the modern municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.

We have right-wing ultranationalist extremists dancing around the city through Palestinian neighborhoods, shoving their racism and their triumphalism in the faces of those they despise.

And then there are smug asshats like Juan Cole, who must know the facts better than to claim that Jewish history is fairy tales and Jewish heritage is a sham, but who instead chooses to publish this piece of Jew-baiting malarkey denying the place of Jerusalem in the Jewish past. He inexplicably claims that foreign domination equals the absence of living native culture, that the inaccuracy of traditional writings is more important to historiography than the fact that they were written in the first place, that political rule is the only form of cultural attachment, that the Palestinians are the real Jews, and that evidence that Yerushalmi history isn’t solely Jewish means that the tremendous Jewish chunk of that history is irrelevant.

It’s all well and good that Cole is attempting to counter the rhetoric of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, but you don’t get anywhere close to peace, justice, and reconciliation when you attempt to erase your fellows’ heritage. What you are doing, in fact, is using a particularly nasty method to try to have your side win.

And so it heartens me to read an account like this, from Letty Cottin Pogrebin of Americans for Peace Now. It’s nice to be reminded that there are Jews and Israelis who haven’t fallen to the pressures of the Antizionist left, the paranoid, parochial center, or the fascist Kahanist right. Some quotes from Israeli activists:

A young man then spoke up. “There’s a perception that the right cares about Israel, and we only care about the Palestinians. But you don’t have to build settlements in East Jerusalem to be a Zionist.”

Yet another young woman weighed in, “I want Israel’s flag to represent peace.”

A slender man agreed. “Ours is a Zionist movement,” he said. “We should show everyone there’s no paradox, that the flag of Israel represents the values of peace, not war, and we represent the majority of the left.”

The rest of the story can be found here:

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