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Op-ed: Jerusalem, once removed
By GARY ROSENBLATT
The New York Jewish Week
August 1, 2000
YORK--More than ever, in recent days I have been aware of how
powerful symbols are in Jewish
culture, particularly when it comes to Israel, and Jerusalem.
And I wonder if we have become prisoners of our own rhetoric.
should take precedence, metaphors or reality? Ideology or
centuries our connection to Jerusalem was more symbolic than
real. We prayed for its welfare, for the rebuilding and
restoration of the Holy Temple, and for our own
return--ďnext year in Jerusalem.Ē
circumstances kept us in the Diaspora. And even since the
creation of the State of Israel in 1948, when we were urged
and encouraged to live out the Zionist dream, the overwhelming
majority of Jews with a choice--not victims of anti-Semitic
persecution--have opted to stay put.
hearts are with Jerusalem, even our checkbooks, but we debate
its future from the safety of the sidelines. And today, with
the days of reckoning at hand regarding the political future
of Israel and its place in the Middle East and Jewish history,
I am humbled by that awareness.
Israeli brothers and sisters are well aware of the stakes at
hand, how political changes will affect their daily lives,
their jobs, their homes, their families. But in some ways we
here in America are having a more difficult time grappling
with the realities of the situation, unprepared for either the
prospect of large-scale territorial sacrifice or the
likelihood of renewed warfare. For us, the issues are about
long-held slogans and credos, not how we choose to chart our
more than three decades we have spoken of our commitment to
Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Indeed,
such a phrase in a political speech to a Jewish audience is
certain to evoke applause, no matter who utters it. But what
does such a pledge really mean?
are Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem most of us would never
venture near. Thatís not a political statement, just a fact.
But does that mean if, as part of a peace agreement, the
Israeli government gives up sovereignty of such areas, in
effect recognizing the reality of the situation, the agreement
should be opposed and nullified? And if that comes to pass, is
Israel condemned to Arab violence and international
today, at least, these are hypothetical questions. But not for
long. Israelis have the advantage of knowing that their vote,
in a national referendum or election, will help decide the
future. They know as well that having returned without an
agreement while holding out hope for the end of the conflict
with the Palestinians, Ehud Barak is viewed as a leader
committed to peace who determined the price was simply too
high; they prepare for the results, unpleasant as they may be,
more united than they have been in a long time.
American Jewry is adrift. Not those, perhaps the majority,
whose concern for and connections to Israel are positive but
superficial. My worry is for the active pro-Israel community
whose commitment includes financial, political and emotional
many Israelis, who send their children to the army and yearn
for their safe return, we cannot grasp the benefits of making
a leap of faith to finalize a deal with Yasser Arafat. Unlike
many Jerusalemites, who see their city in municipal as well as
mythic terms, we have trouble confronting the issues on a
Israelis--Barak is betting they are the majority--are prepared
to make major concessions if they are convinced this will lead
to a permanent end to the conflict. But they are far less
prepared to tolerate a partial agreement, deferring not only
difficult and unresolved diplomatic issues but also the
expectation of an end to the violence.
may choose to hear the biblical verses we quote, speaking of
Godís eternal love for His city and His people, or they may
prefer to tune us--and Him--out, deciding their future course
on the basis of their own equations. Thatís what democracy
is all about.
may not like it, but we had our choice to be players, and
voted no. Now we will have to rely on the wisdom of our
brothers and sisters who list Israel as a homeland, not a
dream. And we must be prepared to support them, however they
Rosenblatt is the editor and publisher of The New York Jewish
Week. E-mail him at Gary@jewishweek.org.
The Jewish Week, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.