Jerusalem Disunited: What’s Missing From the Celebration

Gershom Gorenberg

My new column is up at the Daily Beast:

Out for my morning bike ride Sunday, I looped up the ridge to Kibbutz Ramat Rachel on the south edge of Jerusalem. Two flocks of teenagers were coming down: the first dressed in white shirts, dark pants and crocheted skullcaps, the second in knee-length skirts and modest blouses. They carried many Israeli flags that waved in a cool mountain breeze, the kind of breeze that is much more common in myths about Jerusalem than in real life and that seemed to have been ordered up special for Jerusalem Day, which is all about myth and not reality. They headed toward the center of town, presumably for the procession into the Old City—a Jerusalem Day custom observed mainly by youth from the religious Zionist right, who inherit hand-me-down Israeli mores when everyone else but right-wing politicians tire of them.

A bit further north, I found many more tourist buses than usual parked next to the promenade that straddles the former no-man’s land between East and West Jerusalem. On the  promenade, with its panoramic view of the city, guides lectured to groups of schoolchildren, IDF soldiers, and overseas students. I stopped at discreet distances from them to listen. One guide began his riff with David conquering Jerusalem and making it the center of the Jewish nation. Another quoted Psalm 137 to speak of the Jews exiled in Babylon longing for Zion. I caught snippets of more recent history, too, such as accounts of the Six-Day War.

Jerusalem Day celebrates the Israeli victory in that war by commemorating the conquest of the Old City on the third day of fighting, the 28th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar. Mainstream politicians mark the day by making speeches about the outcome of the war that’s supposed to be a matter of Israeli consensus: the unification of the city. Zionist rabbis declared it a religious holiday, complete with recitation of hallel, the psalms of praise for an act of divine redemption.

What’s missing in the Jerusalem Day narrative, what was missing in the guides’ spiels, is exactly what makes Jerusalem irresistible to some people and unnerving for others: Its multiplicity of histories, its fractures, its confusion. From the same promenade, a guide can point to churches and the Dome of the Rock, which not only marks where Solomon built his temple but also the sanctity that Islam finds in the same city. From the same promenade, a guide can call attention to Palestinian neighborhoods and to the high concrete security wall cutting through them on the eastern hills.

More precisely, what’s nearly missing from the Jerusalem Day story are the city’s Arabs, its Palestinians. …

Read the rest here.

1 thought on “Jerusalem Disunited: What’s Missing From the Celebration”

  1. You Left/Progressives, when you claim you want a city “divided politically but open” are LYING to us and to yourselves. If the city it divided, it will be destroyed….the city will become a shooting gallery like it became in Gilo when the Palestinians were given control of the area in Beit Lehem, Beit Sahur and Beit Jallah. The seam lines will become dangerous, Jews will be harrassed there and those who will attempt to reach the Western Wall which will be under “international” (meaning de-facto Palestinian) control will be assaulted. In the end, the anti-sniper walls and minefields that existed before 1967 will go up again. AND YOU WANT THIS. Well, the people of Israel will never let this happen. Obviously, more must be done to show the east Jerusalem Arabs that their best bet is to remain under Israeli control and this means investing more in the development of the Arab neighborhoods, but the guilt, self-hatred and angst of the Jewish Left which is hoping for the destruction of the city so that they can “feel good about themselves” in their perverse way will NOT COME TO PASS.

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